Colleen Green is the kind of person you either want to be or be friends with. Providing comfort through nonchalance and warmth, like lying comotosed on the couch with a Domino’s box resting on your crotch watching Sex and the City reruns after a breakup, Green’s music addresses all the anxieties and existential terrors of life while also acknowledging that everything is futile and everyone is limited. Because sometimes, when you’re wigging the fuck out, what you really need is someone to grab you gently by both shoulders and say, “Yo, it’s chill, everything ends, let’s go get a burrito and talk about TV.”
Green’s albums play through like real life experiences: waves of lust, love, heartbreak, boredom all crashing together in an intimate diary-like narrative working through the trials and tribulations of growing up. It’s an approach to songwriting that can be aptly summarised with a quote from Kevin Smith’s teen masterpiece, Mallrats: “Understanding is reached only after confrontation”.
That confrontational process is not without heavy nods to parts of pop culture that guided her through adolescence, either. From the Descendents-inspired album titles (Milo Goes To Compton and I Want To Grow Up) to the Simpsons and Real World-referencing video for “TV” (featuring fellow LA-based friends and artists Girlpool, Slutever and R.L. Kelly), Colleen Green has built a world all of her own with an implicit welcome mat that reads, “Come in, or don’t, whatever.”
So, in the spirit of Lily Allen joining Tinder to find like minded people when she’s on tour in other countries, perhaps the date format could help me meet new friends to talk to about anxiety and blink-182.
Noisey: Hi Colleen! So, I’m gonna jump right in here with the grilling: your most recent album, I Want To Grow Up, felt to me like a letter to your reckless self from your responsible self and trying to reconcile those two people. Tell me a bit about your childhood. What was growing up like for you?
Colleen Green: I grew up in Dunstable, Massachusetts. That’s where my mum grew up and her whole family lives there. It’s a very small rural town on the New Hampshire/ Massachusetts border. I had a pretty normal childhood; played in the woods a lot with my brother and my cousins who would make fun of me...
You live in LA now right?
Yeah I moved to LA like end of 2009. I was living in Boston and me and a bunch of my friends just wanted to do something different so we chose the Bay Area, we actually moved to Oakland, and we all lived there. After about a year there I started having some health problems and my brother who’d been living in LA had an open room and told me I could come and just take the room and chill and recuperate. So yeah, I did that and all this started happening.
Is that where you wrote a lot of your music - in your brother’s house?
Yeah, that’s where it all happened. I moved there and I wasn’t really doing anything because I wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t really know anyone so that’s when I started writing and recording Milo Goes To Compton.
I wanted to talk to you about “coming of age” music. I’m 26 now so a lot of my tween albums were by blink-182 and similar bands from the American Pie soundtrack. What bands or albums would you say made up your coming of age music?
Definitely Sublime. Every single Sublime album. They’re like my favourite band ever. I would always be looking for different Sublime albums that I didn’t have on Napster. I think it was through Sublime that I discovered Descendents actually; they covered “Hope” and that was the first time I’d ever heard that song. Then I realised it was a cover, and I started getting into Descendents a little bit. I downloaded Milo Goes To College and I remember listening to it with my boyfriend at the time, just driving around Boston and blasting it. I love Reel Big Fish, I used to go see them all the time, and blink-182 definitely. When I was 12 years old I saw Veruca Salt open for Bush and they opened my eyes a little bit. I was like “those girls are fucking so cool”.
Was that one of the first shows you went to?
Yeah that was my first ever concert!
That’s dope. Mine was this British boyband called 911, which is absolutely not as cool. Did you get much of your music taste from your parents?
Whenever I was in the car with my mum she’d have the oldies station on and they’d play all 50s and 60s stuff and that really seeped into my brain at an early age. Living in such a small town, we spent a lot of time in the car driving from place to place. I remember listening to The Travelling Wilburys a lot, Three Dog Night I remember I loved, and Grand Funk Railroad. Those were the three bands that I remember most. [My parents] had the tapes in the car.
