Relationships are hard. Sometimes they don’t work even with great people in them giving their absolute best. Chemistry matters, timing matters, vision matters. It’s a damn wonder two humans ever get it right, even for a while. There are so many variables at play. Bands are dynamic relationships involving 3, 4, 5 or more people. Just like romantic relationships or other friendships, they take work; chemistry matters, timing matters, vision matters. Just like seeing two people who are falling in love or great friends who finish each other’s sentences, you literally can see chemistry, or lack thereof, when you watch a band. You know when it’s clicking. The audience is drawn in by a band firing on all cylinders. I am happy to write this article about Lost Coast, because the band is made up of guys I’ve known through the local music scene for years. Ten years? I love watching them play, because I know, this is the “one”.
Josh Muddiman, primary songwriter and front man, and Joshua Howard, bass and backing vocals, have been a team for as long as I have known them. Both passionate about music. I’ve always really liked “the Joshs” and I’ve booked them on many of the shows I’ve put together. In all honesty, I’ve just always wanted to really get excited about one of their projects and Lost Coast is the first time that musically it all hits me right in the ear drums, the way I need it to, for me to choose to support a local band in a big way. They’ve gone through a laundry list of projects; The Burn Brothers, 40 East, Shoot Out the Lights, among others. All respectable but the current band just has that something special that eluded them in the previous projects. They recruited Alan Tolpolski for a sub gig during the Shoot Out the Lights years. Alan expected it to be a one and done deal. After the show at the old Southgate house, they said, “see you Wednesday at practice.” He chuckles. Tolpolski is a top-notch drummer with a jazz background. He has the ability to make complicated passes sound fluid and easy. He’s also got a nice way about him. Laid back, sort of formal. Just a nice dude. The final element, a bit of a secret weapon, is Eric Boehmker, lead guitarist. Eric played with Sweet Ray Laurel for several years. SRL was in the vein of Mars Volta or Afghan Whigs. Eric said he hit a point where he was just really craving more Americana music. He wanted to play music more in line with what he liked listening to. His guitar work on their album is really stand out. It’s less about guitar solos and more about textures, counter melodies, accents and subtle lines that catch your ear. He adds a dimension to the music that former projects lacked. More than just being synched up musically this band has a clear vision for what they want to achieve. This may be the missing element in many musical projects. The goal is to make great records. Creating an “album”-a collection of songs that have a thread where you listen start to finish-like in the good old days of true record albums, was a theme all agreed on. Mudd commented “this is the truest version of what we wanted to get to”.
The recently released album, “Sweet Action”, was put together over the course of the past two years. Jacob Tippey (Calumet, The Frankl Project) approached the band to engineer the album. Tippey is highly regarded by local songwriters, so the band was excited to work with him. They appreciated his patience and knowledge during sessions. He easily speaks the language of guitar players—half joking with Eric at one point, “are you going for a John Mayer-ish tone?” Eric quickly pointed out, not trying to sound like John Mayer, just get that tone. There’s not always a perfect vernacular to describe the sound a player is trying to tease out. Having someone with the patience to get on the same page as the sound you have created in your head is a big plus in the studio! Having soused out the songs over the past two years allowed plenty of time to play the songs in front of an audience. Alan commented on the ongoing interaction between musicians and the crowd. It is a conversation and you know when the listeners are responding, for better or worse. Playing the songs live for a while gave the guys time to tweak and perfect how they wanted the songs to “be”. They went into the session very prepared. Eric commented it was the first time he ever actually charted the songs and laid out exactly what he wanted to play in advance for a studio situation. The sessions were planned but not stiff. One of the songs, “It’s Too Late”, was written in the studio, with the final lyrics being created off the cuff. They did take some liberties in the studio trying a few things that would be hard to pull off live, however, they showed restraint and didn’t just start loading up on sounds just because you can. The sound is deliberate and creative. As Mudd said, you don’t want to “over season the dish”. A few of the tracks have 70s pop sensibilities. Eric said they made a “California sounding album if it came from the Midwest”. It’s a good album to drive to, definitely a nice listen from start to finish. My favorite tracks are “Backslide City” an earworm with great pop hook power (they released a nice video for this one, directed by Christopher Keeney), “L.A.”, a vibey, free spirited song. Lots of tremolo and sailing guitar passes float above the bedrock of the song, which is especially rich with Joshua Howard layering both electric and upright bass. Mudd’s voice is perfection on this tune. “Little White Lie” has some balls with a big rock and roll lead in, then it smooths out when the vocals come in. I really dig this tune, it’s got some great riffs and some nice flourishes of feedback. It has a pronounced Neil Young and Crazy Horse atmosphere. The ambiance of the room is particularly good on this one. Definitely my favorite track on the album.
If you haven’t had a chance to check these guys out, they’ve got a packed fall schedule with the next chance to catch them live being this Saturday, September 30th, at Southgate House Revival with Farnsworth and M Ross Perkins. And might I be so bold as to recommend you check them out, as they perform as “The Jack Rabbit Slims” for a Halloween extravaganza with my band, The Tammy WhyNots. They’ll be doing music from Quentin Tarantino Movies that night and dressing the part! God dang, I love a theme! Free In The Lounge at SGHR on October 27th! If you can’t make it out to a show, these guys are ahead of the game when it comes to cool music videos. They recently collaborated again with Christopher Keeney on their just released video for “Sucker Punch”. Check it out, right’cheer.
Over the years there has certainly been trial and error, wins and losses to finally get the right combination that would become Lost Coast. From my vantage point, I’d say the losses are small, to this new sound they’ve found. Well done, guys!