“Bruises (Amethyst)” is a perfect summation of Elvis Depressedly’s forthcoming LP, New Alhambra. The track commences with the sound of a YouTube puppeteer spouting prophecies, but soon afterward, Mat Cothran’s ability to pair the painful with the sublime comes to the surface: “And your first kiss bruises/ Of amethyst,” he intones. Encompassing every intricate instrumental element that makes New Alhambra so enchanting, the song’s lyrical edges are a bit scuffed, but it’s by-and-large an optimistic pop song and an ideal companion to the record’s first single, “n.m.s.s.” (No More Sad Songs). New Alhambra follows 2013’s Holo Pleasures, and will be Mat Cothran’s seventh release under the name Elvis Depressedly, and his second working with fiancée Delaney Mills. The couple recently relocated from South to North Carolina, settling in the subdued music capital of Asheville after happily signing to Boston’s Run For Cover Records. We talked to Cothran and Mills about the formation of Elvis Depressedly, making New Alhambra, and the uplifting message behind their latest single.
STEREOGUM: This new record sounds pretty optimistic compared to some of Elvis Depressedly’s earlier releases.
COTHRAN: It’s less specific maybe, too. We’ve been writing from different perspectives, and our lives were in transition when we made New Alhambra, so that kind of affected the sound.
MILLS: We were living in a friend’s sun room at the time.
STEREOGUM: Was that when you first moved to Asheville, NC?
MILLS: No, we were still in Columbia, SC when it was finished last summer.
COTHRAN: Glad to be out of there though, life is much better now that we’ve finally gotten out of that weird mystery place of not knowing where you’re going to be living or what you’re going to be doing. It’s great to have a plan, or an idea of one.
MILLS: Plus, I think one of the last days we spent there was 112 degrees with 100% humidity, which was pretty normal and terrible.
STEREOGUM: What’s the plan going forward, or the idea of the plan for your future, for the band’s future?
COTHRAN: A lot of touring, which isn’t exactly my favorite thing, but I still love the part where you play the show … unfortunately that’s like 5% of the time you spend out there. The rest of it is all tedium.
MILLS: Signing to Run For Cover has been really nice — they’re all really cool people and are pretty much into whatever we’re planning on doing, and that’s helpful.
COTHRAN: It’s nice that, because we waited so long and were so adamant about doing what we believe in music, we were able to find a label that feels the same way. A lot of young bands get impatient and jump at the first contract they’re offered, and that can lead to really nasty shit. Run For Cover is awesome as hell.
MILLS: I think touring will get more manageable for us over time. We have been working with pretty limited resources but maybe that will change and make things a bit more enjoyable.
STEREOGUM: How did Run For Cover approach you about putting out the record? Did you shop New Alhambra, or have an idea already that they were interested?
COTHRAN: Our booking agent put us through to them, and he hears enough of my ranting to kind of know where I stand on things and he thought it would be a good fit. We definitely wanted the album to reach as many people as we could, because it’s something we’re really proud of. It’s possibly our first real coherent statement as a band or a project.
MILLS: At the same time, Run For Cover allowed us a lot more freedom and agency than I feel like other labels do, which is chill. But we didn’t get up with them until after the thing was finished [last August], and we were trying to figure out what to do with it. Hence, the almost-year between completing New Alhambra and it actually being released, which I know has been a little annoying for people, because they knew when it was finished, since Mat keeps such an open line between himself and the people who listen.
STEREOGUM: What would you say defines this record as a coherent statement vs. the other six releases?
COTHRAN: Sonically, the album’s songs gel a lot better than anything we’ve done. There are lots of transitions with little snippets of things that inspired us during the writing: things from my childhood, pro-wrestling clips, and televangelists. We wanted each “side” of the album to kind of be a different story; it’s not entirely conceptual, but there are themes and we wanted each song to be a different perspective.
MILLS: Musically, it ended up being more of a collaborative effort as well. Mat started this band in 2011, and as I understand, usually just asked people to play parts where they were needed. With Holo Pleasures it started to become more collaborative between he and I. I was doing a lot of the keyboards and drums … but for New Alhambra there were people collaborating on each song.
COTHRAN: The band was always a group of people but there was no focus or intention really, and the lineup kept changing for no real reason. Delaney [Mills] really established the project and kind of made it what it is now.
STEREOGUM: When did the two of you meet?
MILLS: Sometime around the summer of 2013. Mat offered to record any band that wanted recordings for free, and my friend Trey Murphy [Trey Mumz], whom I was playing drums for at the time, took him up on it.
COTHRAN: They were the only ones who did!
STEREOGUM: Would you say that Elvis Depressedly really took off as a more serious project once Delaney got involved, Mat?
COTHRAN: I would say that the project got a lot more attention due to the kind of songs we were able to write with Delaney in the band. Holo Pleasures got out there a lot without much press at all … It seems to be a word-of-mouth thing, and I don’t think I could write songs like that on my own. Also, it’s a lot more fun now. I spent a long time writing songs for myself, knowing I’d have to do all the parts myself … It was lonely and kind of a drag and a lot of stress. Our recording equipment is very out of date, so recording on it is difficult; doing it alone, even more so
STEREOGUM: Who else worked with you two on New Alhambra, and did you record it on your own or in a studio?
MILLS: We recorded it on our own in our partitioned side of the house we were living in at the time. Our friends Mike Roberts, Amy Cuthbertson, Aaron Graves, and Ryan Galloway [from Crying] helped to write parts on the album.
COTHRAN: We definitely tried to push our limited gear as far as it could go. We only had one microphone for the most part, and it can be tricky to get the sounds you want with only one mic, but we learned a lot and I’m happy with how everything came out. It was as fun as it was difficult, though, to try new things and push our boundaries.
STEREOGUM: How long did the recording process take overall?
COTHRAN: It was probably six months or so. A lot of that time was spent trying to find a place to live and other real-life dumb shit that happens. It would have gone by much quicker otherwise.
MILLS: I think the fact that it was spread out over all of that time it made the songs grow into themselves a little more, too.
STEREOGUM: It definitely sounds really cohesive, so much so that it’s surprising that all of the work was spread out over time. You mentioned that each side of the record tells a kind of story. We’re premiering “Bruises (Amethyst).” I know that it can be annoying as all hell to have a writer misinterpret what a song is about, so would you mind talking a bit about it?
COTHRAN: I actually don’t mind misinterpretations too much because part of the social contract of sharing your art is having it taken in by the audience, and once it’s in their mind, it’s theirs to do with whatever they feel like. But to me, the song is about how we move through life and things that once either made us feel a lot of pain or a lot of joy kind of dull out and seem further away as we get older: being aware of how we’re decaying but not really being too defeated by it, just acknowledging that life is kind of a journey from one bright place to the next, in between long stretches of uncertainty … or something like that.
New Alhambra is out in May via Run For Cover.