“If the scene isn’t what you need, then you make one”: Elvis Depressedly on the DIY community and connecting with fans

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In the midst of their summer tour with Mitski and Eskimeaux, I was able to catch up with Mat Cothran, frontman of the ethereal sad-boy alt group Elvis Depressedly. Sitting cross-legged on an old wooden picnic bench outside of The Space in Hamden, CT, he discussed the band’s current North American tour, the experience of collaborating with other artists in the DIY community, and coming to terms with Elvis Depressedly’s intense emotional impact on their fans.

How has this tour been for you so far?

Really fun! It’s cool hanging out with Mitski, it’s cool hanging out with Eskimeaux. It’s been awesome, it’s been one of the least stressful tours I’ve been on, so I’m having a really good time. It only took like, nearly a decade of doing this to finally get to where it’s not stressful but, you know, whatever it takes to get to the cool point of life (laughs).

Yeah, definitely. Has it been a lot of smaller places like this?

It’s been a good mix of bigger mid-size places that hold like 400 people to places like this that hold probably half of that. But it’s cool, there haven’t been any places that felt too big or too weird or something, it felt like we belonged in all the spots that we played.

That’s good, I feel like the smaller rooms are always more intimate and the vibe is always better.

Yeah, it’s generally pretty cool for sure. I like being able to see people’s faces, and see how the audience reacts to things so that you can do better next time, make changes while you’re performing and stuff like that. It’s been cool for sure.

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What kind of vibe do you typically go for in your live shows?

I try to make it fun, honestly, cause nobody has to pay money to not have fun, you know? (laughs) I feel like it should be a good time. And I want people to be happy, so we try to play all the songs we think people wanna hear. So, yeah, just chillin’ is the vibe (laughs), we’re just kickin’ it for sure. I want it to feel like we’re just hanging out or something.

Do you hang out with fans a lot, or have cool interactions after the show?

Yeah! Sometimes people are real nervous and I’m like, why? I’m just some person, I’m just not even that cool at all, I’m actually really a dork (laughs). But people will come up and it’s always totally cool with me. I never expected to do anything with music outside of just recording it; I never expected to travel with it or anything like that, so I’m down to do whatever people wanna do. I haven’t had many weird, “this is not cool” interactions but like, one or two. Usually someone’s too hammered and gets kinda touchy, and you’re like, “C’mon man, scale it back!” (laughs) But I haven’t ever had to like suplex somebody (laughs), so it’s been pretty cool.

Do people tell you how much the music means to them?

Yeah! Sometimes its real heavy for me, cause they’re just telling me all this stuff about how I helped them, and I’m like, “I’m really glad I did but I feel like you helped you, you know?” I also feel responsible, especially when younger people come up and they say stuff like that. I’m like, “Alright, I have to present myself in the world the best I can because people look up to me now,” and it’s like, “Don’t fuck it up, don’t be a dumbass.” (laughs) It’s kind of made me more responsible over the years and helped me out. People help me out way more than I help them out, whether they realize it or not.

It’s cool that you can kind of be the soundtrack to someone’s life and not even know.

Yeah, that’s what a lot of people were for me over the years, for sure. And basically what I wanna do in the world is just be that, because so much music is so completely a part of my life, and bands totally got me through my teenage years and beyond. So it’s nice to be able to give back after you’ve taken so much from music as a whole.

So you grew up in South Carolina, right?

Yeah, everybody in this band, I think, grew up in South Carolina! Except for Greg, our drummer, cause he’s a New Yorker through and through.

Growing up, how was the music scene around you?

I don’t wanna be too sour-grapes or anything, but it was either nonexistent, or very clique-y and hard to get into. A lot of hatefulness in it, a lot of jealousy. It was pretty bad, I would say.

Do you feel like now you’ve formed a community of artist friends who you can collaborate with?

Yeah! If the scene is not what you need, then you make one. If the labels are not ethical, then you find a group of people and you make your own, and you try to become bigger than the bad guys, and try to win that way. We definitely know a lot of cool people.

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Yeah, I know that Eskimeaux is part of a collective of artists called The Epoch—

Eskimeaux is involved, and Told Slant, and some other cool bands… They do well with it too, and it’s really cool that our groups have merged over time. We’ve known those kids for like four years, and they were basically doing the same thing that we were trying to do through Orchid Tapes, and it was kind of like, “Alright, lets combine forces. We believe in everything you guys believe in, and you guys believe in what we do, so lets team up.” I always love playing with those bands cause they’re awesome; all those people are the coolest people in the world.

What would you say are your main goals as a musician, at the moment?

Finding our artistic vocabulary… making fat stacks (laughs)… helping people who are talented and might not have the avenues that we have. Definitely using what we’ve achieved to try to give back as much as we possibly can. Making it easier for the next wave of people, as well as the people who operate directly with us, like the people in our band. We want everybody to be able to benefit and give back and have a good time, for sure. Make more records, just do this shit as long as we possibly can (laughs), and then do something else after that! Start writing musicals (laughs).

Any final sentiments for fans?

All I’m gonna say is, listen to Katie Day. And Bulldog Eyes.

Is she one of your favorites right now?

Absolutely. Bulldog Eyes is great too, they’re amazing songwriters. Just talented young people who are doing things that bewilder me and confuse me (laughs) and mostly get me hyped!

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