“I had no idea how people would react,” the gravelly voiced Riley says of performing the new material. Possibly their most musically diverse album to date, he believes it is tailored-made for the live forum and will translate better than past releases. “This album is full of stuff that is both aggressive and that you can dance to. Both of those things are important in concert. I don’t personally like the concerts where everyone’s just standing around staring. Then you’ve got concerts where everyone’s really aggressive, but there’s no rhythm in it.” The group’s musical diversity has seen them expand outside of hip hop barriers while critics have accused their sound of being too schizophrenic.
“One thing people used to complain about with each of The Coup’s albums was that it doesn’t sound like the last album and that’s because I already made music like the last album. I don’t listen to all one kind of thing, that’s one reason why I don’t listen to a lot of hip hop, because musically it’s all following the same sort of trend.” The notion of aping a trend or sticking to a formula is something that doesn’t work for this particular crew. “We haven’t found a winning formula, even if we were looking for one. We just say ‘fuck that’ and make the music we like. The truth is I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. So for me to try and copy, I would have to figure out what I’m doing in the first place.”
While originally reigning in his wide ranging musical influences, the front-man is now in a position where he is comfortable to express himself fully. “At first I probably kept a lot of ideas out because I had an idea of what people wanted. But then I realised people don’t know what they want until they hear it. Did people in the ‘50s know they wanted The Beatles six or seven years later? No. So, you give people what you want. Most likely if you want it, somebody out there will want it too.” When recording Sorry To Bother You, Riley and his six-person band had a bigger picture in mind. Over the past year, the vocalist has penned a film script to accompany the album, set to be produced by Ted Hope (Adventureland). “The movie is a dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction, inspired by my time as a telemarketer.”
Riley’s telemarketing career is one some may not know about, and took place while he was in college, before debut album Kill My Landlord. Following the success of their first two releases, he chose to take a break and wound up returning to the phones. “After Genocide and Juice I had a mid-life crisis, like, ‘I’m 24 and I’ve been making music my whole adult life, what the hell am I doing?’ Then I quit [music] for a few years, and when my publishing money ran out I went back to the thing I was hauntingly good at, which is being a salesman. With telemarketing I could work on a Monday, make a lot of money by lying to people and not have to go back to work for two weeks.”
The natural born orator sees several parallels between his two careers, primarily the skill of being compelling. “The idea of art is saying I have this emotion and inviting people to feel it with you. And figuring out how to do that is like going through some of the same processes in mind as I would making a sales pitch.” Along with the new album and film come plans to head to Australia, although a date has yet to be made. “We’re working hard at it, so whoever is reading this, bring us down there,” Riley exclaims adamantly. “We’re ready to come down there and storm the country like a Tasmanian Devil.” As the plans come together he sees fit to give us advanced warning. “They don’t really expect what they’re getting, which is a full-on frontal assault. It’s like if you got your ass beat but you were dancing as you got your ass beat and you enjoyed it.”
BY ANDREW ‘HAZARD’ HICKEY