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Cola Invite Us Into The Gloss

The Montreal art rockers sophomore offering is even better than the real thing. 

by Khagan Aslanov

Photo by Craig Scheihing

Tim Darcy is making a step in the right direction – at least to some degree. The work of his latest project, Montreal art rockers Cola, has been sliding out from under the shadow of a beloved indie group (Darcy’s previous band, Ought). Their second LP, The Gloss, does the job in fine style, with tightly coiled, sparkling guitar lines that wax elegant while keeping the tension, firmly stating that this is no one-off side project or lateral swing.

Not to mention that the band has a name that is infinitely more pronounceable than his last  — in Europe anyway. Then again, it’s infinitely less Googleable too. I bring this up, oafishly, as the opener to our chat. Darcy laughs, and promises that their next project will be something “truly psychedelic, with a name like King Gizzard and Eddie Izzard” to match.

The beatific, paranoiac exasperation of the band’s 2022 debut, Deep in View, has been receding, giving way to brighter sounds  that, nevertheless, do not lose an inch of their creators’ frothing punk affectations. Darcy, along with bassist Ben Stidworthy and newly-minted full-time member Evan Cartwright, serve up a heady clip, full of angular guitar workouts, rubbery bass-lines, economic drums, and sparsely deployed Mellotron drones.

“Ought songs used to be carved out of these gargantuan jams,” Darcy says. “Cola is a refreshing change of pace. To go into a room together and have the songs already be fairly apparent was great.”

Sitting on a park bench outside his apartment because his power was suddenly cut, Darcy talks about being young and full of ideas in Montreal in 2010, just as the city hit the second wave of its indie explosion and made more room for the loud, the strange and the patient. It was there that he met Stidworthy, and the two have been playing together since. Bringing Cartwright, venerable experimentalist and percussionist-for-hire, into the fold as a full-fledged member sealed the deal for Cola. 

Being surrounded by eager creative forces is important to Darcy. He tips his hat to Steph Dutton, the Bristol visual artist who designed the cover of The Gloss, itself a lovely saturated nod to 80’s post-punk art, and plugs his friend Evan Laffer’s Jokermen podcast, which, through deep-diving into entire discographies, is on a mission to make people fall in love with music again. Then, he takes a moment to lament the semi-recent death of an artist, comparisons to whom have both enriched and haunted his own output since the very beginning:

“Tom Verlaine and Television, for me, are perfect examples of a higher dedication. It’s not exacting. It’s just relentlessly bountiful,” he says.

And yes, there has probably not been anyone else so perfectly fit to write tightly-wound, recursive songs that were as agile as they were lush. And though Darcy, in his own unpretentious way, would never admit it, he has staked his own singular claim in that field, and The Gloss gives him plenty of room to exhale.

Now that the new album is ready to drop, Cola are hitting the road, opting for playing low-capacity dives, with some legendary stops on their way: The Garrison in Toronto, The Empty Bottle in Chicago and the Songbyrd in DC are all in their path this time. Darcy smiles at the idea of playing a bowling alley in Oklahoma somewhere in that melee, and rattling around in a cramped van with his bandmates again.

“You’ve got to be ready to suffer a bit for what really is one of the best jobs on Earth.”

— Tim Darcy (Cola)

This thought becomes Cola, a group of people who have never forgotten the charm or vitality of playing small bars that look like punk squats, with stand-up comics opening for them. That tilt comes from simply being fans of music in all of its forms. Bigger venues mean bigger crowds and bigger money, sure. But the best shows Darcy remembers as a listener and lover of music are in small, sweat-sodden 200-capacity rooms. 

In that intimate, congested press, with six people scraping against you at all times, is where those aesthetic moments hit you with full force. That’s where music stops being something just to occupy yourself with, or pivot your fashion sense around, and becomes something much more. For Tim Darcy and Cola, nothing beats being in those tiny, intoxicating spaces for a brief few hours, where everyone’s eyes are open. And nowadays, they get to spend time on both sides of that extraordinary rampart.