Florida native indie band, Coastals, has been taking over the music scene in their neck of the woods, and they refuse to stop there. They released their newest single, "Watercolors," earlier this month. They've reached milestones such as appearing at festivals like the southeast’s largest and longest-running alternative music festival, "97X's Next Best Thing." Marine Eltalkhawi got to sit down with them on zoom and get to know about their journey, ambitions and the inner mechanisms of the creative process as a band.
How did the formation of your band come about? What is your backstory?
Tyler Cole: It took a little while to get the right crew together. To make this long story short, James and I moved to Tampa after playing together before and we decided to start instantly from covers to writing our own music. We put out a little PSA [stating], “If you like these other bands, you might like us!” Then, our friend, Jared, listened to our song and was like, “Hey, you need a bass player?” And introduced us to Gabriel. A year later, I met Tyler at a Paparoach show, and we had a lot to talk about. I was working at the radio station. It turned out really good, we ended up being neighbors. He started playing guitar. Then he introduced us to Brendan— our very talented drummer.
Tyler Freeman: Me and Brendan are childhood friends. We have known each other since we were two. We grew up playing in bands together— or at least trying. We make a band for a week, drop it, make another band… It’s worked out real nice.
You released your newest single, “Watercolor” in early October. Can you share some background on it such as the inspiration behind the lyrics and sound?
Tyler C: So, that song started as a sketch that Tyler Freeman had on his computer for a while, like a little guitar lead line which ended up being the bridge. We tried to make that work for two years. It was one of those [situations] that were like, “this is good, there’s something there.” But, it didn’t really make sense until we wrote other parts and then moved that to the bridge. We have an old version of the song where that’s the main part of the song, we’d go back to it for a point of comparison- this is where we started, this is where it went. We would sit for like hours trying to come up with a good bass line. I would think that we’d have it then leave and be super excited. Then come back and Tyler would be like, “that wasn’t it.” It actually ended up working out once we figured out that the synthesize and the bass line was the way to go. The other parts clicked together quite easily. James started adding some cool guitar lines, put a little flare in the guitar here and there.
James Chouinard: For a time frame reference, I lived in three different houses while the song has been in production.
Tyler C: It’s really cool, the song has evolved with us. I feel like us as a band has evolved a lot since our first EP. The song is a combination of all that… We never stopped working on it. If it felt too old, we changed it.
How has quarantine been treating you guys? Has it affected your work ethic as a band and individually in any way?
Tyler F: It did help us pause and recalculate our focuses. So, it kind of gave us that chance there. I think it gave a lot of people that chance.
Tyler C: We had a laundry list of things we needed to do— because we were playing so many shows off of basically an EP and a couple of songs that we were demoing live. This [the pandemic] has given us an opportunity to focus on output and reconnecting with the whole business side of being in a band. I feel we were so drained from constantly playing shows. We were practicing and practicing, play a show, be tired, practice for the next show, play it- be tired. We’re all working and students. Now, we have time, and we have a good catalog of music that we can kind of sift through and weed out through it, and have an output of new music for people to listen to.
You guys accomplished a lot of milestones in your career, one of them being that you opened for COIN and X Ambassadors at the University of South Florida’s Bullstock Festival. What was that experience like?
Tyler C: They were nice! It looks like they enjoyed it. We really enjoyed getting the chance to open up for them. There was a point in time where— I think they were just going through sound check and a bunch of girls rushed to the stage, and they had to stop their sound check. There were lots of people there, and we went right before them. That was definitely good for us. It was a really fun time.
James: Hell, I would do it again!
Tyler F: They’re really wonderful guys.
Tyler C: There were also a lot of technical difficulties! We prepped as much as we could. There were a lot of electrical problems. My pedal board went out and then I didn’t have it. We kind of rely on these effects. So, it was like improvising [at this point]. It was the biggest show we played, and I don’t have a pedal board. There were also problems with the microphone. Tyler’s voice wasn’t going through for like— the first half of the first song. At that point they wanted us to rush through our set because there were delays. We were encountering all of these problems at the show where we really didn’t want it to happen. But, we got off on stage and when the problems happened, it didn’t really affect how we felt about the show. We had a lot of fun!
Tyler F: The crowd was so encouraging, honestly. I remember there being a part of the show where our drummer’s kit, the overhead microphone, fell down behind him! Everyone was like, “Hell yeah!” It was an unreal feeling. We [also] got to talk to several people after the show.
Tyler C: Shortly after that show, we had Brendan come join us. After that show, it definitely made a difference in our turnouts. The next couple of shows, we got to play at bigger venues in Tampa Bay. We got to play at the Orpheum. It was an excellent turnout, we played with the Hails and King Complex.
Were there any mottos or ground rules you guys established as a band before pursuing this journey together that you’re choosing to stick by? Or are you deciding to learn as you go?
