The Cold Stares
Bludgeoning their audiences, this is one alt.blues duo you can’t take your eyes off.
“When we played for the first time, the crowd looked like they’d
just witnessed a murder.”
The Cold Stares thrive on low expectations. The Indiana-based duo like nothing better than a sea of disinterested faces at their gigs, and buzz off the support slots that make lesser bands sweat. That just makes it even sweeter when Chris Tapp fires up his battery of amps, Brian Mullins takes a seat behind his monster kick drum and all hell is unleashed.
“We’ve opened for so many big bands where people haven’t come to see us,” says Tapp. “And I’m proud when we get the open mouths. Our live show is brutal. When we played together for the first time, the crowd looked like they’d just witnessed a murder.”
That jaw-dropping live prowess – along with songs that fuse smoky southern blues with jackhammer alt.rock – quickly elevated The Cold Stares above the pack after Tapp and Mullins formed the band in their native Kentucky.
“This band became official in 2011,” recalls the frontman. “There was a contest at the Hard Rock Café. The guy running the place suckered us into doing it, and we ended up winning the damn thing. After that we were on the news and on television. So we were like: ‘Shit, I guess we’d better put something together…’”
But that fantastical start was cut short. “We had labels like Island Records and Hollywood Records flying in to see us,” says Tapp, “and people interested in signing us. Then I found out I had cancer. And that knocked all that out. We had about two and a half years that we were pretty much sidetracked. But that was part of our story. And after going through chemo and radiation, and getting past it, we ended up getting another record deal and kept it going.”
While writing their latest album, Mountain, Tapp channelled those dark times. The stormy slide-blues of Wade In The Darkness references his illness, while the haunted Killing Machine bemoans the culture of violence swallowing their nation (“It goes through different wars and the slaughter of American Indians,” Tapp explains). But on the flip-side, moments like foot-down rocker The Great Unknown capture the rush of being young, alive and recording in Los Angeles. “Nobody ever went to LA to make a record and got a good night’s sleep,” Mullins offers. “That was never part of the dream.”
“We were out there in EastWest Studios,” Tapp recalls. “We rented a Porsche and a Corvette and raced around the Hollywood Hills. After going through cancer, you want to live. And we lived. You’re on this rock just a short time, and the purpose of being here is not always clear. I think you have to make every day something.”
That new-found philosophy perhaps explains why The Cold Stares are sworn to ride the momentum of Mountain as far as it takes them. And if that means there’s a little more expectation surrounding the duo, then so be it. “We gotta make a good run with this record,” Tapp says. “This is the big one.” HY
FOR FANS OF...“We reference Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and we’re big fans of Clutch,” says Tapp, “but our southern influence has probably come fromThe Black Crowes.” Mullins: “I lean towards The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion. That album hit me at the right time. I was growing up a little bit musically. It had a maturity to it.”