Cole Collins, Jargon.
Written By Raymond Lee
A cruise of the radio dial today reveals an abundance of technically proficient music. From rock to hip-hop to country western, modern music is spoiled for production. Drum machines mean the beat will not vary, high priced producers have perfected the minor fall and major lift, the heart-stopping breakdown, and the sonic tapestry of perfectly blended backing vocals to deliver the audience a product so flawless no live performance could ever match those three recorded minutes of computer-aided perfection. But modern music also suffers from a poverty of the spirit. Where technology and carefully crafted image triumph we find ourselves bereft of any lyrical depth or substance. We sing along to words that lack meaning, and we dance as all young people should to music designed primarily for capitalistic consumption rather than cathartic connection.
Musicians are not ignorant to this fact, and indeed there is an emerging market for music that is both masterfully produced as well as emotionally vital. For the moment, let's call it a growth industry. Enter Cole Collins. This Charleston native best known for his 2015 debut album Living History, may be the hardest working musicians in the Holy City. Both composing and producing during his busiest performance year yet, Collins is also hard at work finalizing his sophomore album Jargon. To be released in September, the album is being recorded in a pre-war home studio with girlfriend, bandmate, and pianist Rachel Davis where they are simultaneously composing the soundtrack for The Man and His Wife, an indie film by Director Levi Adkins.
When the clean-cut and unassumingly thoughtful young musician sits down to interview, the normal shoptalk of production value, tech, gear and the recording process falls away for the more mystical aspects of creation. "Although it is nearly impossible to escape one's own experiences leaking into their writing, the new material is largely fiction. I've found it so difficult to write a song with personal significance without it turning into a big cliché; something everybody has written. How many break up songs are there, or cheating songs? Let's write about something else."
What Collins goes on to describe, and what seems most interesting about Jargon is the articulation of the self-struggle many of us go through in trying to follow our moral and spiritual compasses. Self-conflict is a hallmark of great music, think Isaac Brock's war against himself and God in iconic early Modest Mouse, or the cinematic masterpiece that is Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, where Roger Waters contrasts the dissonance between the purity of youthful ambition against the insanity of maturity's waste. Collins' work mirrors both musical stylings in scope and cinematic imagery. "I often feel defeated by the vision I have for a song and get the urge to give up," Collins admits sincerely, in what is generally rare form for a musician during an interview. "There's an internal battle I go through in composition. I believe every valuable work of art will find its way into the world; whether it's you who serves as the bridge for it to cross, or someone else. I view songwriting as more of a privilege and sacrifice than a hard day's work. So, the battle for me is deciding between what I think needs to be heard, and what naturally flows through me as a temporary host when I sacrifice time to write. The content on Jargon has been written with this outlook."
But Collins doesn't just give up in the face of adversity; rather he takes the courage every musician must muster when facing a crowd to bare their soul and spins it flawlessly into his work. "There's going to be a hard shift from song to song in terms of overall theme," he continues, ever focused on the long view. "One of my favorite tracks on Jargon is Area 51, which is primarily about overly-privileged Americans. There's this insanely empty ambition so many people [in our society] have. Everybody focuses on working harder and harder to attain wealth, but they're bankrupt on wealth. A busy life is a successful life in the US. Work is given such a primary place in our lives, but how many people in America are suffering from emotional issues like suicidal tendencies or depression? Not to mention the distractions of our [digital] day and age. People are always going to be more important than a profession or these distractions we make the focus of our lives," he says emphatically condemning the cellphone in his hand with a flash of the eyes.
It is the substance that survives the erosion of time. While we drink and dance to every new flavor of the moment, it is music like Cole Collins' that people speak about and remember fondly years after the hype has quieted and the tour is long done. Perhaps it's Cole's ‘people first' outlook that has so far contributed to his success. Jargon doesn't just pay lip service respect to people. First, his sister Caroline Collins is featured on the album as well as paramour Rachel Davis. His eponymous five-piece band includes dual keyboards as well as the traditional drum, bass, and guitar to fill out a sound that draws heavily from his work in film.
The EP premier party at The Royal American on September 29th will be supported by local favorites and personal friends Rare Creatures. In addition, Columbia based indie group Dead Swells will be supporting Cole Collins' sophomore release of the EP, Jargon.