Music Editor Devin Birse chats to Cole Haden of Model/Actriz about poetry, combining dance rhythms with guitar noise and the band’s cruise ambitions
Few bands in recent memory have had quite as much buzz around them as Model/Actriz. Maybe it’s because of their now legendary live shows, or the raw freneticness of their sound, or perhaps just the charisma trickling off every groove of their nightmarish yet poetic debut Dogsbody, a grueling odyssey through the urban night and out into the sun. I was luck enough to get a chance to chat with their singer Cole Haden hot off the bands busiest year yet, to discuss this recent debut, their first European tour and much more.
So first you guys have just come off an incredible year releasing your debut and turning across America and Europe. So firstly I wanted to say congrats, and just ask how you’re feeling going into 2024.
Well, I’m very proud of the year that we had. I feel like it’s a very grateful exhale now, as we’re taking a break from playing shows, to focus on writing new material. I feel like I’ve missed. Daydreaming a little bit, just like in the in the deluge of last year. There’s a lot to reflect on, it was a very breathless year for us. I’m really enjoying silence now, and I’m enjoying boredom, and wandering around.
So, you had your first, tours outside of the US last year, right?
Were there any challenges with adjusting to touring across multiple different countries or doing a larger tour across the US in general? Did, you find the crowds particularly different to the ones you had back in America with the European tour?
Everything is fine with the crowds wherever we go. I do think that the venues in Europe treat people much much better than the US. In general it was, well, it was definitely one of the longest tours that we’ve had. It felt like we were constantly traveling. It was almost like, we’re not stoics necessarily, but you have to do a certain kind of stoic mentality, to keep a positive mindset on the road for that long. I guess part of how we got through is because we were together 24/7 for so much of last year that we had a common enemy which is the road. It’s like a lot of the times the frustrations we’d be feeling wouldn’t be about us it would just be about the road. So we would all collectively lash out at the shared enemy which was the road.
Was there anywhere in particular, especially during the Europe tour, that you really enjoyed playing?
I loved Brighton and I loved; I mean all the places in the UK that we played were great. I loved fabric. I’ve been there once before as a club goer. That’s where I went after wide awake when we played last year. But did you say in the UK or in Europe in general?
In Europe in general as well.
Oh, the Bad Bon Kilbbi Festival in Switzerland. You know it?
Maybe, I’m not sure. What’s it like?
It’s in this like farm. It’s in a past year, basically. And I guess the closest city would be like burn. But basically, it was like just 3 tents and like a little tavern. There’s like a few thousand people there, but everyone camps just cause there’s nowhere else to stay. It just feels like a community of people who go every year for the last thirty years. Like an energy that had been cultivated over a very long time, that we were like at a family reunion.
Both times I’ve seen you guys live, you really get involved with the crowd. It’s almost like you kind of seek out people to bring into the performance, breaking the barrier between spectators and spectacle. Is that something you intended to do early on? Or is it just something that kind of came naturally?
I don’t remember how it started, I guess, or it started more in like. I would not call it confrontational now, like that’s not the intent behind it. But I think it did start, in a place like that when we were a band in 2016. But now what I get from it is maybe the most distilled connection I feel with other people. Just cause performing is a very bodily experience for me, I feel very naked emotionally. So, making eye contact with people, I’m doing it because I feel like I get something from it. The people that I’m seeking out changes, sometimes it’s fun to like, chase someone around but 99% of the time is just people who are giving something back, that feels like they’re ready to step into that space with me and share a moment.
You mentioned, a focus on your body in performance. To me, I see a great deal of theatricality and physicality to your performance. Almost, points, he seems like take on the role of a character. Like when you guys did Winnipesaukee with the mic stand and shirt. Do you feel like you kind of need to get into a zone before you guys come on stage to achieve those performances? Or just something you naturally assume over the course of the show?
I think I’m playing a character every other song and then ‘Winnipesaukee’ where I take the mask off and that’s how I just naturally am. I kinda do that during sound check a little bit. It’s not that scientific, it’s not exactly theatre, so I’m not stepping into the space mentally of another character. But I am maybe saying a little prayer. Not like treated seriously, but to just like to bless the next hour of with like my most sincere go at it.
