Interview with Chris Cohen of Cryptacize
- by Shawn Conner/photo by Melissa Skoda
Some Cryptacize facts that may or may not be true: singer Nedelle Torrisi and guitarist Chris Cohen discovered drummer Michael Carreira through his solo cowbell videos on YouTube; the group has toured the U.S. in a Toyota Corolla; Cryptacize has opened for Danielson and Why?; Cohen has played with Deerhoof; Nedelle released two previous records on Kill Rock Stars; and recently, the New York Times and David Byrne, among others, have started to take notice.
Mythomania, the second album from the Bay Area trio (currently augmented by bassist Aaron Olson), deconstructs pop music and puts it back together in clever new ways. Cohen’s dry, mad-scientist guitar and Torrisi’s unpredictable flights of melody push the songs in unpredictable, sometimes discordant directions: careful listening is encouraged, but not required. At its heart Mythomania is still a pop album, and a lot of fun.
Hearing the record’s stop-start rhythms, wonky arrangements and snatches of melody, it comes as no surprise that Chris Cohen and Nedelle Torrisi make their home-base in the Bay Area, long a fermenting ground for all that is weird in American West Coast music.
Shawn Conner: How much work went into this new record?
Chris Cohen: A couple of months. Nedelle and I weren’t working our day jobs at the time. We worked on it every day. I guess a normal amount of work. We recorded it all ourselves, and mixed it and everything. That’s a lot slower going. I’m not a real engineer.
SC: What are your day jobs?
CC: Right now we’ve totally lost them. I was working at a restaurant, and Nedelle was… I don’t know, she walked dogs and stuff.
SC: She seems to like cats as well.
CC: We both like cats. We have a cat. Spider is her name. Can you tell?
SC: There’s a photo on your blog with a face that’s half-feline and a caption that says “I wish I were half-cat.” And there’s that video in someone’s backyard in Long Beach with a couple of cats. And there’s the picture of Nedelle with a cat—
CC: Okay, I guess we’re cat maniacs.
SC: And you’re on Asthmatic Kitty. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. So.. okay. What’s the songwriting collaboration like? Was it any different for this record than the first one?
CC: Uhm, it’s about the same. Nedelle and I write the songs together. One of us will come up with the start of something and we’ll pass it back and forth as many times as it takes. We work pretty closely together.
SC: How would you describe the band’s aesthetic? With the album artwork, the name Cryptacize, the title Mythomania… there’s something very absurdist, or surreal…
CC: Uhm, I don’t know if I would describe it myself. Hopefully what we do speaks for itself or says something. I don’t think I could describe our aesthetic. I think someone on the outside would be more capable of doing that.
SC: But you definitely stay as far away from cliche as you can.
CC: I don’t know if anybody actually wants to be cliche.
SC: I think some bands embrace it more than others.
CC: Maybe so. I guess we’re not that kind of band.
SC: So you guys have just come back from a European tour?
CC: Yeah, and we’re now on this U.S. tour. We’re actually in Midland Texas, which is the birthplace of George W. Bush. We had a drive day yesterday. We’ve been driving through the desert and we’re just starting out a new U.S. tour.
SC: And are you in the Toyota Corolla?
CC: My mom let us borrow her SUV. We’ve grown an additional member, Aaron Olson. And, uhm, we’ve done a tour as a four-piece, but we were borrowing drums from Ariel Pink. And this time we have our own drums and they didn’t fit in the Corolla. So my mom was nice enough to let us borrow her car. And it’s a hybrid so we’re still getting about the same mileage.
SC: You guys probably depend a lot on merch sales?
CC: That does help a lot. Nedelle and I don’t pay rent right now, we don’t have an apartment. So we’re trying to live on a pretty modest income.
SC: So when you go on tour you go all out. Give up your apartments, quit your jobs.
CC: All four of us have different situations. Mike our drummer is a schoolteacher, if he gives them enough notice he can take time off. And Aaron our bassist works at a bookstore. Nedelle and I and him are moving to L.A. We live in the Bay Area now. We all met there.
SC: San Francisco’s know for a pretty experimental music scene. Did you find it to be a pretty welcoming place starting out?
CC: We haven’t really been playing there that much. It’s kind of like at this point, no slight to San Francisco, it’s similar to any other big city we play in. It has a good music scene. We’ve got some friends there. But we’re not super tied in to what’s happening there. I’ll tell you one thing, I did move to San Francisco because I was a fan of some of the music going on there at the time, like The Residents, Carolina Rainbow.
SC: Three Day Stubble.
CC: Yeah, I like them too, totally. I was living in Santa Cruz, which is an hour south, and going to college, and found myself going to a lot of shows up there. I thought, oh man, there are a lot of really cool musicians there. Shortly after I moved there I met the Deerhoof people. There was a time I was more connected to what was going on there.