Words and Interview by Isabella Soto:
On November 1st, McAllen will be graced with Collen Green’s presence for the second time this year – a rarity for out-of-state acts down here in the valley. A California native, she is the singular force behind her sticky-sweet stoner punk, singing simple, breathy lyrics over her signature drum machine and accompanied by her effortlessly cool guitar work. Her most recent release, Sock it to Me (Hardly Art), is almost a slap in the face to what many musicians try to put out there today. It’s completely honest, unpretentious, and pretty damn awesome. I had the opportunity to speak with Colleen over the phone and ask her some questions about her music, her life, and of course, weed.
The last time you came down to McAllen was in April of this year. What’s changed between then and now?
Colleen Green: I always do different stuff from show to show, so the last time that I came to McAllen was actually me doing something “different” because I was playing with a bass player. I usually play alone, so that was kind of a different, special thing. This time around I’ll just be playing solo like I normally do, so that’ll be a good chance for McAllen to come out and see me how I usually am and how I’m supposed to be experienced.
I’ve noticed that you’re a very DIY person when it comes to writing your music, recording, and performing. Are there certain advantages and disadvantages that come with flying solo?
CG: Definitely, there are advantages and disadvantages just like with any way you do it. Unfortunately there’s no perfect way to go about doing stuff, but I really like to do things myself because I have total control over everything and that way I know it’s coming out the way I wanted it and the way I envisioned it, and you don’t have to deal with other people’s opinions and egos. The cons with it is that who knows what kind of music I could make if I worked with other people, and I actually am planning with collaborating with a lot of different people, I just had to work up to that point where I felt comfortable enough to work with other people and share ideas with other people ‘cause it’s really scary and really hard. So in working alone you might not get to experience what you would if you were working with another person, and it does get to be a lot of work.
You’re originally from Massachusetts but you now live in California. Do you believe your music is influenced more by the lifestyle of the west coast, the east coast, or is it more about your experiences in those places?
CG: It’s mostly based on my experiences, for sure. I grew up listening to a lot of California bands, Sublime was my first favorite band and I always wanted to do everything like them, like I wanted to live by the beach and I really identified with that whole vibe. So I guess that kind of California feel does come through just because during my formative years that’s what was seeping into my brain. My values and just the way that I am and my life are definitely shaped by New England and I’m still New England to the heart, like I don’t really feel like I fit in that well in California. Well I do! But I’m different. My mindset is different. So I would say I have a little bit from the east coast, a little bit from California, and I just take all the things that I’ve experienced from every place I’ve ever lived and everyone I’ve ever met and everything I’ve ever done and that’s what I tend to put into my songs.
You’ve cited early blink-182 and The Ramones as inspirations for your music. Are there any artists right now that you’re especially liking?
CG: I love Dent May’s new album. He’s my buddy and he just put out a new album, he has this song “Born Too Late” on it that I think is such a good pop song, like I can’t believe that my friend made it and I hear it on the radio all the time which I think is really, really great, so I like him. I love White Fang and The Memories, the two bands that I’m on tour with. They’re great. I love JEFF the Brotherhood, and I like Parquet Courts too.
So a few of the bands you mentioned are signed with Burger Records and you just finished touring with some of them on the Burgerama tour a few days ago. How was it working with all those bands, and Burger Records overall?
CG: I love Burger Records and I love Sean and Lee. I love hanging out with them; they’re really cool and nice and they do a lot of really cool stuff. They love music, which is great, and it was really, really fun being on the Burger tour. I was the only girl, which was kind of overwhelming just because there were like twenty guys and me, but everyone was so nice and I didn’t feel weird about being the only girl or anything like that, I didn’t feel left out or anything. They’re a wild bunch though — it was wild. It was really fun. Like, I didn’t really know too much about The Growlers when we started but by the end of the tour I was like “These guys are so good” and I never got sick of watching them every night. I love Cosmonauts- they’re great, and the Growlers really grew on me a lot and it was really sad when we had to leave.
There’s a very intimate feeling that comes with listening to your music. It’s very stripped down and no-nonsense, but it still packs a punch. As an artist and when it comes to writing your music, do you tend to stick to your guns or are there times where you just say “fuck it” and experiment?
CG: I always want to write the perfect pop song, but there have been times where I’ve started something and I have to remind myself that the song doesn’t always have to be in one format- it doesn’t always have to be verse-chorus-verse-chorus, it can be anything you want. I’m into the idea of having some songs on the album that you wouldn’t really see being on the radio, like they don’t have that sound, but on the album it could be really cool and it kind of serves as punctuation between the songs that are super commercial and super poppy that you could hear on the radio. I like to keep that in mind while I’m writing and recording and I always remind myself that it doesn’t have to be one thing; it doesn’t have to be what people are expecting and it’s your art and you have that freedom, like that’s the most freedom in the world, when you’re creating art and it can be anything you want, that’s what I like about it.
I was reading that when you first moved to California you started a music venue out of your living room, the Full House House. How was that? Did it influence you in any way?
