Remember that perfect summer of your youth? Where every day was a new adventure and you pined away for that girl or boy next door? The Couch is one of those rare bands that seem able to tap into those feelings on both their album “Old & Touchin’ Blue” and the stage.
The Couch is one of those bands in Austin that truly sounds unique amidst what is already a unique music scene. They have a melting pot of influences that can be heard in their songs that stretch from soul and R&B, to psychedelic rock. Comprised of Sara Houser (Keyboards, vocals), Jud Johnson (drums), Taylor Wilkins (vocals, guitar), and Kyle Robarge (bass), this Austin-based four piece has been garnering a large following with its smart song writing and intensely energetic live performances.
“I like chaotic Rock ‘n Roll,” says Wilkins about the band’s sound. “You got to punch the crowd in the face when you come out.” It’s a statement that isn’t far from the truth. From the moment you listen to one of The Couch’s sets or albums, you’re immediately drawn into musings of love, loss and laments that are punctuated with the weight of sorrow or sheer exuberance.
“I feel like, every time we play a show, it feels like… coming out of a blackout.” Houser elaborates. “Like, ‘Holy shit, what just happened?’ After a few songs, it becomes more like the four of us making music together.”
Released in December of this past year, “Old & Touchin’ Blue” brims with fun, romping riffs and beats that stand in contrast to its lovelorn lyrics. From the first track “Shakin’,” you’re hooked on the mellow organ and Wilkins’ velvet melody… right before the band socks you with one of the biggest, thickest guitar riffs you’ve ever heard. Pair that with a soaring chorus and you’re hard pressed not to have a smile on your face. “The Way You Came” comes in with a bouncy beat that immediately gets your head bobbing and your toe tapping. Interestingly, the song’s harmony drenched interlude evokes a Beach Boys quality that is becoming a larger aspect of the band (more on that later…). It’s all about the vocals again on “Farhan.” The track displays Wilkins’ control over his voice. He sings smooth as glass, although that glass is just on the verge of shattering.
“Old & Touchin’ Blue” has garnered the band high praise from fans and local critics alike, and even earned them regular radio play from local stations. The band, while proud of their accomplishments in the studio, is now poised to produce a true album that more accurately reflects The Couch. “Old & Touchin’ Blue” is essentially a single album that amalgamates three separate EPs. With Lars Goransson manning the helm as producer and engineer, The Couch produced “Old & Touchin’ Blue” over the summer of 2011 in three different recording sessions. What came from the venture was a slick sounding record with the group’s customary meaty guitars, tight rhythm section, and spot on keys. Despite the fact that, yes, the album is very listenable, it sometimes starkly contrasts the band’s live performances. “Doing that album made me realize that we wanted things less produced, but we had to understand that,” Wilkins mused, but also added, “I wouldn’t take anything back.”
The band members recently rallied to the studio once more for a new album with a lo-fi sound in mind. Judging from preliminary tracks like “Oh, Libby,” the first single from the as of yet unnamed album, the band has achieved exactly what they wanted: an album that sounds great without sounding overly produced. The songs feel alive and vibrant. That’s not all, though– this new batch of recordings also feature Houser functioning as a second lead singer, which can only help the group further with her silky voice running in a complimenting contrast to the band’s raw sound.
“Kaiser,” another of the new songs, is also written by Houser, and is easily one of the strongest songs recorded. Houser deftly uses metaphors that are at easily interpreted, but don’t come across as patronizing to the listener. This isn’t to say that their recent studio foray is a collection of “his and hers” songs, far from it, in fact.
The songs feel different. “We’re very much like, what’s the best for this song?” says Wilkins on songwriting with Houser. “We love each other.” The product of this sense of collaboration was the track called “Ghost,” their first true co-write. The track, borne of a Facebook post from Wilkins, was lyrically framed by Houser before taking it to Wilkins and then the rhythm section before coalescing into a formidable track.
With so much going for The Couch, music fans should make a concerted effort to see one of Austin’s premiere acts before they take off to wider pastures. Expect them to release the album in its entirety in late August.
Interview and Images by Clayton Hodges