INTERVIEW: Coliseum

By Tom Aylott

Following the release of the excellent fourth album by Kentucky punk band Coliseum, we caught up with frontman Ryan Patterson shortly before they graced the stage at Shoreditch’s trendy XOYO. Ryan opened up about the evolution of their sound, his feelings on genre classification and certain scepticism towards reunions.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM. ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE RECEPTION IT HAS HAD SO FAR?

Ryan: Absolutely. In the states it seems like it’s been really well received – so far beyond our expectations or dreams. You just [release albums] for yourself and see what happens, but the reviews so far have been very insightful and in depth and really meaningful to us. You can tell that somebody really gives a shit – really writing about it and really looking into the lyrics. Music criticism, especially online, which is the biggest thing now, can be a bit: “Oh I’ve listened to it…Done”. To see where people have actually listened to it and really thought about it, it seems like it has moved them.

HAS THAT RECEPTION BEEN DIFFERENT FROM PREVIOUS ALBUMS?

Ryan: This has been the best reception we have had off the bat. With ‘House of the Curse’ people didn’t know what the hell to make of it when it came out, but by the end of the year things had turned around and it popped up on the end of year lists. You improve a little more with each record so [the strengths] become a little more obvious.

THERE HAS BEEN A DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR STYLE OVER TIME. THE MUSIC YOU RELEASE NOW IS REMOVED FROM THE EARLY RECORDS. WAS THERE A TRIGGER FOR THIS CHANGE?

Ryan: Not in particular, although there were things that happened to the band. Obviously the line-up dictates what a band sounds like.

YOU’VE CHANGED THE LINE UP A FEW TIMES.

Ryan: Maybe I’m just difficult to get on with…

I equate [the style] to taking a snapshot of yourself ten years ago. Think about the difference in you in the last ten years. Back then I was 25/26 – life is different at every step. It’s the same as having a different t-shirt or a different haircut. [The evolution] is not forced; it’s just how it is. It’s just very natural and very comfortable.

On ‘House of a Curse’ we did sort of say: “Right, we are going to do this!” We forced it a little bit. That wasn’t for any reason than this is what we wanted to do.

RECENTLY BANDS SUCH AS YOURSELF AND METZ HAVE BEEN PICKED UP IN THE WIDER MEDIA.  THESE UNDERGROUND ALTERNATIVE PUNK BANDS ARE STARTING TO MOVE INTO A MORE MAINSTREAM CULTURE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE MADE THIS MOVE WITH THE NEW RECORD?

Ryan: I don’t know if we have been fully embraced by that world. There are people in that world who really champion the band and support us. These are the first shows we’ve played [since ‘Sister Faith’], so all we can gauge it by is the shows. Record sales aren’t indicative anymore, and reviews are just reviews.

England has always been a bit difficult for us, a bit of a hard nut to crack. We’ve been over here before but the last “tour” was just one show with Rise Against in the Electric Ballroom. Part of the visibility of the response to our new record will occur when we are back at home – we will know if the shows are really good, the same, or whether they will suck.

DO YOU FIND THE SHOWS IN ENGLAND DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND?

Ryan: I feel like England seems to really pick certain things, like “this is what is going on”, “this is what we will cover”, “you fit here and you fit there”. It’s a small place even though there is a lot of music coverage. People don’t seem to know what the fuck to do with us. We are not an extremely popular band.

DO YOU LIKE STILL BEING A LITTLE UNKNOWN?

Ryan: I don’t like being pigeonholed, that’s for sure. I hate that music has to be so compartmentalised. We’re just a band. I see us as a punk band, but that is splitting a lot of people.

DO YOU FIND THIS HAPPENS IN THE USA TOO?

Ryan: Absolutely. I just think that the States is a bigger canvas – there is more coverage and more to do.

IF IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LIVE PERFORMANCES, WHAT CAN AUDIENCES ON BOTH SHORES EXPECT FROM SEEING COLISEUM?

Ryan: It’s fun and energetic and sincere hopefully. I genuinely always interact with the audiences. They always seem a little surprised that there’s an element of humour when we perform. There are a lot of intense feelings that you would express to people but I don’t want it to be too heavy. I want it to be fun and entertaining, and be a good show.

Right now this week of shows has been the best we have ever played – we are the best we have ever been. Hopefully people will see the band just killing it. Hopefully at this point a lot of people know they’re just going to get our personalities coming through.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE DOWNTEMPO SONGS FROM THE MOST RECENT ALBUMS IN A LIVE ENVIRONMENT?

Ryan: We try to do whatever feels right at the time. We actually wrote a setlist before we started the tour that only included songs since Carter (Wilson, drums) joined the band. Then we thought we should throw in a couple of older songs to pepper it up.

The tempos are slower than ‘No Salvation’, but our first record was fast, but not that fast. We’ve always been an up-tempo high energy band, but I will say we are playing some of the slowest songs we have ever played on this tour. They have been going really well, the energy is just different.

Volume and tempo are just something people use as a crutch for sincerity and energy and passion. You can see a band with 400 amps; that doesn’t mean shit. An amp the size of a golf ball can be as powerful. We have always tried to make everything as sincere and intense regardless of the tempo. So far people have been really receptive. We have 80 songs so it’s hard to pick twelve songs to play – I could play for 2 hours if people will let me.

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR FESTIVALS IN THE SUMMER?

Ryan: We toured with Converge in 2009 and did a couple of festivals that they were on. Some of them were a little weird – like the German hardcore fests and we went over like a wet sack of underwear… I’m looking forward to checking out other bands that are playing, like Black Flat at Hevy.

I DID HEAR THAT YOU GUYS ARE BIG BLACK FLAG FANS.

Ryan: I do like Black Flag but I’m very dubious of all reunions. This one sounds like a very dubious reunion to me. I’m very curious to see how it works out.

Flag are the real deal. I don’t know what I would do in their situation; I know that nobody has even been paid for Black Flag royalties. Those guys going out and making money on the Black Flag tunes deserve to do it.

Gregg Ginn(guitar, founding member of Black Flag) is a genius but I don’t know what the hell he has got up his sleeve. I’m very curious to see it.

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT LINED UP BEFORE THEN?

Ryan:  We fly back tomorrow, stay home for a week, and then do five weeks headlining in the States. We’re talking about doing Europe again, and maybe squeeze in Australia and Japan. We try to play often but not consistently. We don’t want to be on tour all the time and not have home lives. It’s very important to keep the balance – we don’t want to lose sight of what we have. Having contentment at home makes this more fulfilling, at least in my opinion.

 BEN TIPPLE

Try these three interviews

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Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

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