CG: It was amazing! It was really fun. We lived in a free-standing house in Oakland, which is rare, so we were like, we have to have shows here, and it turned out to be just a really great way to make new friends. I was in a band at the time and we would just kind of invite bands that we liked to come play and then we’d maybe play with them or at least we’d just hang out with them and meet new people and provide a fun spot for them to play. It was super wholesome, it was like going to your parents house for a while, and that’s what I wanted it to be, like super comfy and pleasant to be in, but then at the same time you could go to a really cool punk show. But yeah, when we first moved to Oakland we realized that there were really no venues there and that mostly everyone was having house shows ‘cause the cops don’t give a fuck in Oakland and you can pretty much just do whatever you want, so we were just like “Oh, we need to take advantage of this,” and it turned out to be a lot of fun for a long time until I moved out, and then my friend starting having like crust-punk shows and metal shows there every night and they totally destroyed the house, and I was really sad but we had a really good run.
How do you believe that your music has changed from your first release, Milo Goes to Compton, to Sock it to Me?
CG: I think the songs on Sock it to Me are a little different. They’re the same, but the structures are a little different. Like “Taxi Driver,” doesn’t really have a chorus, I mean it kind of does, it has repeating parts but it doesn’t really have, like, that chorus. I don’t know, for Sock it to Me I just wanted to make like another version of Milo Goes to Compton. That was my idea, and I really like all those songs and that was the kind of album I wanted to make, like I want to have a bunch of poppy songs and a couple of songs that just stay on the album, and I guess because I’m older now and I’ve been writing songs for these past three years, like I’ve just been playing music and writing songs straight through the whole time, so I run out of some ideas or I use up some ideas and have to just come up with new songs and whatever comes out comes out.
I can see what you mean when you say that, so could it be said that Sock it to Me is the 2013 version of Milo Goes to Compton?
CG: Yeah, totally! I feel like Milo Goes to Compton was me in record form, and I was a different person three years ago, like I was still me, but I kind of was a different person. Three years have gone by, I’ve done so much touring and I’ve met so many inspirational bands and people and have just thought so much more about music and about what I want to do and what I want my music to be and so it’s three years later, and now I’m writing another album, and that’s just kind of me now. Sock it to Me is just what I’m up to now, I guess.
So you’ve been touring for a while now. Is there something that a small town like McAllen has to offer that other towns don’t tend to have?
CG: Yeah, the last time I played there I was just pleasantly surprised by the amount of kids that were there and their enthusiasm for the bands that were playing ‘cause they’re pretty far away from a lot of stuff it seems, but they had a cool little scene going on there, like the local bands we played with were great and everyone was really nice and excited and everyone was like “Thank you so much for coming here!” It felt really good. People in the big cities are excited too, if they like your music, but I think they’re less likely to give new bands a chance just because in a place like New York City where they have it all, they’ve seen it all, and they can get whatever they want any time of day or night, it isn’t that big of a deal to have interesting acts come through, like they might get more overlooked. But in a place like McAllen, I guess not that many bands go down there, so we were really happy to be able to go down there and I’m really excited to go back there again and I hope it was as good as it was last time. It was really nice.
It’s no secret that you’re a fan of weed. What’s the craziest/weirdest smoke session you’ve had on tour or in general?
CG: Oh man, I don’t know, there have been a lot of smoke sessions on tour. Well, this was a pretty cool thing that happened. It was back in March, I was on the Burger Caravan and we went to South by Southwest, so we were driving across Arizona and New Mexico going home, and they don’t really like weed that much in those states, like if you get caught with it it’s not that cool, so Sean from Burger Records had actually planted a bag of weed at a rest area right at the California-Arizona state border before we left, like it was the last rest stop before you got into Arizona. He planted it near a rock and then penned it on his GPS, and it was there during the whole time we were on tour, and we were going through these southwest states on our way home and we were hurting, you know like, fuck! We don’t have any weed! We need to get high! I feel like we drove all night long. It was like seven in the morning and the sun was coming up it was just me and Sean and Lee and Gap Dream, that was our van, and everyone else was asleep. I was in the front seat and Sean was driving and I had just woken up, and I was like “Oh, we’re about to go back into California, that’s cool!” and Sean was saying we were going to go this rest stop and so he pulls over and I’m like “Oh I know what’s going on” and I just see him go and walk off and bend down to this tree and then he like, triumphantly turns around and comes running back to the car with the bag of weed in his hand just being like “YES!” ‘cause those guys LOVE weed. I like to get high but those guys really, really love weed. So he came back and like everyone’s waking up to this amazing bag of weed that was miraculously bestowed upon us and everyone was super excited and in a good mood. It was then my job to roll the entire eighth into many joints that we just smoked all the way back to Fullerton.
Do you have any advice for musicians trying to make it out there on their own?
CG: If you want something to happen bad enough and if you keep trying at it, like if you’re passionate about something then you just have to not stop. If it’s what you really want to do just don’t stop, ever. Eventually, if you put in some hard work and pay your dues and if you’re talented, people will definitely notice. You don’t have to be obnoxious about it or anything, but if all the cards are there then you should be good. Just remember to stay true to yourself and don’t just follow trends ‘cause they come and go and then you’ll just be stuck and you’ll end up having to find a new trend. If you’re true to yourself eventually what you like will come into style. So just be patient, and just be yourself, and that’s the best advice I can give you.
Isabella Soto is currently a Junior at the Science Academy of South Texas. This is her first guest post on Tiger’s Blood.