If you’re a music enthusiast in the slightest, I’m sure you’ve been disturbed and bored by the dreary and weak structure that many modern pop songs fall to today. Three chords and a melody hummed by the first living human seemingly repeat themselves with no limits. Today, I met with Couch, a group of rotating members based outside of Boston, Massachusetts, whose main goal is to redefine the possibilities in pop through implementation of more complex genres such as funk and jazz. Their first single [I’m Leavin’ (The Na-Na Song)] is enjoyable for both the public and music enthusiasts, but they’ve just brought it up a notch, dropping Conjunction Junction on September 12. The single elaborately covers the educational song Conjunction Junction that filled thousands of elementary classrooms and exposes the pure talent the entire band possesses.
I was lucky enough to meet with Couch, and here are some things I learned:
What excites you about music? What keeps you going and involved?
Zach: I’ve always been curious about what makes a listener react to a song in certain ways. A connection to lyrics is usually based on their relatability or the strength of the storytelling. With harmony, though, it’s more difficult figure out how or why a certain combination of chords and melody makes us feel the way it does. It’s a cool and fulfilling process to use theory to become aware of the different options for a given moment and then use our ears to hopefully make the right choice.
How would you describe your style?
Couch makes music for the SOUL, MIND, and BOOTY. Our groove-based, live sounding vibe is centered around catchy hooks and a punchy horns lines. Others may call our style “funky” or “jazzy.” While funk and jazz are certainly significant influences in our playing and writing, we don’t make funk or jazz music. Instead, we apply these influences and aim to reshape familiar traits of pop in unexpected ways. To us, this means manipulating harmony to influence a listening experience. If you look at the chord structures of Couch songs, you’ll notice that we rarely play a repeated section the same way in the course of one song. On the surface, listeners may not notice these changes. That’s the point – we use these reharms as a tool to create tension, momentum, and new indescribable interest in sections that could otherwise feel too repetitive. At the end of the day, we try to make feel-good, live sounding music with strong grooves.
What brought you all together to create this unique style of music? Do you have similar influences?
Zach: Ella (vocals), Jeff (trumpet), Will (bass) and I were in a band together in high school. Our first single [I’m Leavin’ (The Na-Na Song)] was actually originally a song for that group. Jeff and Eric (sax) had played in a few jazz groups together in the past. And Tema and I met and became friends at a concert for mutually favorite band. We play with several different keyboardists and drummers, but those roles and people have also become more solidified in the past few months.
We have many overlapping musical influences and interests but there’s also a lot of diversity in the tastes of people in the band… stuff all the way from future-bass dubstep to jazz fusion
Who are some of your major musical influences?
- Stevie wonder
- Aretha Franklin
- Lake street dive
- The Beatles
What’s your guys recording and engineering process like?
For the most part we are self-sufficient in the recording process, which allows us to save our money for mixing and mastering. Will (bass) and Zach (guitar) often serve the roles of engineer and producer/arranger respectively for the songs and sessions. Recently though, more of us have become involved in the writing and production process, which has been really great for sharing ideas and combining writing styles. We all share the goal of serving the song best and sounding tight.
For songwriting we send around lots of voice memos with little nuggets of ideas, but because there’s 7 of us, we tend to not get too serious about any idea until the writers make a decently fleshed out a demo with it. After a few rounds of revisions and feedback on these demos we record them for real. Because we aren’t paying for recording time, we can really take our time even during a session to allow things to change and develop which is very important to us in the creative process.
Do you have any work coming out soon? Can we expect to see you on stage soon (and where)?
We have a bunch of new singles coming out in the Fall. Our next one is called “Easy to Love”, and it’ll come out in the next month or so. Since we all attend different universities, it’s difficult to book full band shows during the school year. To keep our momentum going, we play stripped-down gigs with select members of the group. Zach (guitar) and Jared (drums) play venues around Washington D.C. throughout the year, including SoFar Sounds shows. Zach and Tema (singer) also play regular shows at a restaurant/bar in the Boston area, sometimes featuring horns or percussion. We had a blast playing several full-band gigs this past summer, and we look forward to further developing our performance chemistry and energy through more opportunities this spring.
What scares you most about what you do every day?
Jeff: every day I drive to work, I’m afraid of getting in a car wreck.
For more from Couch check out their instagram or song links embedded above. Until next time!