On certain days, Mat Cothran’s Twitter feed is one of the darkest places on the internet. The 25-year-old songwriter, who’s perhaps best known for the beautifully dejected lo-fi he’s been releasing as Coma Cinema since his late teens, occasionally fires off bleak, 140-character missives about loathing his South Carolina hometown, being dirt broke, and sometimes, looking forward to death. His music reflects a similarly downtrodden spirit, but Cothran insists there’s humor in there, too. “Tragedy, especially when it’s at a ridiculous point, is hilarious,” he says over the phone from his front porch in Columbia, SC, where he’s posted up with Delaney Mills, his fiancée and bandmate in Elvis Depressedly. “Sometimes,” he says, “you have to laugh at how bad things can get.”
Today, the couple are taking a break from recording their new full-length, New Alhambra. It’s humid as hell outside, and their cat, Cousin, keeps trying to escape from the house. While most of the earlier Elvis Depressedly releases more or less extended Coma Cinema’s mood of homespun hopelessness, Cothran and Mills agree that New Alhambra comes from someplace brighter, a development that seems inextricably linked to their union.
Mills, a 23-year-old with box blonde hair and square glasses, grew up around music in the unhip seaside community of Myrtle Beach, where her dad played Jimmy Buffett covers in hotel bars. After moving to Columbia, she met Cothran after a show; her first words to him were mischievous and maybe a little self-destructive: “We should take mushrooms together some time.” Although they never did, Cothran eventually recruited her to play with Elvis Depressedly—his new, collaborative, low-pressure side project—because he knew she was good at keyboard and because, Mills jokes, “He thought I was cute.” Today, Cothran says Elvis Depressedly couldn’t exist without her. “If she were to leave the band or get abducted by aliens, I wouldn’t continue,” he says. “I don’t think it would have the same soul.”
New Alhambra is technically the seventh Elvis Depressedly release, but in some ways it feels like a debut. The lineup now includes bassist Michael Roberts, and in November the record will get a proper release on vinyl through the close-knit indie label Orchid Tapes. The first single, “No More Sad Songs,” might be the most outwardly optimistic song Cothran has ever written, its sung title ringing out like a mission statement. Cothran’s voice echoes around finger snaps, plaintive strings and a whirring outro that sounds like a harmless tornado drifting across an empty field. Someday never came, so I keep waiting/ I will go to sleep still believing. It’s pretty-sounding acoustic pop, but the edges are blurred.
If all goes according to plan, Cothran and Mills will be married by the end of the summer, when they’ll relocate to Mills’ mother’s farm in rural South Carolina. They hope to throw a big, celebratory wedding party and fly out all their friends from various pockets of the country; psych-rock trio Pure X has tentatively agreed, via Twitter, to perform at the reception. New Alhambra will be the cherry on top, the hopeful sound of the couple’s second act. “I’ve had a lot of rough times in my life, but I’ve also gotten incredibly lucky,” Cothran says, grateful to have people rooting for him, be they followers online or friends in real life. “I want to make something where people can look at it and be like, ‘There’s a way out.’”