Travelin’ on a Song: an interview with Color Green

With over 200 Q&As under his belt, Shaw will be interviewing underground bands from around the world for Thrills, bringing his unique blend of wit, music knowledge and light hearted sarcasm to the blog. If you like his writing, check out his musical projects: Richard Rose, GOGGS, and Ex-Cult.

ISSUE 04: COLOR GREEN

Even after their amazing cassette tape came out in 2021, Color Green felt more like a well-kept secret than an actual band. With a couple of road-seasoned musicians behind the wheel, the group has started to gain attention as news of their debut album and stand-alone singles get introduced to the world. I guess songs this good can’t stay a secret forever, so I caught up with songwriting duo Corey Madden and Noah Kohll to learn more about the magic that is Color Green.

How and when did Color Green start?

Corey Madden: We worked together in like 2017.

Noah Kohll: At Stumptown in Ridgewood. We lived close together, so Corey would always ask me for rides. Someone told me “don’t give him one ride because he’s going to ask for one every morning.” But I didn’t care because I knew Corey before then.

Corey: I didn’t know that. Someone said that about me?

Noah: Yeah, someone said that. But I knew Corey before then from some New Jersey kids I knew, including this guy Tony Price who crashed on my couch for four months. We would deliver coffee in the car all day and talk about music the whole time. 

Eventually we started talking about playing music together and then started jamming together. Light in the Attic had just reissued that Acetone stuff and we were like “oh we both fuck with this? We should start something kinda like this.” 

Corey: We jammed once with him on drums and me on guitar and that’s where the song “Night” came from and we were both like “alright, cool.” We did the EP in Ridgewood shortly after that.

Noah: I was kinda spiraling in that period, I think we both were. We were both going through pretty heavy break ups.

What year was this?

Corey: 2018, and I was about to leave New York. We recorded everything to tape at the Mystery Lights house, where I was subletting their basement studio room. There was all this gear and shit sitting around.

Was working at Stumptown a rocker job? Or were you guys kinda like the two misfits?

Corey: It was 60% musicians, with members of Crazy Spirit and Hank Wood and the Hammerheads working there too. 

Noah: They were like “we want to hire musicians” until they actually hired a bunch of us and then they were like “oh wait actually we don’t want musicians working here.” It got pretty ignorant at times. 

Corey: Yeah it was probably like 60% rocker type, party animal fools working there. The first year was definitely nuts. But anyway, after the demo was recorded it ended up just sitting around for a while.

How did you guys settle on the name Color Green?

Noah: I think I made up an origin story for the name because I didn’t really have one.

Corey: I think it was just a classic case of “well coming up with a name sucks” and he was listening to Pink Floyd a lot at the time.

Noah: Yeah, I did a cover of the song “Green is the Color.” My explanation for the name is that the music itself is an organic approach to songwriting. The natural sound of string instruments and vocal harmonies. And green is the preliminary color of nature. Once the name got solidified making the music got a lot easier. It all fit under a certain umbrella. 

On our most recent single “So Far Behind” I was having trouble figuring out how to do the vocal delivery. Corey came by and was just like “do the Color Green thing” and I was like “oh yeah” and then the song was sorted out. When we are writing it helps to keep the name of the band in mind to achieve the aesthetic or certain sound that fits what we are trying to create.

Corey: Yeah and when I am writing stuff on my own I keep in mind what the sound of the band is, what the music should feel like, and then it just kind of naturally happens.

Noah: It’s also cool that we are both the songwriters because when you’re writing alone you can get pretty far up in your head, and it’s nice that we have each other to rely on. There isn’t tension or anything, we’re both open to each other’s ideas.

You guys seem to be playing live more often than maybe ever before, what changed?

Noah: Well we sat on these songs for a long time, and then during the pandemic I was playing the EP to Ben Cook (of the bands Young Gov and Fucked Up) and Tony Price who had a label called Maximum Exposure and they were like “we want to put this out.” I hit up Corey and we decided then that this was going to be an actual band, because originally this was just a recording project we were doing during whatever spiral we were going through. 

That kinda solidified us being a band, from there we wrote and recorded the record in the height of the pandemic and when things started to chill out a bit we decided to play some shows.

Corey: We’ve only played technically three shows, and two of them were this week. We also had to find the band members, which took a minute to figure out.

