Influences Playlist: Cola

These are the 10 songs that influenced the Montreal trio's new album, The Gloss, the most.

Music Features Cola
Influences Playlist: Cola

We are inviting our favorite musicians to compile playlists of the songs and artists who have impacted their latest projects the most. The latest Influences guest is Cola, whose brand new album, The Gloss, is packed with post-punk gems like “Pulling Quotes,” “Keys Down If You Stay,” “Nice Try” and “Bitter Melon.” Their second LP as a group, Cola have taken their collective songwriting experience and forged an immediate voice together.

In his recent review of The Gloss, critic Matty Pywell wrote that “within sparse arrangements, [Cola] crafted out a niche, as they leaned heavily towards the more melodic side of the recent post-punk boom. Their debut [Deep In View] had more of a neutral emotional palette, which is in sharp contrast to their new album The Gloss, in which they’ve managed to create denser and much more vibrant compositions.”

Check out Cola’s Influences playlist, which includes songs from the Rolling Stones, Silver Jews and, yes, Johann Sebastian Bach, below:

Acetone: “All the Time”

Acetone has been one of my most enduring discoveries of recent years. I’m indebted to the retrospective Light In the Attic put out in 2017, as I imagine many newer fans are. The magic lies in the quiet chemistry of how the three of them play together as a unit, and this song in particular showcases the magic of their interweaving guitar and bass melodies. If you really want to fall in love with the band, I highly recommend Sam Sweet’s book Hadley Lee Lightcap. —Tim Darcy

Silver Jews: “Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed”

I was trying to think of a good SJ entry for the list and was jolted alert when this cut from Tanglewood Numbers came on. The lyrics remind me a bit of the chorus of “Albatross” from our new record. The similarity is coincidental in this case. I wrote those lines about horse racing because of a creative challenge I made with our friend Tristan (of the band Veranda Liv), for each of us to write a song mentioning “The Preakness.” I love how upbeat this song is. It elevates the melancholic to the tragicomic from one of the great western practitioners of word and song. —Tim Darcy

Mekons: “Hard to be Human”

Ben sent me this record years ago. We don’t often send each other rock songs, usually Hawaiian or Irish Trad or whatever so this track sticks out to me as a kind of unspoken influence on the band. The rough and tumble melodicism of this band feels very vital, creative, and fun to me. —Tim Darcy

Lankum: “What Will We Do When We Have No Money”

This tune, done originally by Mary Delaney in the 1970s, is the spiritual root of “Pulling Quotes.” The track opens with an uilleann pipe drone in B and is the only instrumental accompaniment. The most common key for uilleann pipes is D (concert pitch). Historically, however, it was more common for them to be in the key of Bb, B, C, or C#. These are referred to as flat sets and are both quieter and less shrill. In this version by Lankum, I was taken by the deep sound of drones and Radie Peat’s voice modulating from the tonic to the major second. It’s so simple but there is something timeless about the quality of her singing so deeply connected to that drone. When I would sing the tune to myself, I could often reproduce the B note because it’s just about as low as I can go as far as producing a pure tone.

This inspired me to write a song where the bass just play a B the entire time. From this starting point I decided to only use the notes available on the uilleann pipe regulators, which are stopped chanters that allow for simple chordal accompaniment. I did eventually decide that the bass did need to change notes for the song to work. This was for everyone’s benefit as it would have been just so boring. Also Evan wrote a bridge that was outside the tonal restraints of uilleann pipe regulators which provides a deep breath before returning to the A section. The song is deliberately rustic and for the whole record I tried to pull from some folk idioms in the bass playing. —Ben Stidworthy

The Clash: “Police & Thieves”

I don’t remember anything about how I wrote the demo for “Pallor Tricks” but once it was finished I knew that all I could hear in the verses of “Pallor Tricks” was the verses of “Police & Thieves.” There isn’t anything tonally similar between the two but the dry guitar stabs along with the drum and bass interplay has a similar feel. It’s interesting because the verses have this punk energy existing in between to musical sections that feel so ’90’s to me. When I hear the chorus of “Pallor Tricks,” I think about the television show Friends every time, and I don’t like the show. The point is that the Clash have always been a big influence from my childhood and I think that really shone through in this track. —Ben Stidworthy

Julian Lage: “Word for Word”

This whole album I listened to loads in the year we were writing The Gloss but this song in particular I spent a lot of time studying. There isn’t one song that was directly influenced by “Word for Word” but Julian Lage made me excited about playing guitar and most of my songwriting begins with guitar. The major-key theme has an almost children’s music box quality which, along with the ragtime chromaticism, creates a very warm, autumnal mood which completely captured my imagination so it’s in the album somewhere. —Ben Stidworthy

Portishead: “The Rip”

Geoff Barrow’s hi-hat playing from the three-minute mark onward has inspired my approach to all the drum parts in Cola. I’m always looking to open up the hats on the weightiest part of the beat (often the “1,” like Barrow does in “The Rip”). It’s a small detail, but striking because it’s a sound that drummers usually play on another tricky/syncopated part of the beat. It’s analogous to when a reggae drummer plays the snare hard on the “1.” Probably my favorite type of fill in the history of drumming. —Evan Cartwright

Van Morrison: “Rave on John Donne”

Over the past couple years, Tim and I have had an ongoing conversation about artists who may be best known for their work in the ’60s/’70s, but whose best work was (arguably) recorded in the ’80s/’90s. This is my absolute favorite Van Morrison. Mid ’80s. I love how the guitar chords feel so vast and open ended. I think this feeling crept into The Gloss in a big way, especially in a song like “Pulling Quotes,” where the guitar chords have that same wide-openness.

The Rolling Stones: “Time is on My Side”

This track was on Ben’s mind the weekend that he and I first got together to track drums and guitar for a few demos we had been sitting on. One track wound up being unmistakably Stones-ey, so much so that we even referenced them in the working title. That song never made it onto the album, but the spirit stayed with us (or at least with me).

Philharmonia Orchestra: “BWV 244-21 Erkenne Mich, Mein Hüter” (Written by J.S. Bach)

During the year-and-a-half that we spent writing the record, I logged countless hours reading through Bach Chorales at home on my synth. With my sub-par piano skills I had to play them very slowly, but this meant that all the harmonic suspensions were slowed down/drawn out. This really influenced songs like “Keys Down If You Stay” and “Nice Try,” which have harmonic suspensions that create a feeling of yearning. Of the nearly 400 of his chorales, this one stands out to me as a gem and a sound example of what I’ve just mentioned.

Cola’s The Gloss is out now via Fire Talk Records.

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