Brendan Nagy: I joined three years after the creation. I would say, what stands true to this day is that we try our best to not sound like Bombay Bicycle Club. Every song that we put out, every artwork that we put out, the question is, “Do we sound like Bombay Bicycle Club?” I think we achieved what we stand by.
Did you guys have a set creative direction or sound? Or are you experimenting for every project you guys do?
Tyler F: With “Watercolors,” I definitely wanted to do something with a lot of synthesizers. I just really like the synths. I think that’s one of the reasons the song turned out how it did. With each new thing, you don’t want to make the same thing too many times. If you make the same sound a lot, I don’t know… I’d get a bit tired and a bit worn out.
Brendan: I think one of the big moves we tried to make on the single was that all the songs we have put out have computer drums. We wanted to try to create a hybrid. I think about two years ago, we tried drums for this in a very small room in my house in Florida. There was one verse in the song where I tracked it about 28 times because I didn’t sound enough like a computer. We had to layer electronic drums on top of it, so it had to be perfect. That was one of the biggest challenges recording the song. But, it came out really well.
Tyler C: To answer the other side of the question, about trying experimental stuff, I would definitely say that with our unreleased stuff— which we have been building a decent library [of music], we definitely are reaching a lot of stuff from different avenues, which I’m super excited to get out. But, there are different influences between all of us. So, it’s interesting to try to incorporate all of those influences in one song.
Are there any memories or experiences that stick out to you guys in the course of your career so far?
Tyler C: There’s a couple. I think creatively, there was one day where we were playing our last song called, “Daisies,” and this was around the time I was introducing Brendan to everyone in the band. We went to my dad’s house, and we rigged together a couple of microphones, and I just played him like a demo version of the song with no drums, and we just recorded drums. We took two takes to put them together. That was on the drum set that I grew up playing as a kid, and that’s like now out there on Spotify. I was really proud of that! I feel like it’s cool to go back and listen to and be like, “Hell yeah! These are my microphones, that’s my drum set, one of my best friends playing the drums. Then also, that creative line of thinking has echoed throughout the most recent songs where there will be a sketch of a song and whoever’s in the room at the time would be like, “try doing this!” Or “record this real quick.” Then, it just works! That’s I think, [one of] those moments where you have to be in the room at the right place, right time. Even though you’ve been in that room recording and writing— for instance, Tyler Freeman’s room is where we recorded most of the songs. We’d just be hanging out and say, “Hey, let’s listen to the song again!” Then, you just kinda hear something in your head and be like, “Wait, can we try doing this?” We do it, and it works. Those are some stand out moments. Recording is definitely some of the most fun we’ve had.
Tyler F: I absolutely agree with that. That’s kind of one of the best things when you’re in a band with your friends. It’s when you’re just— I don’t know— recording ideas. It’s a good time. We come out and share it in some kind of way.
Did you guys have a moment where you collectively were like, “this is it, we’re gonna do this for real and as a career,” if so, may you describe it?
Tyler C: I think we’re trying to make our jobs work as much as we can. We’re always circling back to, “Man, we really like doing this music stuff.” I mean clearly, we’re doing something right! At least feeling fulfilled personally, there seems to be at least somewhat of a captive audience, and I’m happy with that.
Tyler F: I feel like there’s a lot of cool stuff going on in the band. We’ve been at it for a while. I would say, recently, I feel the group we have now and the collective minds that we have working on this stuff, feels like this is what we need. This is what we’re waiting for, to get to that point.
Do you guys have a bucket list of goals you’d like to accomplish in the future?
Tyler C: We have small bucket lists, I mean obviously we’d love to put out an album. Who wouldn’t? The goal now is we have these baby steps. We’re able to do more than we’ve been able to before. We have weekly goals now. We have a monthly goal and then we have this song (“Watercolors”) that we’re thinking about, "when are we gonna put the song out after that one?" We’re starting to formulate this stuff in more achievable goals so we’re more satisfied, I think.
Tyler F: For me personally, I’d really like to have a sunglasses collab. That’d be really nice. Who wouldn’t want some Coastals collab shades, you know? I have my signature glasses with me right now. I want a collab, like something obscure, one of those Amazon companies, you know? Just sell glasses for $12. I think that would be really neat. Or maybe even just some blue light glasses, you know?
The final question, what’s next for you guys that fans can look out for going forward?
Tyler C: We’re gonna have some merch! Real good looking merch.
Tyler F: It’s a shame they’re not glasses, though.
Tyler C: One of the things we’ve been putting on the back burner during live shows, which seems like an obvious step, right? It seems like merch is something that you just do… We missed an opportunity not making merch earlier. So, we have some time and energy and we’re gonna put that into some merchandise and we also have a collection of music coming out too. This song, (“Watercolors”) is really big for us and there will be more songs to follow, sooner rather than later.