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Mat Cothran Of Elvis Depressedly: Making Music “Isn’t My Dream Job”

It was early evening when we met up with Mat before his show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim. He was joking about how people write “wash me” on cars at the same time he was writing it on the car he arrived in. “That’s kinda mean, when they do that, isn’t it?” This silly yet caring mindset is visible in the themes and structures of Mat’s music. While Elvis Depressedly’s sound is considered sad pop to some, Mat admits that he thinks it is funny.

When Mat wasn’t getting bombarded by fans looking to say hello before the show or Delaney asking if he wanted Thai food, we were able to talk with him about the relevance of radio, the internet as a promotional mechanism, and the eventual impact of Mat’s work on society.

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At KSPC we are big fans of Elvis Depressedly: you played our SXSW showcase and you have been on our charts a lot. We were wondering, how have other college radio stations helped you to expand or if they have at all?

WKNC in North Carolina has been really helpful. They’ve brought us out for shows. Different colleges have done that in the northeast, too, like Vassar and cool places like that. It’s awesome actually. Our last record was getting a lot of plays on college radio and that was really cool. I’m always really appreciative of that, that’s one of the few places left to get people to actually listen to stuff.

Yeah, like our radio station’s mission is to play stuff other people aren’t playing.

That’s good. There was no college radio station where I grew up, even though there were three colleges. The only radio you had was this one station that was like “new rock.” 99.3 The Planet. It was called “new rock” and they were playing Stone Temple Pilots and stuff in the ‘90s and then when I was in high school, in the mid-2000s, they were still playing Stone Temple Pilots and they were still calling it “new rock.” They just got stuck in a horrible time loop. So that was all there was, really.

Then, I lived in Columbia, SC for a while and I’m not really a big fan of their stations. You’d turn it on, and there’d be somebody playing music from video games, but it wasn’t even cool music from video games. It was the orchestral scores from Call of Duty. Who wants to hear that? I don’t know, but there is a ton of cool college radio stations out there and I mean, that lineup at the showcase was awesome so you guys seem to really have your ear on the ground.

What other outlets similar to college radio do you use to expand your music?

For us, it’s always been person-to-person. We didn’t get any press until this year. I mean, no one would write about us. And that’s fine because I don’t really care. But we were successful in a lot of ways because people would just be telling each other about it. To me, that’s the ultimate way to get stuff out there because that’s when it really matters. I’d much rather listen to my friend than go on some stupid website and have some thirty-eight year old Pitchfork writer tell me what’s cool. You don’t know what’s cool, dude. I’m not even cool and I’m twenty-seven. I’m not cool anymore either so what are you going to tell me?

The person-to-person thing is great, though and I do love radio because it’s out of your control. That’s my favorite part. You don’t have to worry about it; you just turn the thing on and you can just listen.

And you get to hear people’s opinions on songs, too, like “That one was my favorite” and they just insert their own personal adlibs.

I like it when people throw in a little fact or how they heard it, that’s always cool.

 

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Do you feel like the Internet has helped you expand as an artist?

It made everything completely possible. I’d be working in a factory right now or something, which is fine, there’s no shame in that, but my life would be a lot different.

I didn’t know about the Internet or music blogs until maybe a little bit late but my friend Chazz gave me a list of a bunch of websites I had never heard of and I started sending stuff out. It was maybe fifty websites and all of them said nothing but one was like yeah cool I’ll post your music video that you made. And then it was just from there, that little spark. [The Internet] makes everything easier. It also makes it to where there’s too much music. You can lose the really good stuff unless you’re constantly looking, and that can be tiring. So it’s another good way you guys can come in and help people out, by filtering out all the nonsense.

Like you said, with the Internet there’s almost too much information. Do you think that the DIY part of the Internet is at a peak? Or will it keep expanding forever?

I think it’s had ups and downs already. The blogs that were around when I was starting that were so easy to send to have either gone corporate or shut down entirely. But now, there’s more people just using straight up Twitter. Even music writers, you tweet at them and they check it out. It’s a lot simpler now. People don’t really go to the websites anymore; they just hear about it through social media. It’ll have peaks and valleys but as a whole it’s getting better for everyone. The independent artist it’s better for.

Cool! So another question, in previous interviews you’ve said you don’t want to continue making music as a full-time job.

I probably did say something like that. My mind changes all the time. Every day I think something else, and sometimes people catch me in a really bad mood. I mean, it’s not my dream job, like if I could be a pro wrestling manager or something and I could come out and tell everyone that my guy is gonna kick the other guy’s a** and win the championship, that would be cool.

My grandpop has worked all of his life. Hard work, like heating and air conditioning repair. You know, he never complained or anything but music is a better job than that. I don’t hate it, it’s a little stressful. It’s not what everybody thinks, all wine and roses.

It’s not as glamorous as people think?

Yeah. I mean unless people glamorize sitting in a car all day. And you go to cool cities, but you don’t see anything there. You maybe go get a sandwich somewhere and then you just go to the next place. And it’s tiring – you have to find places to crash and stuff like that. We’ve been lucky, though, a lot of people have helped us out through the years and it’s nice. I’ll just do this until people stop coming to the shows. I think maybe what I meant by that is I don’t want to be old and still playing songs I wrote when I was nineteen or twenty.

 

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Do you find your audience changes as you move from city to city? Or, east coast to west coast?

It’s different people in different spots. When this band first started to get popular, it was a lot of younger people, so we had to a lot more all ages shows, which was fine with me because I always liked going to shows when I was a kid. Not a lot of bands will do all ages shows, so we try to keep it as open as possible. We have a really diverse audience, which is cool, and we haven’t really actively tried to cultivate that, it just happened. And it’s cool to see all types of people, young and old, different backgrounds and lifestyles.

Do you feel like the band has changed a lot since the start?

Oh for sure. The first thing I put out under this band name was an ambient album and then it just kept going, changing and changing. It was always more than me. It would be like six different people per album and nothing was solid and then I met Delaney. It’s changed a lot now that I have Delaney around. It’s kind of informed everything about it. It’s definitely more like a 50/50 thing between me and her, and I think it will stay that way until one of us gets sick of it.

Do you guys share songwriting and stuff?

Yeah. I do pretty much the lyrics and a lot of the basic structures and she pretty much writes all of the cool parts.

And she does a lot of the visual parts, too, right?

Yeah, she does all of our t-shirt designs pretty much and a lot of the posters, and she’s really good at that. She’s kind of created our visual aesthetic. She’s been the one to cultivate that completely. I’m no visual artist at all, I can draw a cartoon but I can’t draw anything that cool. She gets what I always wanted the project to be and we have similar artistic goals.

So you started the project, but would you say Delaney has completed it throughout the years?

Yeah, it’s at the point now where if one of us decided to leave I don’t think it would go on.

How long have you been working together?

Around three years. Over half of the lifespan of the project.

What kind of impact do you want your work to have on the world? What do you want to see it accomplish? It’s kind of a big last question.

It would be nice to do something beneficial. To make the world a better, happier place. Or at least occupy someone’s time for a while, because that’s important too. If I could just do for others what my favorite records have done for me and pass that along. Because when I’m dead, hopefully a long time for now, the stuff I like, no one will know what it is.

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Interview by KSPC staff members, Madi and Iman

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