Cold Fur: A raw, no-frills rock ‘n’ roll band strung together from remnants of Jersey staples Rye Coalition and The Want, who trade in giant riffs, feral solos, and an endless river of pugnacious spirit. After spending some time warming up at local clubs, a bit of crowdfunding magic helped get them into the studio to track an LP with engineer Steve Albini. Dubbed Altamont Every Night, it’s an intimidating and beautifully-organic debut, and as of March 5, it’s making the rounds at last. With that behind them, vocalist Ralph Cuseglio took some time to share with us some insight on things such as the route taken to Cold Fur, Altamont, self-releasing, and—crucially—how to correctly make a cup of Fluffy.
How’d Cold Fur come into being?
The Want were somewhat of a mystery to Dave [Leto, drums] and I. We were on tour in 2000 and staying with Tim Green, of The Fucking Champs fame, and he put on their record. I honestly thought it was some obscure ‘70s rock record that I hadn’t heard before. Then I found out they were from NJ and recently broken up. When Rye broke up, Dave and I had even joked that we should start a band with them, but we had no idea who they were.
What’s different this time around? How have your experiences in Rye or The Want shaped the way you’re doing things this time?
With experience comes perspective. I think we have an idea of what’s important and what our priorities are. That comes with age too. With Rye, by the end, so many entities were involved, and looking for a piece of the pie. You look around and go, “How did this happen?” Right now, it’s just the four of us. That’s nice. There isn’t any pressure at all. We’ve done things at our own pace and according to our lifestyles.
The people who have lent a hand in the process… you know that their relationship with you and your previous band was genuine. There are those too, who we reached out to and totally brushed us off, and didn’t even respond… you know their interest in your previous band was about money or the company they worked for at the time. It’s good. It lets you know where you stand.
How about on stage? Does anything feel different now?
It does. We’re still a young band and haven’t played too many shows. So we’re still sorting things out. But it feels good. With Rye, we had two guitar players and it was chaotic and busy on stage. With Cold Fur, it’s a little less busy, the tempos tend to be a little slower, and the songs can feel more open. They are also more taxing vocally to perform so I can’t always run around the stage.
What kind of experiences form the songs on Altamont Every Night?
People’s stories. I listen to a lot of people and the pain in their lives. So I think I inadvertently wrote a lot about that. Also books and stories. The story of Barrabas is a great one. There is a song about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road too.
Any musical influences in particular that took over while you were writing?
Nah… not really. We think it is a pretty diverse record musically. We wrote all these songs as a band that was just starting out. So, if we liked the feel of a song, the way it sounded… we just went with it. No matter what the genre felt like or who it may have sounded like. It was pretty liberating that way.
It was great to see your Kickstarter campaign go so well. How’d you end up working with Steve Albini?
Thanks. Dave and I had recorded with him many times in the past and it was a good experience. So, it made sense to return to his studio, a place where we felt comfortable and knew it would sound good. We were adamant about tracking to tape… going as analog as possible. So all the basic tracks were done live, in full takes.
What was the session like? Any different from the norm?
Not so much. Steve still loves his Fluffy. [For the Fluffy recipe, go to gothamist.com/2012/10/03/steve_albini_gives_us_the_famous_el.php.] He’s pretty hands off. He sets everything up and presses record and stop. In the meantime, he just gets smarter and smarter as he reads brainy shit off the internet and “plays Words With Friends.” If you hear his recordings, you know what you are going to get. If what you are looking for is a hands-off, smart dude, analog genius… he’s your guy. Also one of the nicest, funniest, accommodating people you will ever meet.
Cold Fur Records: Just a platform for self-releasing music, or are you taking it a little further? What compelled you to self-release?
I would say, it’s a platform for releasing our own music. It is nice to feel like you have some sense of control and responsibility beyond the writing and recording process. Typically, in working with a label, you give some of that up. But it’s a trade off. You give up that control because the label has means that you don’t. It’s always a shitty deal for the band no matter how you slice it, unless you maintain ownership of your recordings.
The album was already paid for by pre-orders; half by generous friends and past fans of our previous bands, the other half by us. Although putting music out is easier than it ever has been, it still can be pretty costly to do it all yourselves. We are not anti-label, by any means, we just have to feel comfortable working with the label and feel like we are on equal footing.
Favorite places to play these days? Where should we catch you?
You can’t go wrong with Maxwell’s. We’ve been playing most of our shows in the New York/NJ area thus far. We’re looking to expand our reach in the upcoming months.
Cold Fur’s latest album, Altamont Every Night, is available now. For more information, go to coldfur.bandcamp.com.