Coasting: The Signature Sound of Summer

by Ali Shana

It was a summer evening in a Janesville backyard. What better way to enjoy a Milwaukee three piece pop punk band’s first show than with a choice of hot dogs or brats? Some were drunk, some were sober, some were skateboarding up and down a ramp. All were smiling.

By the grill, house-owners Zach Michaels and TJ Brady are perfectly submerged with the youth, waiting to watch their performance. Third band member Mack Goth is grinning ear to ear while giving someone a warm hug. This is Coasting - the not-so-serious yet incredibly impressive nostalgia-focused pop punk trio.

After enjoying a few party favors, I sat down with the band to discuss their origins, debut EP, and signature sound, which caught my attention in the first place.

I immediately notice that Michaels, the 23 year old drummer, and Brady, the 23 year old bassist, each have Blink-182 tattoos. As my eyes give a good glance at the band’s equipment, I notice a Blink-182 poster. This confirms my comparisons between their Summertide EP and Enema of The State era Blink-182.

 1999 Blink 182

1999 Blink 182

 Coasting (Photo by  Josh Rote )

Coasting (Photo by Josh Rote)

“Blink is a game changer for me,” says Brady. Michaels immediately glances at Goth with a slight smirk, “Blink weighs heavy particularly for me and TJ.” 24 year old guitarist Goth explains that he enjoys Blink but not nearly to the degree that his band-mates do.

While going down the line and citing each member’s musical influences, they all started by saying they have an eclectic music taste. Goth and Michaels play together in a Madison-based hardcore band called Flatline. Goth is a professional audio-engineer who can appreciate good quality in any style of music. No genre of music seems to be neglected. That explains the traces of alternative and surf rock influence sprinkled throughout the EP.

“Dinosaur Jr has been my favorite band since I was 6 years old,” says Michaels, “and growing up, Blink, Green Day and New Found Glory were big for me.”

After agreeing with Michaels about the significance of Blink and Green Day, Brady says he considers anything fast paced as an influence. “I also really like Wavves and Title Fight.” Goth says the Wonder Years is one of his favorite bands. “The goal for this band was to make nostalgic/old school music. I listened to a lot of Sum 41 when I was younger.”

It was the vibe of 90s pop punk nostalgia that gravitated me to this band. Personally, I feel very detached to modern heavy hitters in pop punk. I was curious what the band thought of today’s pop punk music. For example, The Story So Far.

“Totally different sounds,” says Goth. Brady elaborates, “That’s why I like Wavves, they have a surf rock vibe but the melodies are very 90s pop punk. Both eras of pop punk have their perks, though.” The band collectively concluded that there is nothing wrong with modern pop punk. But it’s evident that the sound has changed.

I asked the band if they ever considered a fourth member and the answer explained a lot about the way this band was formed. Only being an active outfit since January, a lot of major decisions were recently made. “Initially, we were pretty set on it.” says Goth, “we all play different instruments so we tried out a few people for various roles. But we never found anybody that felt right and we thought it would be easier to keep getting things done the way we do.”

Michaels explains that their chemistry as friends exudes into their music. “We went out and rented a place where we could all practice. We all live in town and there’s only three of us. It’s not like we’d be doing anything but hanging out anyways.”

All day, I had the band’s track ‘Mind’ playing in my head. I asked the band about their favorite tracks off the project. “For me it’d be ‘Freaking Out’,” says Michaels, “The vocal melodies over the chord change in the chorus have a cool sound to it. I also get a lot of 'Dookie' era Green Day vibes from it.”

Goth concludes ‘Fuck It’ as his favorite track. “Because of the changes in tone and speed, it’s almost like 3 songs in 1. The catchy melodies in the beginning and the 'anthem-esque' part at end is everything I wanted in 1 song.” Brady goes back to the topic of fast music. “Playing ‘Stupid’ is fun because of how fast it is but I also love ‘Fuck It’.” Mack’s second favorite track is ‘Mind’, one of the curve balls on this EP. “We initially threw ‘Mind’ on there as a filler, we weren’t gunna play it live. It was just something TJ had ready to go. But with ‘Stupid’ being fast and straightforward, it translated well into ‘Mind’, a slower a more reverb tune."

The track ‘Worthwhile’ ends with strange 80s electro feel. I was informed this was composed entirely by Brady. “I made all of that on Garage Band on my phone in 2014.” Brady laughs, “It’s influenced by Tim and Eric and dumb stuff.”

 Photo by TJ Brady

Photo by TJ Brady

Not only was the outro of ‘Worthwhile’ a few years old, but Goth says most of the EP was written years ago. “TJ had some of the songs already written on acoustic guitar with lyrics, we turned them into full band tracks. Some were half ideas that we finished together. We finished writing the EP the week before they released it.”

After getting some insight on the band, I saw a lot of their answers in their performance. They messed around with each other, something you can see in almost any Blink-182 concert. More than that, they genuinely had fun and interacted with the audience. I wouldn’t doubt for a second that Coasting is the result of an organic friendship. It’s more than 3 guys sharing a love for music, it’s what this music represents to them. The music they grew up with and can have fun to.