Have you ever been on a really bad date?
I don’t think I’ve ever even been on a date. I just, like, hang out with people. I remember dating this guy when I was in high school and we’d go to dinner or something in a chain restaurant that was in the town, and I’m kind of quiet so I can remember a few awkward times but nothing bad. Just being really young and shy and not really knowing what to do or say.
I feel like trying to talk to someone and maintain eye contact is really difficult over dinner, when you’re too busy stuffing your face.
I know, I’m weirded by that too. My friend has been going on a lot of dates recently, like meeting people online and going on date after date after date and I’m like I don’t know how you do it. She had two in a row one time and she was like “I don’t know how I’ll ever smile again, my face hurts.” It doesn’t seem ideal. I’d much rather hang out with someone and gradually get to know them rather than being like, hey, this is a DATE.
Do you have any deal breakers with people that would mean you just couldn’t date them?
I can think of a pretty good recent example but I don’t wanna say something and then have them read this! What I will say though that I don’t think it’s good to judge people on their music taste, like “oh I couldn’t date someone who doesn’t like this band” or whatever. Someone can still be really cool and listen to shitty music. I mean, if I was hanging out with somebody and they told me their favourite band was like Dave Matthews Band I’d probably be like, “oh no…”, but people probably think that about me when I say my favourite band is Sublime.
What’s your go-to “I need to zone out and not think about life” TV show?
That’s pretty much exclusively what I watch! That’s why I watch TV basically. I’ll put it on and immediately start doing something else. I like that show Flipping Out on Bravo, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta is a really good one - I’m usually paying attention to that though. I don’t really watch like Real Housewives or anything like that but those kind of reality shows are always good. They’re just completely mindless. I think that’s why they’re so popular.
If you could-
HOUSE HUNTERS! That’s also great.
House shows are sick. If you could end The Simpsons how would you end it?
Uhhh, fifteen years ago?
That’s a really good question. I’d probably have Homer take over the nuclear power plant and become the king of the world.
We’re in an era now where nobody wants to grow up but they also don’t have to, because there’s less expectation to meet someone, get married, have babies etc. But everyone still feels the need to have accomplished a certain thing by a certain age. Do you feel that still?
I think everyone does and that’s why a lot of people have that tendency to revert in their older ages whether it’s an old dude getting a convertible or whatever, trying to cling to youth. I definitely feel pressure and that’s a lot of what my song “Deeper Than Love” is about. It’s like you don’t necessarily want to do certain things, but maybe you do, but has your brain just been conditioned by society all these years through tradition? Do I really want that, or do I just think I want that? I don’t think I want to get married, but if I don’t am I just going to live alone for the rest of my life? It’s weird wondering what the future is gonna be like.
Do you think those anxieties are worse for women, because there’s more pressure to “settle down” or whatever?
A lot of people I know in my age group are having babies right now and I know I don’t have to do that but if I decide to, I don’t have that much time. There’s some stuff in life you can just do whenever but the having babies thing definitely has a time limit and that’s really scary. I feel like a lot of people do it because they feel that pressure. I don’t think that’s for me, though, I think I’ve decided that. My cousin’s having a baby anyway so I’m just gonna chill with that and leave the rest up to my brother.
I read that “Deeper Than Love” is inspired by Akon. Why Akon?
That song “Sexy Bitch” with David Guetta is actually the same chord progression as “Tainted Love” and I just love it. I was like I wanna make a song that sounds like this song, because it’s so good. The second time I came to Europe I listened to his album Freedom every single day.
What other trashy pop stuff do you like?
I’ve been listening to Kanye West a lot lately, Wacka Flocka Flame, Ke$ha…
Are you like me in that you’ll listen to all that stuff just on the bus, like chilling, or is it exclusively party jams?
Oh yeah. I feel like I don’t want to listen to music when I’m drunk anyway. I just want quiet.
Word. Maybe for our second date we can share a beer together in deathly silence...
I Want To Grow Up is out now via Hardly Art.
Follow Emma on Twitter.