Hailing from the Bible belt state of North Carolina, Mathew Lee Cothran is a singer-songwriter with notoriety in the DIY (do-it-yourself) scene of indie rock. His musical projects include the band Elvis Depressedly, solo work under the name Coma Cinema, a one-off project called Gremlins with Teen Suicide’s Sam Ray and work under his own name. Fans of Cothran’s work recognize his ridiculous sense of humor and adoration for professional wrestling, evident on his Twitter and in his music. But beyond these traits, Cothran is an artist who sees beauty in everything ― Christianity, pornography, poverty, love and addiction ― and a yearning to chronicle said inspirations on wax.
While Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly borrow their names from Joy Division and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll respectively, much of the influence behind Cothran’s work comes not from renowned artists, but rather his friends and family. “Music itself doesn’t really inspire me so much as personal relationships,” he said during an interview with The Highlander. “Alex G is a good friend of mine,” he added, Alex G being a Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter. Fellow indie musicians Katie Day, Vagabon, Bulldog Eyes and even Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty are among the list of people that inspire Cothran who aid him in crafting new material. Himself an outspoken opponent of people in power stepping on burgeoning artists, Cothran further spoke of his love and appreciation for his friend Felix Walworth of Told Slant for criticizing South by Southwest for its horrendous deportation clause.
At the forefront of Cothran’s work is his songwriting, a sharp tool that guides listeners through his headspace. At times bleak, scornful, even self-deprecatory like on “I Can’t Wait for You to Die” off of the Elvis Depressedly album, “Hotter Sadness” and other times faintly hopeful, longing for fleeting moments of bliss as with “Wastes of Time” off the same band’s 2015 release, “New Alhambra,” Cothran’s lyricism finds him exploring pockets of emotion across the spectrum.
Christianity serves as a prevailing theme among a large portion of Cothran’s work, especially on his most recent releases, “Judas Hung Himself in America” under his own name and his band’s 2015 album, “New Alhambra.” As a youngster, his grandmother would talk to him “about Bible prophecies, predicting the future… heavy stuff, that kind of thing,” a memory which he scrapbooks through samples of doomsday-foreseeing televangelists on both aforementioned albums. Elaborating on the significance of Christianity in his work, he remembers how “we didn’t have a church (we) could go to… I came to know the church as maybe an evil thing, with so much revolving around money and shame and anger,” acknowledging its fundamental shortcoming despite being “strongly compelled to” the religion. The title of his most recent album itself reflects his views on the church as it exists in the United States, with tracks like “Judas Hung Himself” and “America Forever” echoing his disappointment in the faith he grew to be critical of.
More positively, professional wrestling serves as a pillar of creativity for the 28-year-old. Among close friends listed in the special thanks section of “Judas” is Kenny Omega, one of the premier athletes in the sport who performs for New Japan Pro Wrestling. “It was just so incredibly beautiful,” he stated, speaking of New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 match between Omega and Kazuchika Okada that motivated him to finish recording the album and list him in the special thanks section. Before that, WWE Hall of Famer Terry Funk’s infamous 1983 retirement speech found its way on the titular track off “New Alhambra.” “There was such a poetic thing for me,” he expressed, “In Funk screaming ‘forever’ not knowing he was going to keep wrestling forever — that isn’t what he meant by it, but that’s what it ended up meaning … when it’s your art you can’t just retire,” suggestive of his intent with his own work.
The limit to Cothran’s sources of inspiration seem to be boundless. From naming several songs after pornographic actors (“I’m so enamored by the stories of people in that line of work” he noted) to bittersweet ballads based on childhood memories, Cothran’s songwriting capabilities speak to a multitude of human emotions and experiences that should not go unnoticed.