The Pretty Gritty
BY: ANGELA RATZLAFF
One girl, one drum machine and one guitar are all that is needed to make up the low-fidelity gritty pop music of Colleen Green. Her mix of 1990s grunge and female-pop influences creates catchy, simplified riffs that instigate a transfixed groove of toe-tapping and head-bopping. Behind the Ray Ban sunglasses and long umber hair, Green makes a presence on stage, confusing, tricking and hooking people with her music. Her sweet personality, laid back vibes and love for marijuana round off the sharp low-fi edge of her recordings.
Green resides in Los Angeles and often plays shows while touring across the country; however, she still finds time to play in local venues around LA, Long Beach and Fullerton. She has started to make a buzz within the growing punk and psychedelic scene in Southern California, making friends with Burger Records and bands like The Audacity and the Dum Dum Girls. The fact that she is a girl with a sweet personality and has a love for books separates her from most of the Los Angeles rockers.
Green moved to LA after being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness. She recuperated while living with her brother, and on her free time, she decided to make music.
Since the release of her first full-length album, “Milo Goes to Compton,” Green has signed on with Hardley Art Records and toured with bands such as the Tennessee punk-duo Jeff the Brotherhood and LA female pop group the Dum Dum Girls.
I’ve heard you have been working with the label Hardley Art. I also heard that it’s associated with Sub Pop. It’s like their sister label, it’s like a subdivision. But it’s just a couple different people that run Hardley Art. They have a different kind of demographic I guess.
What has it been like working with them? It’s been awesome. I’ve been talking with them for two years now, or almost three. I really like Subpop. I always thought that label was really cool. I just feel really privileged to be associated with them at all.
I understand that California is not your home state. What was the transition like, moving to Los Angeles? I originally moved to Oakland from Boston with a handful of my friends. Basically it was because my boyfriend at the time wanted to move to the Bay Area. I was in a band at the time, and we wanted to move as a band. We just wanted to take in something new.
Why did you decide to move to LA? I actually moved to LA after a year of living in Oakland, because I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I couldn’t really like work anymore. It was just a weird time. So my brother said I could move down and live with him for free, because I wasn’t making money. Now that I moved here, I’ve loved it ever since.
Has living in Los Angeles inspired your music? Yeah. I think it definitely has. I mean, living in Oakland was a big inspiration for me because everyone who lives there is an artist or musician. The whole idea of California and Los Angeles, like there’s so much music, so many legendary bands that have come out of here. Just the whole idea of it is inspiring.
How would you describe your style of music? It’s just like an easy-going kind of style … that’s kind of how I am in life. So … my personality just kind of translates into my music. It’s just laid back … it’s accessible. It’s really hard to describe your own style. It’s supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be kind of sad, it’s supposed to be catchy.
A lot of your recordings, and even most of your live performances, consist of you, a guitar and a drum machine. What spurred that kind of lineup? Well … when I first came to LA, I started playing around with the drum machine, and I didn’t know anyone here at all, so I spent all of my time alone, and was just kind of like, ‘I want to write an album!’ It was kind of out of necessity that it all fell into place. I just wanted to record and make recordings from a drum machine, because I don’t play drums and I didn’t know anyone around here that did.
Is it difficult playing on stage by yourself? Is it fun? It’s both! I’ve played in bands before, and it’s really fun being up there with other people, because you can look up there and be like ‘Hey, we’re in this together,’ and if something’s going wrong, you have that support, and it gives you more confidence. And as Colleen Green, I’ve played with other people … and it always makes things a little bit different. But it’s really scary to be up there alone.
So, if something goes wrong, it’s all on you. Yeah! It’s all on me! I never liked it if I was in a band and something’s going wrong, and I blame it on the drummer or whatever. I didn’t like having to rely on people. So if something goes wrong, it’s all on me, and it’s my responsibility. And if something goes right, it’s all on me too. I like the idea of being up there alone. I think that’s like the true nature of Colleen Green.
What’s it like playing with other people? Well, I’ve been trying to do different things. I’ve played with just a drummer at some shows. I’ve played with just a bass player for one tour. I played with a full band on a tour that I did in September. So, I’m just trying to do different things so that when people come to see me more than once, they’ll be like ‘Oh, that’s interesting. It was different last time I came.’ I just like to keep it fresh, I guess.
You mentioned that one of your inspirations was The Thermals. Who or what else inspires you? I’m really inspired by my friends that make music. Almost everyone that I’m friends with is a musician or an artist in some way. Like Jeff the Brotherhood, I love that band and they are friends of mine. There are a few bands in Boston that I really love. There’s a band called Bugs and Rats that are friends of mine that I’ve known for a really long time. The Dum Dum Girls I’m inspired by. I like to take [things] that are closer to me and people that I closely admire.
What kinds of things do you take from them? Bugs and Rats always have extremely low-fi recordings. Super low-fi. They always record by themselves. A lot of people would say that it sounds like absolute shit, but I love that. And I would say, ‘Oh, that’s so dirty and so raw!’ It just sounds great. But with the Dum Dum Girls, they are super poppy, and I think of their sound as super pretty.
What makes you so attracted to that dirty low-fi type of recording? I don’t know! I’ve always really liked stuff that sounded like that. I don’t know where it comes from. I used to really like this band called the Lawrence Arms, and they have one [album], I think it’s their first album, called ‘Ghost Stories,’ and it’s super gritty. And then every album after that is super produced and super polished, and I stopped liking them. I guess I just thought it was more real and less pretentious. But I like music that sounds good too!
What are some of your favorite bands that you have toured with? I loved Jeff the Brotherhood, I loved the Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, Diarrhea Planet is amazing. This band Girlfriends from Boston. Another band called the Big Big Bucks from Boston, that are amazing. They are one of those bands that puts out albums like all the time, but they don’t really tour that much.
What’s your favorite part about going on tour? I really like almost everything, I think. I love driving. I love traveling. I really like to see what all the different cities look like. The architecture, the way the houses are, and just the landscape in the different cities. It’s interesting seeing what the people are like. When you’re with the right people, just being in that tour mode, in that mentality … You get this kind of camaraderie, traveling together all in a pack.
I heard that you are working on a new album right now. What’s the process looking like? Well, I actually already recorded it in April. I spent a month working on it in Seattle. So now, I’m just working on the art and stuff for it. Getting it ready for it to be released.
You do your own artwork? Yeah! Up until this point I have done all my own artwork. But it gets hard. I mean, I really like doing it, but it’s just like one more thing, but it’s fun to do.
Why did you choose to record in Seattle? They asked me, the Hardley Art people just thought it would be a good idea. Well basically, I wanted to record it myself in my bedroom again, because that’s what I’ve always done, that’s what I’m most comfortable with. But they want to put out something that sounds good, so they wanted me to come and do it with them, kind of under their eye. I just recorded it in one of the guy’s from Hardly Art’s basement.
Do you play everything on this record as well? Yeah! I played everything except a couple of lead guitar lines that I couldn’t really play, cause I’m not that good of a guitar player. Danny played a few things on the record.
Is there a set date on when it will be released? It will be out in early 2013.
Are there going to be any new tours in the work? I really would like to go on tour, probably in April or in May of next year. It [the album] should be out by then. I’ll be at South by Southwest in March, and hopefully do a long tour by then.
Some say that the apocalypse is coming at the end of this year. If the world were to end next month, what would you do? I don’t know. I’d probably just wait. I’d probably just hang out and just live my life. There’s still a lot of stuff I want to do, obviously, before the world ends, but there’s no point in getting all in a tizzy. I’d rather just relax and live my life.