Coach Party Level Up Their Budding Stardom
We sat down with the UK quartet to chat about their debut album, life as young rockers and the name change that almost broke up the bandPhotos by Megan Doherty Music Features Coach Party
The Isle of Wight is one of those places you don’t have much reason to have ever heard of. The tiny island off the coast of Southern England boasts a population just a smidge above 141,000, a tongue-in-cheek claim to fame as “the most haunted island on earth” and a lot of local news about abnormal sheep births. In the last five years, it’s also served as a cradle for some of the UK’s most exciting new music groups. First came Wet Leg, whose breakout eponymous debut garnered them online reverence and two Grammy Awards last year. And now, Coach Party have arrived. The English quartet met at college in 2019, but pandemic-induced confusion and a focus on EPs took over their initial focus. Now, at long last, their creative germination together has morphed into their debut record, KILLJOY.
I hop onto my call with Coach Party’s lead singer Jess Eastwood and guitarist Joe Perry just a minute late, but they’re already deeply enthralled in a conversation about Coachella. I feel guilty interrupting their meditations on dust, but it seems like there’s a line of excitement buzzing through it that I hope to harness. Eastwood and Perry revel gracefully in their youthful panache—Perry sits in his living room wearing a pair of pink sunglasses for the entirety of our call; Eastwood lounges in confident repose in an old tee, her hair mussed about her shoulders. I don’t doubt that fellow guitarist Steph Norris and drummer Guy Page are off doing Awesome Badass Stuff that far outpaces the coolness metrics of this mid-afternoon Zoom.
Our conversation is just as intimidatingly low-key. Both artists speak in a calm, steady British drawl—as they recount their casual rise to fame: Initially formed as Jeph (that’s Jeff with a ph, a smooshing of Eastwood’s and Norris’s last names in cheeky, homonymic fashion), Eastwood described a group thrashing about with much excitement and little polish. “We kind of sounded okay, because Joe and Guy were in the background making it sound good,” she laughs. The group ended up on the radar of manager Jonathan Morley after a video of them at a festival caught his eye. “He was like, ‘I didn’t hear the music.’ But I was wearing a hat and he was like, ‘Well, I saw the hat, so I listened to the music,’” Eastwood explains, with a knowing smirk. Morley liked their early work and offered them a home at Northern Lights—if they’d change their name. “That actually nearly broke us!” Eastwood yelps. The group almost settled on Ginger Shrimp, which I personally think is both awesome and creepily visceral. After a long and surprisingly fraught idea session, the band settled on Coach Party for the sole reason that none of them disliked it.
After finding their titular identity, the group wavered in the liminal new-band space for three years. Three brash, honest EPs arose from the period, as well as hundreds of shows and a darling reputation in Europe’s indie-punk scene. But it never felt like the right time for an album; the spark just wasn’t there—until it was. “The focus changed,” Eastwood explains. “It was like, ‘Okay, we have to write more songs.’” They’d been focusing on touring and performing live with Queens of the Stone Age, a lifelong dream for Eastwood—“It’s what you dream about doing when you start a band,” she says. “It was hard work, but the rewards outweigh that massively,” Perry chimes in, his mother bustling cheerily nearby. “We felt like we had to make up for lost time.”
KILLJOY carries that ethos—a desperate desire to live life with the joyous freedom of youth, and a reckoning with just how hard it is to do so. It’s a traverse into the depths of mid-20s despair, in all its resentful, god-complex ridden, horned-up glory. The record is painfully intimate and raucously human; a melodic, crashing fall down the rabbit hole of the dissatisfied mind. You’d never know they wrote such blistering stuff by talking to them, though: They poke lovingly at each other; they croon over Courtney Barnett and joke about drunkenly giving each other haircuts in a way that paints a picture of the idyllic rockstar life (an oxymoron itself, perhaps.) Their Spotify description just reads “coach party are the best band in the world, period.” The foursome seem elated to be where they are. “You find yourself hanging out with heroes, and now I’m just at home drinking a cup of tea,” Perry laughs, his face shining with pride. “We’re actually just starstruck,” Eastwood chimes in.
That glow reflects in their music—if not in its subject matter, then in the energy that goes into it. When I first heard “Born Leader,” I listened to it a dozen times on repeat. It was one of those catatonic, “holy shit” moments you get when you hear a song that feels like you should’ve been the one who wrote it. “Love me like I love you,” Eastwood shouts, “It’s crashing around me / Your love is not for me.” It’s screamy and melodic and gorgeously sad all at once. To put it plainly: It’s alive. “The reason you’re doing it is [because] it’s just fun. That’s what I’ve always felt; it’s what I’m good at and what we’re good at and what we’re meant to be doing,” Perry chides when Eastwood expresses her anxiety about the industry. “I don’t think I’d be very good at doing anything else by now,” he smiles.
“I’m proud of us, though,” Eastwood notes with a casual and cool confidence. “It’s cool, the album. Everything we’ve done up until the KILLJOY era is in there.” It does feel like a synthesis—or, perhaps, a culmination—of a band that’s taken its time to get off the ground in the most polished, sharp-toothed iteration it could strain for. They’re still kids; they go to festivals; they geek out at The Strokes; they fight about the name Ginger Shrimp. But there’s a kernel of inspiration they know they’ve got, and they’re nursing it carefully—and with big plans in mind. “We all feel like KILLJOY is a step up,” Perry confides with a toothy grin that seems to hold a million genius ideas. “But I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Miranda Wollen lives in New York and attends school in Connecticut, but you can find her online @mirandakwollen.