In a lot of, press releases. You kind of described your lyrics as poetic. So, I just wanted to ask what is the lyric writing process like for you and kind of where do you sort of like draw inspiration from when it comes to like coming up with lyrics for the band?
I guess for a Dogsbody, it was a lot of Louise Gluck, Kevin Young, Tracy K. Smith, and her book Life on Mars. I just had like, twenty books open on my desk and like, twenty tabs open on my computer. I do a lot of collaging in the process, so it starts with collage images and then collage words and then the words come out of it.
Do you find there’s a specific space where you write or is it just like kind of everywhere?
Every like everywhere in the world?
Like, Frank O’Hara style just out and about writing?
Oh, I can’t do that. Yeah, no, I need my nest. That’s also the part of why when on the road, it’s impossible for me to work. I really can only work in my space, like I need all my things around me. So, you know I wish I could Frank O’Hara, but that’s just not me.
You guys often describe your sound as a sort of translation of dance music into guitar music. But unlike other bands, I’ve seen you do similar things you don’t use any electronic elements. Was this choice to not use the instruments traditionally associated with modern dance music, just a matter of taste or was it a clear artistic prerogative for you guys?
I think if we had computers or anything like that on stage, we would just be making electronic music. We’re definitely not gonna include electronics, we love them very much but to me, it’s stressful to have on stage. I don’t know, we thrive on limits. There is no like thesis at the beginning, but the limitations are good for us.
I was really surprised to know that weren’t like any synths on the album, for example.Especially with the of guitar tone on ‘Sun In’. I just kind of want to briefly touch on that track. It’s one of my favourites. What was the inspiration to end an album which is often so dark even on its like slower moments quite dark with such a melancholic yet optimistic track?
Well, I mean, just when we were sequencing the album, we chose to put it there because it does feel like the whole album takes place over the course of a single night, and the end is literally when the sun is rising. But it’s interesting you say that too because, that was the first song I wrote, or finished for the album, and it was like the one that unlocked the rest of it. So, it almost felt like what the whole album is about. Or it’s like what every other song craves is finally achieved in ‘Sun In’.
Did you find that by starting with ‘Sun In’ you were able to craft and build the album around that contrast between it and the other songs?
No, well, It was just like metaphorically that you know, it was the objective for why all the suffering and drama of the other songs ‘Sun In’ has to be there at the end because that’s what the motivation for going through all the other songs is. To get to the sunny hillside where you just are forgiving yourself for everything you’ve done. Maybe we’ll put a slow song in the middle next time.
There’s been a lot of talk. About a sort of dime square indie sleaze revival happening in New York and I wanted to ask is that scene relative to you guys or do you feel like you’re kind of just doing your own thing?
I just kind of happen to be in New York. Well, we definitely chose to live here, but not to be a part of anything other than just to live together the four of us. I don’t particularly like the word scene; it turns me off just because I didn’t grow up with a scene around me and it feels kind of feels exclusive and cliquey. So, the quick answer to your question is there’s nothing wrong with calling yourself a part of it. That’s just not why we live in New York. We also are very sensitive to people who are from New York and making music in New York. We live here but we’re not from here. So, we don’t wanna claim territory like that.
So, with you guys being rising stars, do you feel like there’s a specific goal or moment that’ll be like your sort of we made it moment?
That we’ve done or that we’re working towards?
Well, you can have one so far and one that you’re working towards.
I don’t even know which one to say there was never a point where I was like we made it. I mean, we’ve been a band for like 7 years, so what are we working towards? I would love to play Radio City, and when we’ve really made it is when we have our own cruise. It’s just us on like a giant ocean liner.
Like no one else on board?
No, it’s totally full and it’s like we’re not just playing our music, but it’s like me hosting karaoke. That’s gonna be it.
I think I think there’s potential for it to happen. I really do.
I think so. I mean, it’s like we’re working towards that that’s like in the in the long, long vision board.
Nice. As a final question, and this one I always like to ask bands of any like small acts at the movement that you’re really enjoying or say want to give a shout out to?
Last night I was listening to Thoom, she’s out of New York. My friend Brennan Wedl, they’re putting out a record on Kill Rock Stars in like a month or so. They’re one of my oldest friends. I feel like this is my Oscar acceptance speech and I’m forgetting names, but I gave you two.
Enjoyed this? You might also like: