When Los Angeles-based duo Coast Modern first met at a friend’s studio in 2014, the guys (Coleman Trapp and Luke Atlas) never thought they’d become a band. Trapp didn’t set out to be a singer, as he’d been producing hip-hop music, and Atlas was doing the same in the alternative genre. But then a gig with NASA changed everything.
At the time, NASA was looking to improve science and tech engineering and math jobs in the future, so they enlisted Trapp and Atlas to create educational rap songs for middle school kids. And although the NASA experience didn’t necessarily influence their sound, Atlas says it put their collaborative skills to the test.
“It was definitely a challenging project to incorporate Newtonian physics into hip-hop beats,” he tells Billboard. “After that we were like, if we can handle something as weird and hard as this, we can handle writing normal songs.”
But despite no longer writing space-related rhymes, Coast Modern’s path to becoming a band was just as unconventional as their first project. In fact, Atlas and Trapp weren’t even intending on making anything together — but after posting some songs online in the midst of writing for other people, the folks at 300 Entertainment/+1 Records caught wind, and next thing they knew they had a record deal.
Since signing with +1 Records in 2015, Trapp and Atlas have put out 7 singles, and today (July 28), they release their eclectic, surf-rock debut album, Coast Modern. And while most of the LP’s 18 songs have been ready for the last year, the Coast Modern guys are still letting it sink in that they’re now a band making music for a living instead of remaining behind the scenes.
“It feels like we got swept up in something larger than ourselves, almost. We’d never even planned to form a band,” Atlas says. “We formed a vision of creating a project where we just made whatever kind of music we wanted without any kind of restrictions — so to be here now, I don’t know how it happened. We’re surfing the best kind of wave.”
Check out the album and our interview with Atlas and Trapp below.
18 tracks is a huge album! What made you decide to include so many songs on one record?
Atlas: We had so many songs out already, we wanted to make sure the fans that have been with us since the beginning had some tasty new nuggets. Also, a few of them are interludes, and those kind of give a different side to our personality and a glimpse into our process, where they’re a bit weirder and unpolished. That kind of raw stuff when you experience it from an artist can be very inspiring. Because it’s not all shiny, you can kind of see how we made it and figure out how to make it yourself.
You seem to experiment with lots of different sounds, from a hip-hop blowhorn to a kid imitating a dog. What made you want to incorporate those and how did you choose the sounds?
Trapp: I don’t know that anything on this album was intentional as far as the sound we were going for. It was really more just exploring. Me and Luke have been producing for so long that it takes more to get us off now [Laughs]. So we’re always looking for the sound that we’ve never heard, or that inspires an emotion that we haven’t felt yet.
Would you say the album as a whole tells a story or has a central theme?
Atlas: It’s kind of a record of us becoming a band. The record started right when the band started, so it’s like us finding our sound and finding our weird corners of the brain to snatch from.
Trapp: There’s definitely themes in the album outside the creation of a band. While we were going through this process, we were exploring a lot of philosophical concepts. There’s a lot of deep questions that we ask in the songs in a sort of tongue-in-cheek kind of way, and some not so tongue-in-cheek [Laughs].
It’s exciting to think about future albums and think about, like, concepts or the world we’ll be in when we make them. But this album is just the fact that like every song came from a completely different place than the one before it.
“The Way it Was,” when we wrote that, we were listening to radio and kind of hearing a message of wanting to go back to simpler, easier times. And as nice of a sentiment as that is, that’s not really helping anyone because it kind of does keep moving forward and life just keeps getting weirder [Laughs]. So we wanted to make a song that has fun with the idea of the acid trip that reality is.
“Hollow Life” came because we didn’t know if the label understood how weird we were, and we didn’t want to get their hopes up that we were gonna be a straight-down-the-middle pop band. So we were like, ‘Okay, let’s make some weird s–t and throw it their way so they know what they’re getting into.’ And they were into it.
Atlas: That was the only rule, that we flip out while we’re making the songs. So it’s all very genuine.
And you recorded most of the album on a laptop?
Trapp: Yeah, it was all done in my studio apartment on a laptop, windows open — cars, birds tweeting. We did that so we could capture the raw creative sparks as it comes. We’re writing, and something comes and it’s cool and we’re like, “Let’s put it down right now, let’s capture it even if it’s not perfect.” Because it has a special sound when you’re so excited about it and it’s fresh from the ether.
Atlas: There’s a few songs that were done in one take, where it’s the demo vocal from the actual writing session. Some of them we were just like, “Yeah, we might be able to get one that sounds more professional, but we’ll never get one that has the same emotion and the same spirit.” “Frost” was one we sent directly to cassette, so it was one performance. And “Wild Things” is one vocal take, and “The Way it Was” was the original writing session vocal. I can only think of a few of the songs where we comp’d together a lead vocal.
Trapp: Our mixing engineer his name is Jon Castelli, he’s one of our best friends. He mixes for some of the biggest names in the industry, and he definitely was able to take our unpolished pile and make it sound professional, so props to him.
Is there something you want people to take away from this album?
Atlas: One of our big goals is that people are inspired to make their own art. We’re trying to show a bit more of our process and the realness of flowing with ideas instead of pretending to be something you’re not or trying to be cool.
Trapp: I also want people to know that it’s something that’s going to be evolving, maybe drastically, sonically and visually — we always want to be breaking the mode and changing.
Atlas: It’s going to be exciting, so hang out.