Noah: But now we’ve got some sick players. 

Because you guys are the songwriters, will the live band have a revolving cast? Or do you want to keep it solid?

Noah: Well this iteration of the band I’d like to keep pretty solid, but I’m also open to having new people come in, especially when it comes to recording. The last thing did we got Richard Gowen and Ryan Gavel to be the rhythm section who are some awesome session musicians. It’s nice to have a revolving door because you can achieve different sounds that way. 

It seems like with this type of music that approach can work super well. 

Noah: Yeah and how we operated on this last session was really sick because me and Corey basically demoed all the tracks with a drum loop. We sent those demos to the other people playing on the recordings and we were able to just sit down and record it all live with them and play along with them. Those people also bring in their own ideas on how something should go, which is how we want it to be.

Corey: We had the idea for the songs and how they should sound, but when you get in the room this thing changes or this thing gets stretched out. The cool thing about the last session we did was knowing we were only there for two days. If something changed we just ran with it instead of sitting around trying to figure out if it worked. It was nice to be like “ok that sounds good, we’re done with it,” and not have to stress out about shit.

Where did you guys record the album?

Corey: The album was recorded with Johnny Cosmo at his studio in Highland Park, I dunno the name of the studio. 

Noah: It’s called Slime House. For that we used the drummer who plays with us live - Dave Ozinga, and he had his friend Trevor Tallakson play bass for us. We approached recording the album differently than the session we just did for the singles that are coming out. We rehearsed a bunch and demoed the basic stuff, but the vocals and overdubs were recorded separately. 

Corey: The album was a process for sure.

Noah: Every time you record something you kind of learn what not to do the next time. Like this latest recording session we did went really smooth. This last time in the studio was with Mike Kriebel and he cranked everything out very quickly.

So the single “So Far Behind” that was just released is different than what’s on the album?

Corey: The idea is that those two singles are coming out now or really soon as kind of like a teaser, and then the album will be out in early summer.

Noah: Yeah the album will be out like June or July. 

Corey: Then we’re going to start working on the second album, and these two singles will be on it.

Noah: I think the idea with the singles is just to stay relevant while people wait for the album.

When are you going to premiere stuff from the debut album then?

Noah: We’ll have something come in February, March, and April leading up to the release of the album.

Corey: The album has been done for a minute so – at least for us- it’s cool to have new songs dropping before the album songs get premiered. 

Noah: you can spend so much time and money recording. It’s nice to have a community of people that we trust and that we can count on to get things done.

Corey: Everything we’ve done up to this point with this band has been friend based. And will probably always be. Which feels sick.

Let’s switch gears here a little bit. Where is Verdolaga?

Noah: It was a street I was living on in Taos, New Mexico during the pandemic. It was really a dirt road. Corey came out and was there for a week the first time and then he came back later for a month. The song “Verdolaga” is an ode to living out there.

Corey: All those lyrics were very combed over. It was originally going to be about something else but we just decided to make it about Taos instead. It’s an extremely special place. 

When me and Mike Kriebel came back to LA after being there for a week I was like “let’s just go back.” A lot of the record was written there, probably 50% of it. 

Noah: The road Verdolaga was not maintained at all and there were huge holes everywhere. A few days before we left it snowed a foot or two, and then was 60 degrees the next day, and all the snow melted. The road turned into this giant river of mud. I was the only one who had a 4x4, so we were moving out and putting everyone’s shit into the jeep and then driving across a river of mud to a U-Haul that was a half mile away. That road was a piece of shit. But also I loved it.

You guys traveled a lot during the pandemic, and you seem to both be nomadic in general. There’s kind of like a traveler’s vibe to this band. What are some other cities that are important to Color Green?

Corey: Definitely New York because it started there, even though it doesn’t sound like a New York band. Also New Jersey because I was writing a lot of this stuff when I was stuck there dealing with family shit. LA too...

Noah: I did this big solo drive through northern Nevada, the drive is actually called America’s loneliest highway. It’s in Nevada and its stretches of nothing for 250 miles with tiny towns sprinkled in. That was really special because I spent a lot of alone time. We’re both touring musicians. I’m gone a lot of the year. 

Corey: I was driving across the country during the pandemic and I feel like I would stop in random cities and sit on the street and play guitar. This record specifically captures the time we spent in Taos more than anything.

