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The live conundrum

Matt Coughlin aims to lessen the divide between live and recording

MATT COUGHLIN COMES ALIVE: Matt Coughlin and the Growlers' Live at the Dive CD isn't just a tour souvenir - It's a great live listening experience. Photography courtesy of Andrew Konelman

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There's nothing worse (literally nothing!) than showing up at a concert - excited, a CD in hand that you hope to get signed - and watching the ensuing performance rise to just below your expectations for a school play. Kind of hard to enjoy that CD anymore, huh?

Well, alright, there may be one thing that's worse (I'm breaking my own rules!): seeing an amazing live show, buying the CD and realizing that, yeah, maybe seeing them live was enough. It's a sad reality that some bands just can't translate their live magic to a recording. And how could they be expected to, really? It's fun to see basically any band live, regardless of whether you would choose to listen to them in the comfort of your home or the relative discomfort of a bus ride.

Matt Coughlin and the Growlers (no relation to the surf-punk Growlers that I wrote about a little while ago) have taken steps to resolve this age-old problem with the release of Live at the Dive, their third CD after two earlier EPs.

"We put together a little rogue live disc with a couple of studio cuts as well," says frontman Matt Coughlin. "We wanted to show folks what we sound like live. Before, it's been kind of frustrating because I've had these two EPs that none of the people I'm playing with are playing on."

"There's nothing more disappointing," Coughlin continues, "than going to a show, liking what you hear and what you see, then buying the CD and putting it in the car and it sounds nothing like what you just saw on stage. But with this one, it's pretty much exactly what you're gonna' get."

Including some professionally produced tracks is a smart move, as well, since this limited edition CD is more or less an advertisement for an LP that they hope to record in the future. The 180 copies - all signed and numbered - will help to fund a proper album.

As for the music, Matt Coughlin and the Growlers have labeled their style as "funktry" - a combination of funk and country, natch. Coughlin grew up in Montana, raised by a couple of hippies. "They're folkies from back in the day," says Coughlin. "They got me playing piano and playing the guitar and singing and whatnot. I carried that through high school, and found out that girls like it when you play guitar and sing."

After a brief stint in a punk outfit (Bumma Stoge), Coughlin returned to his roots and worked on gathering together a band that would aid him in delivering his funktry to the masses. Just like in a heist movie, his team came out of the woodwork to create a force more powerful than the sum of its parts.

"[Bassist Mitchell V.] traded a six-pack of beer for an audition, and we're glad he did" Coughlin laughs.

He goes on to explain that both Mitchell V. and his friend watched Matt Coughlin perform, both wanted to supply the bass for the band, and it came down to Mitchell buying off his friend with a pack of cold ones. And so the band was formed. Now equipped with Kim Coleman on violin, the Growlers are better set to let their funktry flag fly. Interchangeably folky and beat-oriented, the Growlers sometimes sound light and airy like a mid-1970s singer-songwriter, or as down and dirty as a roadside bar band.

Usually, though, it's Matt Coughlin's voice that takes the foreground, never sounding like he's pandering in the role of the soulful roots-rock bandleader, never affecting one of those cringe-worthy fake Southern drawls that you hear so much from singer-songwriters, but always leading the band with a sure hand. His voice is confident, but never too showy. He strikes a nice balance.

The best part? Live or on record, Matt Coughlin and the Growlers sound just like themselves.

Matt Coughlin and the Growlers

With the Crying Shame, Phunkatron
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m., $5
The Swiss, 1904 S. Jefferson Ave., Tacoma

Comments for "The live conundrum" (2)

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Matt Coughlin said on Sep. 18, 2010 at 10:58am

Who in the F is Matt Coughlin?

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Rev. Adam McKinney said on Sep. 18, 2010 at 2:25pm

Matt Coughlin,

Why, Matt Coughlin is you, Matt Coughlin.

Oh my god, the snake is eating itself!


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