Sam Cohen’s post-Apollo Sunshine solo project, Yellowbirds, returns as a four-member band with the release of Songs from the Vanished Frontier.
Since the release of his 2011 Yellowbirds debut The Color, Sam Cohen has added drummer Brian Kantor, vocalist/bassist Annie Nero, and her multi-instrumentalist husband Josh Kaufman. Their brand of psych-pop combines vibes that Cohen describes as “…psychedelic, but less aggressive.”
Fresh from a month-long residency at Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side, Cohen is planning the next step for Yellowbirds, dedicating the month of July to pre-production for the next record.
So, when did you decide music was the path for you? Was your upbringing a part of it?
Yes and no. My parents were super supportive when I got into music, but I wouldn’t say I was brought up in a very musical environment.There were only a couple of records at my house. I remember what they were actually: Sgt. Pepper, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume 2, and the Blues Brothers soundtrack. And that was pretty much all we had, but that’s a pretty good three records.
You’ve just wrapped up a residency at Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side. What’s next?
It has been a four week thing, and tonight is the last night. In July we are starting pre-production for the next record, just rehearsing and writing together. I mostly write the songs by myself, but we arrange together. July is kind of off as far as touring goes, then we are going to the West Coast to play some festival. Not super heavy touring.
How has the road been a part of your journey?
Slow and steady (laughs). The challenges have just been relationships. You change as a person and people you are around change, and their needs change, and that’s really the only super challenging part. The rest is just a question of, in my case, resources have never been thrown at me. So it’s sort of a battle of endurance.
Is touring something you want to engage in as much as possible?
That’s kind of what we have done so far as a band, mostly out of supply and demand, it depends on how much I can reasonably do on the budget I’m working with. It’s hard to make touring work at this level, so I focus on records. I feel like my output has sort of sped up since I was a younger musician and I was touring all the time. I used to have a band called Apollo Sunshine. We toured constantly, like 100 days a year, and we didn’t really have apartments for a while. So creatively it was a little slower. I just try to keep producing music steadily, working on things that I am into, and that pay the bills. And I keep working towards the time when we could make it work to be touring more often. There are so many places I would love to visit with this music.
So what does Songs From The Vanished Frontier mean?
The vanished frontier is the literal landscape, a frontier of Manifest Destiny, the west world expansion. That’s why the album cover shows a house on the edge of a cliff, it’s literally this structure hanging over the edge of settleable land. Also, what kind of space is left in our minds in this age? Noise, and icons, billboards, email; I feel like there is less of a frontier for creativity—where can music go? Or maybe I am talking about a giant lack of my own creativity and no one else is suffering from this, but it seems to be a thing. So all those things to me, is what that (record name) is talking about. And a song, Stop Tonight, it’s really a simple song about a couple that are kind of bogged down with work, no free time, they’re in a shitty cycle, and they just decide to break out of it. That is sort of finding the open frontier that is left for them.
His future plans? “My goal and hope for the band would be that we could get to a point where touring is more sustainable. And creatively, I want to make people dance and cry, and react in ways they did not think possible. That’s kind of a main goal.”