Interview: Elvis Depressedly: “In Christianity, it’s kind of like a big pro wrestling match between Satan and Jesus”

Elvis Depressedly: “In Christianity, it’s kind of like a big pro wrestling match between Satan and Jesus”

On his ‘New Alhambra’ album, Mat Cothran makes an album inspired by both Christianity and wrestling. Surely it’s one of the first to do so. He speaks to Tom Walters.

There’s a thunderstorm brewing in Asheville, North Carolina - a wonderfully apt forecast to discuss the eerily-shot new Elvis Depressedly record with the band’s two permanent members, Mat Cothran and Delaney Mills. “It’s so beautiful here, watching the storm clouds roll over the mountains,” Cothran says. ‘New Alhambra’ - Elvis Depressedly’s latest record - would actually be the perfect soundtrack for the scenes he’s describing, as it’s not hard to imagine his subtle and moody pop songs glowing in time to the vivid purple skies. Then, all of a sudden, that picturesque and vibrant scene falls victim to a spilling of blood.

“Do you know Extreme Championship Wrestling? They have it in Philadelphia,” asks Cothran feverishly. ‘New Alhambra’ - the fourth album by the band - is titled after the building of the same name, a pro-wrestling stadium that Cothran spent time in as a kid. Wrestling samples are interspersed throughout the record, including coarse yells of “New Alhambra!” plucked straight out of the ‘90s. In his early teens, Cothran witnessed a wrestling match featuring Rob Van Dam, in which he and another wrestler battered each other with chairs. “There was blood coming from this guy’s head!” Cothran explains excitedly. “It splattered all over the seat next to me, it was the craziest shit. I just… I’ve always admired that kind of dramatic story. It’s just something that connects with me, so I named [the album] after that venue.”

Like ECW, Cothran has quite the cult fanbase himself, emerging from the same Bandcamp scene as his friends Alex G and Jackson Scott. Those unfamiliar with the Elvis Depressedly name might know Cothran better for his work as the also-elusive Coma Cinema, a name that comes with more of an indie pop connotation in comparison to Elvis Depressedly’s low-key melancholia. With New Alhambra, Cothran is releasing some of his most distinctively different music to date. There are no that’ll-do lo-fi labels to be had here. ‘New Alhambra’ is lush and organic,defined by overly-sensitive emotions that come to play late at night.

“We met about three years ago,” explains Cothran about his bandmate Mills. “It was at school, I was just hanging out. It [Elvis Depressedly] was always a band - it just didn’t have any set members. We’ve had a few of the same people play on a few of the records, but it was when I met Delaney that it definitely became a duo.” That’s part of the beauty in what Cothran does: his music is so idiosyncratic that everyone wants to be involved, and he welcomes collaborators with open arms. Some of the songs on ‘New Alhambra’ are almost ten years old - Cothran’s work ethic is one of two halves, wherein one half reexamines old notebooks and one half works on pushing itself forward. “I just never figured out how to properly do it,” he says on the decade-long production of album track ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’. “It’s nice to come back to something after that long. You get this feeling of like ‘finally, it’s happened!’ which is really cool.”

Thematically, ‘New Alhambra’ is more than just an ode to Cothran’s love for wrestling. There are a few personally retrospective songs on there that were written during a time when he was “looking at the world as a whole”, but there are ties to Christianity too, not only through multiple religious samples, but through Cothran’s efforts to join the dots between it and - yes, that’s right - wrestling. “I tried to connect the two,” he divulges. “In Christianity, it’s kind of like a big pro wrestling match between Satan and Jesus. So, there’s that kind of battle going on throughout the record. A confrontation with the world, and with yourself, and stuff like that.

“We’ve had a few of the same people play on a few of the records, but it was when I met Delaney that it definitely became a duo.”

Mat Cothran

While Cothran writes most of the lyrics, he admits that it’s Mills who brings a softer, more pop-orientated side to the project. “He’ll ask me for input sometimes and I’ll help in that sense, but I think my contributions are mostly musical,” she says on lending a hand to his words. “Delaney comes up with the more melodic ones - the parts that I think are most interesting in the song,” Cothran adds. “The pop element comes from her a lot of the time, she’s really good at coming up with things that take you to a pop song.” Being in a relationship helps the pair too - Cothran describes them as getting “kind of psychic” when it comes to playing on stage. “It’s easy to communicate something without even a look,” he says, with Mills adding “we’re both very sensitive people to each other. I definitely feel like our relationship makes it easier to understand where the other person is coming from. There’s less of a wall.”

There’s an uncanny familiarity to the pair’s songs through the record, one that’s hard to put a finger on. A lot of the time, the songs on ‘New Alhambra’ sound like all the energy and excitement of a pro wrestling match condensed into a minute-and-a-half long tune of murky melancholy that’s not dissimilar to early Elliott Smith. It’s extremely hard to pinpoint, but one particular influence seems to spring to Cothran’s mind immediately. “Prefab Sprout,” he declares unwittingly. It’s a shock to say the least, but in fairness, ‘New Alhambra’ definitely carries a similar clarity and love for recording that, say, Steve McQueen does. “I love that stuff a lot. I got into it right before I started recording [‘New Alhambra’]”, he says. “It’s some of my favourite music ever now. They’re one of the best of all time in my opinion!”

Elvis Depressedly’s ‘New Alhambra’ is out now on Run For Cover.

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