Coasting: Making Music In a Long-Distance Friendship

Photo courtesy of Coasting. Photo: Brett Lyman

Coasting isn’t quite the right name for Fiona Campbell and Madison Farmer’s band. After all, the duo, whose debut LP You’re Never Going Back arrived earlier this month, show no signs of slowing down despite giving up Brooklyn for new homes 2,200 miles apart. Coasting, you could say, is really working for it. Although Farmer has relocated to Memphis, Tenn. and Campbell now calls Portland, Ore. home, living in Brooklyn was integral to Coasting’s beginnings: “I’d worked for four years for a New York promoter,” says Campbell, a native of New Zealand. “At the time I met Madison she was working shows as well. We started working the door and the bar together and started talking. Campbell had recently lost her job and, armed with the free time to make music, she and Farmer began playing together in Farmer’s basement just for fun. “It was really nice to play with someone who didn’t have too many expectations,” the drummer says. Still, the band played its first ever show with Best Coast, and an offhand MySpace page led to offers from record labels. The early attention, says Farmer, didn’t phase them. “We don’t care about that process, we like doing it when it’s fun and convenient for us. We never felt pressure to play into that game.”

That process of no process lead to their debut You’re Never Going Back. The album was recorded at the Key Club Recording Company in Michigan, where Coasting took time to think about the music they were making (previous singles were recorded on-the-fly in basements and high-school cafeterias), kick back and record whenever the urge hit. “[Producers Jessica Ruffins and William Skibbe] sat us down when we got there — you live on site when you’re there and there are four different recording rooms and a massive studio — and they were like how do you want to do this, we do this however you want, if you want to start recording at two in the morning, come wake us up,” recalls Campbell. The system agreed with the band. “It’s garage-y and rock but there are some harmonies in there. There are a few songs that are pretty, but not all of them,” says Farmer. Indeed “Portland” is a two-and-a-half-minute shambolic anthem that relies heavily on a well-executed loud, quiet, loud set up, and while it isn’t exactly a pretty song, it’s catchy and exciting. The slower, longer “For Hours” is more of a traditional love song, moving slowly across almost five minutes and showcasing big drums and spacey guitar sounds that more polished love songs would be lucky to have. They’ve evolved. “This record is more thought-out,” Farmer says. “We’re both opinionated and we decided our music should reflect that. And musically you can probably understand what we’re saying now.”

Perhaps that distance, as well as maintaining other bands, is partially responsible for the growth. Campbell drums for Vivian Girls and will be playing with Ian Svenonius’ latest project, Chain and the Gang, while Farmer, who was formerly part of the pop band Dream Diary, is playing with members of the Magic Kids in a Memphis-based group called Toxie. Still, the two have figured out how to keep Coasting from falling by the wayside, whether its touring or just making sure to visit each other often enough to keep their bond strong. “When we started out, we were still figuring out ourselves and how we play together,” says Campbell. “Somehow we’ve made it work. We make it work no matter what.”

You’re Never Going Back Now is out now on M’Ladys.

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