Los Coast Simplifies

Austin psych-soul buzz band premieres gospel-spiked single

Trey Privott, Megan Hartman, and John Courtney
Trey Privott, Megan Hartman, and John Courtney (Courtesy of Los Coast)

Over the church choir funk of Los Coast’s latest single, “Simplify,” Trey Privott sparks a spiritually electrifying refrain: “I only look to the sky! I only look to the sky!" For the 26-year-old Georgia transplant, whose prodigious pipes echo the grainy greatness of Southern power hitters John Fogerty and Wilson Pickett, that sky’s the limit.

Continuing a popular Thursday night residency at C-Boy’s and having nailed down a prestige-enhancing ACL Fest 2016 booking, the psych-soul crew Privott founded last year with guitarist John Courtney now contends as a certified Austin buzz band. Meanwhile, the group’s just beginning to unload their recordings onto the public, with “Simplify” landing in groove-heavy counterpoint to the indie-rock spiked first single, “Summer Samaritan.” Premiering the bouncy new cut, Privott fielded questions about the past, present, and future of Los Coast.

Austin Chronicle: You have a big, striking voice. Where does it come from and when did you discover it?

Trey Privott: When I was young, my mom and I used to sing around the house after school – old soul songs like Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.” My dad, he’s Southern Baptist, so we’d go to church and I’d see those full-on gospel choirs. Those were the first times I was moved by singing.

By the time I was 8 or 9, I started thinking it was an important part of life, but I never took a singing lesson. My uncle Hiram Bullock was a fusion jazz session guitarist who hooked up with Sting and Santana. Thinking what he did was cool, I started playing instruments when I was 13, then started writing and recording not long after.

AC: Can you put into context the musical identity of Los Coast?

TP: I see it as a rock & roll band with a lot of soul influences, like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Otis was from Georgia, Little Richard too, so that music is in my blood. I’ve been listening to it a lot longer than I’ve been listening to Radiohead or anything like that.

What makes Los Coast stand out is that we’re psychedelic. Our guitar player, John Courtney, is into guys like Jerry Garcia and Trey Anastasio, and he’s jazz-trained. His playing defines the band just as much as my voice does.

AC: Austin’s been watching Los Coast cut its teeth with a long-running Thursday night residency at C-Boy’s. What’s that experience been like for the band, both in terms of artistic growth and building a fan base?

TP: When that first started, we wanted to use it as a time to get comfortable onstage, to become uninhibited with our music, to get tight, and really learn to play as a group. Then something happened. More and more people started showing up. That was just a perk.

We didn’t expect those crowds. We pictured playing to an empty room, getting really good, then maybe moving on. But that place is so cool and the vibe is amazing, so every time the owner would ask us to play another month, we’d say yes.

This is the first month we thought to take a step away from it and make sure we don’t get caught up doing something too routine. Growth is always a good thing, but we also want to do things with a purpose beyond trying to get out there and play bars and make money. We have to bring something special to the table, for us and for the venue, each given night.

We took two weeks off and now we’re back, and going to do it through September and probably October.

AC: Tell us about the new single, “Simplify.” Is it about escaping life’s complications?

TP: It’s about embracing transition. One day you have something, the next you have nothing. That’s an illusion. You’re always in transition, always changing, and that can be celebrated. I get into role-playing and using characters when I write lyrics, so “Simplify” isn’t necessarily from my perspective, but I think about how Picasso said it took his whole lifetime to learn to paint like a child. It’s about how you grow up, then wish you could live as simply as you used to.

AC: What’s next for Los Coast?

TP: Ultimately, our goal is to remain as creative as possible. We’re working on putting out an EP that’ll have “Simplify” and two other songs. Then we’ll get our record out, play as many shows as possible, and hit the road and tour and spread our message.

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Los Coast, Trey Privott, John Courtney, Megan Hartman, Simplify, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Grateful Dead, Phish, Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio, John Fogerty, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, Radiohead, Sting, Santana, Hiram Bullock, C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, Simplify

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