Analogue Music | Cola


By Matt Conner

The music was easy. The band name? Not so much.

In the wake of Ought's breakup, which goes back much farther than what you might have heard, Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy began to make music together once again, just for the sake of community and creativity. In order to round out the sound, the pair invited drummer Evan Cartwright (The Weather Station, U.S. Girls) into the mix to jam once a month.

As Stidworthy tells the story of Cola's origins, the music came quickly. Weekly demo swaps turned into monthly songwriting sessions which turned into a new record and then came the hurdle of picking a name. ("Baby Guinness" was not going to work.)

These days, Cola is on the verge of several summer tour dates to support their new album, Deep in View (Fire Talk Records). It's an exciting new outlet that Stidworthy says is birthed out of a deeply held desire on the part of Cola's members to connect through music.

Analogue: Can you take me to the origins here for you and Tim to step into something new in Cola?

Ben Stidworthy: Even though we announced it just a few months ago, we actually broke up in December-ish of 2018. Our last show was in London. We were still friends, but we weren’t making music together. Only Tim and I were still in Canada and it took maybe six or seven months for us to finally have a conversation about playing music together for fun.

Doing what we do, we knew we wanted a drummer. Evan is our friend and he just so happened to be one of the best drummer—if not the best drummer—that we knew, so that was a very logical choice for us to start playing with him.

"So much about making music is about cultivating reactions to music that others experience."

I think it was really effortless and with that came a lot of songs. We’d play together once a month but every Friday, Tim and I would send each other a demo. Then we’d get together to make the demos into a full-fledged song and eventually we had enough for a record. We just decided to do it, so from there, we became a band.

It’s funny because we didn’t have a name for so long, and because of the pandemic, we couldn’t play shows, so there was no reason for us to have a name. So our identity didn’t solidify in any way. Even our musician friends in Montreal would call it BEM for Ben, Evan and Tim. It was ridiculous because we couldn’t decide on a name. It was such a process.

Analogue: Wait, was it stressful?

Ben: Well, it was annoying.

Analogue: What was the worst name thrown out?

Ben: [Laughs] I don’t think it was the worst name but we called the project Baby Guinness for a really long time as a joke. I almost started advocating for that to actually be the name.

Analogue: [Laughs] I don’t know what I expected but that’s hilarious.

Ben: Yeah it’s like an Irish SoundCloud rapper.

Analogue: You said you looked up and had an album’s worth of songs, but before that, did you know that you were onto something here, musically speaking, that would even head that direction?

Ben: We were really happy with what was happening and all of us really care about sharing music, not just having it be for ourselves but for other people. In the early days, there might have been this thing of not wanting to jinx it and say, ‘This is our new band.’ Also, Evan plays in so many other projects, so we were flirting with him to try to get him to come on board or to make sure it was something he felt good enough about to dedicate time to.

I was talking to a friend the other day who said, ‘I only care about making music that if no one ever heard it, it wouldn’t matter to me.’ I couldn’t disagree with that more. So much about making music is about cultivating reactions to music that others experience. When I was making demos it was always finding that base excitement of finding what I like and then giving others that feeling.

Analogue: Was there a reckoning with Ought at all, that some of you would go on to make music and others would not? Or even with fans that you were this and now you are that?

Ben: It feels so different in a lot of ways that is a kind of guard against that, I guess. It was never going to be an Ought record, for example. That identity has two other people we really care about and are still close with.

We were actually really kind of surprised at the continuity or lineage drawn between the two bands. It sounds dumb to say it’s surprising because it’s not but all these tour posters going up are saying “ex-Ought”. Or anyone who’s decided to cover the band, Ought is so there. It makes sense. But it’s nice because the lineage is there and that’s important. But they are two distinct entities in my mind.

Analogue: Are you frustrated by that awning?

Ben: No, no. Not at all. I think for people who would want to hear more music from us, it’s good to draw the connection so people can find us. There’s so much noise out there that it helps to cut through that.

Analogue: Was there a song that served as proof there was something here?

Ben: Definitely. The first time I met up with Tim to play, he was in his friend’s studio. He said he’d been messing with a drum machine and had this riff he’d been playing a lot in open D and he played it for me. Instantly, I liked it but I’d had this bass line I’d written during soundcheck while Ought was on tour in 2018. I thought it was so perfect for a song but it never had the chance to see the light of day. But it fits perfectly with the chorus of Tim’s song, so it felt like a sign from God. [Laughs]

It was great. I’d been messing with this bass line for so long and was waiting for the right place for it. That song, “So Excited,” we used as the reference point for everything else. When I would go home to write demos, I’d use the sounds of the same drum machine and have the guitar with a lot of spring reverb and write songs in open D tuning to just keep it in that world. Those three elements really contributed to the sound or feel of the record, even as they’re so different from “So Excited.”

Analogue: You said earlier that Evan’s commitments could be a challenge. Is that true on this side?

Ben: Evan tours with The Weather Station and he has a solo project, but I don’t think he’ll tour with that. We’re all committed and already writing the next record. The touring, of course, starts in June, so we’ve been on hold just waiting to get back out there. We had to cancel a couple of shows with the inevitability of the time. But we’re happy that Evan could make it work.