If you’ve turned a radio on in the last year, you’ve probably heard the catchy, electronic sounds of Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Coleman Hell. His song 2 Heads was released in April of 2015 and has reached crazy levels of popularity, sending the 27 year old on tour with artists such as Robert DeLong, Twenty One Pilots, and to perform at multiple festivals this summer.
With festival season well underway, I was lucky to catch Coleman over the phone to chat while he was in Toronto prepping for WayHome. After waking him up (oops), we chatted about his hit single, the Olympics and upcoming festivals.
Creative Control: Can you tell me three unique things about you so we can get to know who Coleman Hell is?
Coleman Hell: Depends how much they know about me…but I used to be a rapper. So that’s something. Another weird fact – I’m a dog person. Not a cat person.
CC: So you don’t like cats at all?
CH: Well I’m allergic to them. I do love them, but it’s hard to love them when you’re allergic. And three, I’m really into Brazilian music.
CC: That’s pretty interesting, how did you get into that?
CH: I don’t know, really. A friend of mine went there and brought some music back to my home town and I kind of slowly delved deeper into it. Even though I don’t know what they’re saying, I just like the music.
CC: Have you ever thought about bringing some of those sounds and influences into your own music?
CH: I have. I’ve tried to a couple of times but it’s been pretty subtle. But I did just record a Brazilian version of 2 Heads for the Olympics. That was just kind of presented to me and it felt crazy.
CC: That’s a crazy honour. Congrats! Since you mentioned 2 Heads, I wanted to ask, what was it like creating that song? Did you put together all of the pieces yourself? Like the sampling, writing, everything?
CH: I wrote it with one other person, he goes by La+ch. He helps me produce everything. It was written and recorded, I want to say, in a few hours. It was really quick. I wrote it and then I recorded it and it was just one layer of vocals. I thought I’d go back to that and change it but I ended up really liking it so we just put it on the internet and it sort of took on a life of its own.
CC: So what was it like when you first realized that this song was going to be huge?
CH: It was really exciting to get that much attention for once. You make music, ideally I think, for yourself, but also for other people. So the fact that it struck a cord and got so big, so fast, was exciting but also really overwhelming. ‘Cause you’re like, “Fuck, the songs so big and it’s bigger than me now and I have to, like, plot my next move.”
CC: Yeah for sure. It’d be a lot of adapting I’d imagine. What do you think the biggest changes have been in your life since releasing 2 Heads?
CH: My whole life is completely changed. I mean, I’m never home. The fact that I’m in Toronto right now almost feels weird. I’m constantly traveling. But I used to be a lot more of a songwriter. Before that song, I hadn’t really performed a ton. I’d play, like, local shows but I didn’t go on tours or anything. I mean that’s all I do now.
CC: So it’s just a completely new lifestyle then I guess.
CH: Yeah. It’s fun and it’s what you dream about. So I’m not complaining. It just takes some adjusting, I guess.
CC: You recently released a song called Flowerchild, which seems appropriate because you have a few festivals coming up – what’s your favourite thing about playing a festival as opposed to a regular show?
CH: People have a lot less inhibitions, I guess, at a festival, for various reasons. But it’s fun to play for a crowd like that. A crowd that is really there to mask your energy or exceed your energy. That happens at other shows too, but not to that extent. It’s a lot more unified I think.
CC: Right, being at a festival is kind of like being part of a little community, I think.
CH: Yeah, like people are there with specific intentions and there’s just sort of a feeling of joy, or something, that just runs through the current of the whole thing. So you play for a crowd and it’s awesome and then just walk around and feel so much positive energy. I really love playing festivals.
CC: What can festival goers expect from your set?
CH: High energy. I guess like, upbeat music. Some crazy antics. I like to have fun on stage and festivals are a good opportunity to experiment.
CC: Any sets you’re hoping to catch this summer? Maybe at WayHome?
CH: I’d like to catch any of them. Lots of times I play and then have a meet and greet and pack up, then it’s time to go. Hopefully I get to see someone though! I’d like to see Haim. FKA Twigs maybe because she’s weird and I’ve never seen her before. And Robert DeLong ‘cause he’s my friend!
CC: What’s next for you? After a song like 2 Heads, what could your next move be?
CH: Well, I guess my next move is for the record to come out at the end of the summer and then touring again I guess.
I don’t know. Due to various reasons I’ve just been touring forever on the strength of one song. Which is nuts. But now I’m going to release an album and have to tour that. So I guess I’ll be on tour for another year. Which is super exciting but kind of stressful.
CC: That’s so incredible though that you were able to build something like that around one major hit.
CH: Yeah it is crazy.
CC: But awesome, so congrats on that!
CH: Yeah, thank you!