It’s 7:25 p.m., and the bar phone at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill is ringing off the hook, the line full of fans trying to somehow get last-minute tickets to Elvis Depressedly’s sold-out show. Elvis Depressedly — whose core duo consists of couple Mat Cothran and Delaney Mills — are currently touring in conjunction with the release of their newest record, New Alhambra.
Cothran’s never actually been to the old boxing arena in Philadelphia (which closed in 2012) that serves as the album’s namesake, but it’s the concept of days gone by that attracts him most.
“(It’s) the thought of (an) old decaying building,” said Cothran. “Its glory days may be behind it — they may not be — no one really knows. And then equating that with my own feeling of being like a decaying building — you know, maybe somebody will come paint me and make me nice again, or maybe I’ll get bulldozed and turned into a parking lot.”
“I guess the album sort of goes through that theme,” he continued. “And then at the end it’s just like, ‘you know what, as long as we try, it’ll be OK or whatever.’ ”
Pitchfork hailed New Alhambra as a “wholehearted embrace of optimism” — a label that Cothran calls “the funniest thing.”
“I’ll tell you a secret,” he said. “It’s actually kind of more depressing in some ways. … The point is, there are no sad songs, there are no happy songs. There are just songs that carry a lot of different emotions. It depends on how you feel at the time.”
It seemed as if Cothran cycled through a variety of emotions onstage, too. Sometimes he slammed around, the gold chain he wore swinging across his shirt like a pendulum. At other times, he was motionless, with nothing moving except his mouth and the rush of sentiments pouring out of it. At one point, he turned from the crowd suddenly, showcasing the motto, “don’t trust anybody,” emblazoned on the back of his shirt.
Later, in “Pepsi/Coke Suicide” from 2013’s Holo Pleasures, Cothran was exceedingly still and stood quietly with his eyes closed, just breathing. With his head tilted to the sky, he seemed like a man trying to make the most of a moment while he still could. When he played “Caroline Please Kill Me,” a song released under his alternate moniker, Coma Cinema, he was on his knees, looking up, as if praying in between the lo-fi hymns he had sent out to his disciples gathered in the audience.
Cothran’s distaste for the music industry machine is nothing if not well documented. Just this Tuesday he tweeted, “music journalism is routinely the most embarrassing writing on earth. Facts seem to only get in the way of over cooked metaphors. so boring.” Despite his distaste, Cothran conceded that he still has a vested interest in making music for the fans who love it.
“One of the problems of it, the further you get into the maze of the music industry, the less it is about music, and the more it is about trying to keep your sanity and keep the snakes away from you. And it gets tiring,” Cothran explained. “But every time I wanna quit, I do remember that a lot of people have invested a lot of their time and their heart and their money in us. And I do really love playing the shows. So it’ll probably continue indefinitely. Until I either die or lose my hearing or something, I dunno.”
He pauses for a beat, and then cracks a wide smile.
“Or until the real Elvis comes back and sues me,” he laughs.
Contact Tyler Allen at [email protected].