Noah: There’s a lot of bands that try to make Southwestern sounding music, or like desert music. Which is cool, I’m down with that. But on the record, it’s not trying to sound like a country rock band. It’s a genuine representation of what we experienced out there. We’re not trying to sound like a cosmic country band. 

Corey: The songs just naturally sound that way because of where we were. I think the song “ill-fitting suit” is a good example. We were crammed in a car on the way to a hot spring in New Mexico, blasting The Allman Brothers, and when we’d get back home we’d just pick up guitars and the vibe would already be there. 

Noah: That song is funny too because I was telling my friend how different my life was when I got to LA from Taos. Like instead of going to the river in the morning I was going to gentrification town to get a smoothie, thinking like “who the fuck am I?” 

My friend was like “you’re trying to wear that ill-fitting suit dude.” 

I would describe you guys a travelin’ band. I think that can be a genre, right?

Noah: I would consider us a jam band, but Corey says we aren’t.

Corey: We’re also a cruising band. It’s a driving band. I always aim for that.

Noah: And we’re driving a lot! 

This next question is a staple in my Thrills column: would you ever write a diss track?

Noah: I guess “ill-fitting suit” is a diss track to ourselves. 

Corey: It’s rock and roll at the end of the day. Taking yourself too seriously is pretty lame. This shit is all a little silly when you really look at it.

What are your thoughts on the band Bread?

Corey: Wow, curveball. I’m not that crazy about the band Bread, but my dad was super into it, he was a huge Bread fan. I hated it then, but I’d probably fuck with it now.

Noah: Someone said that we sounded like Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm the other day and I listened to it and I was like “fuck yeah, let’s go!”

Corey: I don’t know any Bread tracks.

You know Guitar Man for sure...that’s an AM radio classic.

Noah: I’m down with Bread!

Enough said then. How does one get “Blizzed Out?”

Corey: Dude..

Noah: Blizzed?

Corey: Honestly blizzed is more about being completely fried, it’s the aftermath.

Noah: Yeah it’s like the next day after going to hard. It’s a cocktail.

Corey: It’s a cocktail of regret

Noah: Being blizzed is basically feeling immensely guilty.

How do you pull out of the Blizz spiral?

Corey: Some nice eggs.

Noah: A nice cappuccino that costs about $7. And a meatball sub from CiCi’s on Sunset.

Corey: And maybe a morning cocktail to sort you out.

Shrooms or LSD?

Corey and Noah in unison: LSD

Noah: Shrooms bug me out

Corey: I like the chemicals more than I like the earth, for some reason.

Noah: I can control the LSD a little bit easier. Shrooms you’re fully going back into the earth. Love both of them though.

Who leaves the greater legacy? The amazing live band or the amazing studio band?

Noah: I think the live band, because I love the Grateful Dead.

Corey: I think it’s a healthy balance man, it’s difficult to say. Maybe the live band because anything could happen? We’ve been putting “Night” at the end of our set and playing it a little different every time, which is something I need to do to keep things fresh.

Noah: Improvisation is so important to a live band. Not only for the audience but also the people playing the music. It’s so important not to get burnt out.

How important is knowing your history when making this type of music? 

Noah: I think very important. I studied ethnomusicology, so like a lot of the stuff I pull from is from classic shit and the people who were making it. If you’re looking up to a band like the Rolling Stones, you also need to listen to what those dudes were listening to, and then find what those guys were listening to. 

That’s what my whole ethnomusicology career was about. It’s also helpful to keep you from copying something that’s already been done. It’s one thing to pull from the past, but you want to create a continuation and push things forward.

Corey: It’s extremely important and I think both of us have spent countless hours of our lives retracing influences in music. It’s important to go all the way back to square one and then find something within yourself that makes the music yours.
Noah: Yeah and if you don’t do that you’ll end up sounding like Greta Van Fleet or something. 

Coming from the DIY scene also influences you as well. Whether it was the approach of recording these two singles in a short amount of time or working with friends like Corey talked about earlier.

Corey: I think it would feel wrong if we tried to do it any other way. I had something in my mind when we were recording a new song that’s about to come out. I was thinking “the coolest person could like this and also the lamest person could like this” and that’s kinda sick honestly. A lot of music scenes I’ve been involved in the past comes with a lot of shit talking and it’s nice to make something that is just fun.

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