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Interview: Alex Moses from Columbus

Columbus Happy Happy Happy edited

Hailing from Brisbane and set to be one of the country’s biggest forces in the alt/grunge scene, Columbus are gearing up to release their debut album ‘Spring Forever’ and tour the country. Taking some time out of their busy pre-release schedule, we chatted with the band’s guitarist Alex Moses about their origins, arguing about band names, playing the UNIFY Gathering, and which Olympic sport he wishes he competed in.

I understand Columbus formed during high school. Tell me about the journey from the bedroom to the main stage at UNIFY last year.

We all met during school, I met Daniel our drummer in primary school and we started jamming playing silly songs when we were like 10 or 11, just playing guitar and drums. Then we met Ben in high school, who played bass in the jazz band that I played guitar in and Daniel played drums. Ben was actually in the grade below us so when Dan and I graduated we played random shows with random bass players, but when we wanted to start fresh with a new band we asked Ben to join. We liked pop-punk and wanted to be a pop-punk band so we asked Ben if he liked that genre and he said he likes one New Found Glory track (laughs). We started practicing and released a few demos and stuff, and then four years later got to play UNIFY!

Wow, four years isn’t a long time from forming to be playing the main stage!

It’s not! I think it was really natural though, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any shorter. At the start we didn’t really know wanted to be, it took a period of time to figure out “well, that’s not what we actually sound like” and it took that period of time to make mistakes about meeting bands and booking shows, how often you should play, how long your set should be, what’s a good song and what’s a bad song, and all those kind of mistakes. We had to make those mistakes and learn about being in a band before taking any proper steps forward. I think the first two years of our band were so valuable because we learned so much that we didn’t know at the start.

I guess that’s how it goes in band, hitting little pitfalls, finding your feet, and discovering who you are…

Yeah, that’s totally it! I think that our new record now sounds the way that we want Columbus to sound and we feel really happy with how the sound’s developed, but at the start the first things we recorded were terrible! Silly pop punk songs, it wasn’t natural, it was forced. So I think the evolution [of the band] was really natural and definitely something that needed to happen.

On the subject of UNIFY, that would have been an incredible experience! What were your expectations going in and how did the day live up to them?

Before Unify we hadn’t really played many big-staged festivals. We got to open Soundwave in 2015 which was huge, but with UNIFY we weren’t the first band playing, there were a lot of big bands and also bands around our size so we were super nervous and wanted to be good. It was freaking scary! I’d also never been to a camping festival before and after this year’s [UNIFY] I can say it was some of the best days ever, and I think I can speak for the band and say we had the best time hanging out with mates and having beers (laughs)…we woke up pretty hungover on the second day.

We walking to the stage at 11am, shaking from both nerves and alcohol withdrawal, but we honestly had so much fun. Having one stage at UNIFY means everyone watches all the bands and bands our size get to play to a few thousand people, which just doesn’t happen at other festivals with multiple stages. I think that made UNIFY such a great festival for us to play.

So, for someone who may have never heard of Columbus before, give me a 25-word-or-less blurb about the band.

(Laughs) Okay, um, Columbus is a Brisbane based rock punk band with THREE members. We love 90s music and our songs are melancholy. That was terrible! (laughs)

How did you come up with the name Columbus?

It’s actually a funny story! We always argue about who came up with it or who was the first person to say it. I think it was me! Ben and Dan both think they did it, but the way I remember it is soon after Ben joined the band we were sitting around a local service station, eating sour cream and onion chips, talking about what name our band should be.

I had a list of band names in the notes on my iPod Touch and I had written Columbus down in the list at some point, and we were scrolling through the list talking about some other names and I think we stumbled across it and thought “that’s kinda cool, f*ck it, let’s lock it in!” because we’d been arguing for about a week or two (laughs). I still think I came up with it though. If Ben and Dan say it was them then they are LYING!

You mentioned the new album you have coming out shortly, called ‘Spring Forever’. Can you tell me a bit about the recording process?

We recorded the album over about 20 days at the Brain Studio in Sydney. It was a pretty fun process for us, we’d written all of the songs earlier and pretty much had them all pre-produced before we went in to the studio and knew what we wanted. So when we got in, Jay (Maas, producer) was really on the same page and kind of knew what sounds we were after quite quickly. We smashed out the drums and a lot of the bass and rhythm tracks and then mixed up some of the guitar and vocals parts for the back-end of the record.

So time-wise we made pretty good time. The hard part was I blew my voice out a few days in, after starting vocals, and the last week or so was like I would not talk all night or morning, and then go in the studio and just warm up and drink water, then sing, and then stop talking until the next day in the studio. We’d go home and Ben and Dan would ask me questions and I’d be like “I can’t talk dude!” (laughs).

We had a calendar up that had what we had each day, and on the last Saturday night it said “this is the last day of vocals” and once we finished that we could go out and get pissed! I mean I was not talking and not drinking so my voice wouldn’t die so it was like “let’s get this done and then we can drink beer!”. But it was a really good process, in the end we finished up the record, all the main things, with a few days left at the end to work on little extra parts and think about the songs and if there were things we wanted to change. It was a great experience working with Jay!

I’ve been giving you back catalogue a spin recently and I’m definitely picking up a Trophy Eyes–meets–self-titled blink 182-era vibe. Are they bands you look up to when writing? Do you have any left-field influences people might be surprised by?

Yeah, Trophy Eyes are definitely a band we were good friends with earlier on. Our first EP came out before Trophy Eyes had any music out. I remember when Trophy Eyes came out around when we did our split EP [with Alex The Kid], and they were definitely band we were friends with and we really dig their music.

I think a lot of our inspirations are mixed between different members of the band, but we all meet on a few bands we really like with Brand New, Saves the Day, a lot of 90s punk bands like Frenzal Rhomb, Bodyjar, and me and Dan are pretty big Green Day and Blink 182 fans. I really do dig the self-titled album and the darker Blink stuff. We have a few of the pop-punk influences but also some hardcore and more rock stuff as well. We didn’t want to write music that sounded like anyone specifically, but a little bit later on those influences came through.

Moving away from the album, what’s your favourite song to play live?

My favourite song to play live now is Daffodil, the second track off our new album. We only just started playing it, so that’s probably why it’s so fun. There’s a little guitar solo in it and it’s really fun to sing too!

If you were to cover any song by any artist, what would it be?

Driving in the Dark by Saves the Day. I wouldn’t want to ruin it by covering it though!

Finally, if you competed in the Olympics, what sport would you want to compete in?

Oh f*ck. Um, well one of my favourite sports that I think is sick is pole vaulting. They get so fricking high, it’s mad! I’ve never tried it but it looks like it would be the maddest sport.

Check out the full UNIFY lineup HERE, our album review of blink-182’s ‘California’ HERE, and Columbus tour dates below!

Columbus ‘Spring Forever’ National Tour

Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Prince of Wales, Bunbury
Crown & Anchor, Adelaide
The Workers Club, Melbourne
Rad Bar (Yours & Owls), Wollongong (All Ages)
Newtown Social Club, Sydney
The Foundry, Brisbane
The Foundry, Brisbane (All Ages)

Get Tickets HERE