Talk Thursday to Me – Coolidge

Today we catch up with Coolidge’s Chris Smail and chat about making old influences new again and a few stand out songs from their new album Condition Transmission.


Postcard Editor: How’s things? State of the world not with standing?

Chris Smail: I’m doing well. There are challenges and mysteries…but such is life. How about you?

PE: Just trying to get through each day as my body and mental faculties fail me more and more. Getting old is getting old, I tell ya. But other than that, can’t complain. Let’s talk about this great new record of yours!

CS: It is great, isn’t it?!!! We are the best in the world at what we do! Now, what we do is very specific to us…but nobody does us better than us!

PE: Specialization is the key! No, it really is great. And you guys do have a unique sound I think. Joe Jackson smart power pop meets ska and rock. It’s a great little cocktail in my book.

CS: Thanks! Joe Jackson is one of those many artists that I absolutely love when I hear him, but I must admit that I haven’t dived deep into enough of his catalog. Pretentious as this may sound, we’ve always wanted to create something based on what influenced us but maybe hasn’t been presented in such a way before. I guess to continue the analogy, we are a group of strange but adventurous bartenders who strive to grab your attention but still still give you something digestible.

PE: Mmmmm, digestible. There seems like a continuation of the The Five Best Songs In The World, Vol. 1 EP that came out a few years ago, which saw more of a ska influence than the earlier Coolidge releases. Is this a conscious decision or just the natural progression of the band?

CS: Condition Transmission is the first Coolidge full length to feature Josh Silbert (tenor saxophone) and Charles Krone (slide trombone). The EP was a nice transition album. Coolidge actually started as a side project of the ska-influenced band Johnny Socko. As Socko was deep in that ska world, I aimed to make Coolidge different – more straight pop/rock with big guitars. But after Socko disbanded, I found myself desiring to play that kind of bouncy music again. Gradually, I bent back towards more reggae and ska rhythms. Adding horns back into the mix is just another ingredient that accentuates the ska genre, but I think we use ska to keep it interesting for ourselves. It’s never a conscious effort to inject ska into what we do; it does come pretty naturally because of our history together and shared influences. But at the same time, there are moments inspired by Black Sabbath and Def Leppard throughout this album too.

PE: There’s even a moment of Socko in the opening track when scanning through radio stations, which I thought was a nice nod to the band’s shared past.

CS: Nice catch! Each musical piece in that radio channel surf features side projects of Coolidge members, demo’s, and yes…a band 4/5ths of us used to be in.

PE: Ah nice, now to do the sleuthing to identify the other pieces. So obviously putting an album out during a pandemic is not ideal, but what’s the plans for this release. Are you planning a live zoom show for release?

CS: We were supposed to play halftime of the NBA All Star game…wait, that wasn’t us.  We’re looking forward to playing some bigger live shows when it’s safe.  You’re right; this is a challenging time to hype a release. We actually started the recording summer of 2019, so we just got to the point where we wanted to get the music out, keep creating new material, and celebrate the release with performances when we’re ready to celebrate it. You’re seeing some high level exposure bands hold back the release of material that was ready to go Spring of 2020. They’re making strategic financial moves. That’s not our situation, and thankfully some early feedback from our new release has been from people who are thrilled to have fresh, new music!

PE: Well I’m certainly happy to have it. I know I have to let you go here, but if you could, can you tell us a favorite song or two off the new album and why those stand out for you?

CS: “Barely Getting By” came to us from Charlie Krone. He shared a demo for a surf song via email. I thought it was interesting but sort of dismissed it. Several days later, Matt Wilson, our bassist, replied how he liked it, and I gave it another listen…and couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to take sort of J. Geils Band approach. I love how this song that almost didn’t happen but found life.

Josh Silbert’s “Push Me Away” is one of a few songs on this album that were originally presented as Johnny Socko songs and were played live in some form or another back in the day. It’s so rewarding to see some of these great songs finally get recorded. This one, like a few others on the album, incorporates driving rock, a couple of time signature switches, and fantastic horn section journey in the middle. I love it because it’s catchy, it bounces and rocks, but it also takes you somewhere. It requires my brain to pay attention!

PE: Right on, well here’s to hoping things get back to normal again soon and you can go back to being the “Luckiest Guy In The World.”

CS: Oh…I already am! The whole wide world! Thanks Mat! I really appreciate your time and interest.

PE: Thanks for talking dude. hopefully we can catch up face to face sometime in…oh i don’t know…2023?

CS: It’s a date!

Condition Transmission is available now via Coolidge’s bandcamp page, found here.

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