Quintron & Miss Pussycat, John Wesley Coleman, Sharp Balloons
Sunday, 9 p.m. at the Hi-Tone Café, 1913 Poplar. Tickets $12. To purchase or for more information, go to hitonememphis.com or call 901-278-8663.
He's been described by critics as "hyperactive," "prolific to a fault," and even a "professional freak" but singer-songwriter John Wesley Coleman can't help himself. With three albums out in the last 11 months and a fourth in the can, he's got an abundance of ideas and songs.
"I'm probably coming to a point where I need to take a break and let all these songs breathe for a while," says Coleman. "But then at the same time I think, 'Nah, man. I can't write a song and just keep playing it. I gotta write another song and another song and another song.' I guess I have songwriting ADD."
On Sunday, the Dallas-area native and longtime Austin resident will conjure up some of those tunes during a concert at the Hi-Tone Café. Playing his first solo gigs outside of Texas in over a year, he and his backing band will be taking the middle slot on a three-act bill, alongside fellow Goner label artists Quintron & Miss Pussycat and Sharp Balloons.
Coleman has had an especially busy 2012, beginning with the release of Dirty Fingernails, the fifth album by his beloved but ever-combustible garage band, The Golden Boys. The group, which has been operating in fits and starts for over a decade, has evinced a kind of messy brilliance during a career marked by as much turmoil as great music.
"It's sporadic for sure," says Coleman of the band's schedule. "We did a little bit of touring for the last record. The record actually sold a lot; it just got repressed. It's the first time we actually saw a dollar from a record that we made, which is cool. But we also fight a lot and everybody's really busy with their own things. That's why I'm always doing solo stuff. When The Golden Boys aren't doing anything I like to keep working."
To wit, Coleman has also released a pair of solo records in 2012. The first, Nightmare on Silly Street, was an experimental platter of sorts that saw his demos remixed and reworked by Austin multimedia artist Morgan Coy, and released on his Monofonus Press label.
But Coleman's most satisfying effort is his second solo album for the Memphis-based Goner label, The Last Donkey Show. Following up 2010's Bad Lady Goes to Jail, the disc touches on his many muses, moving between fuzzed-out pop, gritty psych and hardscrabble country with an easy charm.
Produced by Greg Ashley — himself a Texas native, now settled in Northern California — the disc was recorded on analog tape during a couple sets of sessions in Oakland and Austin. "I slept at his studio for about five or six nights and recorded every day with him and various people," says Coleman. "Then we flew Greg in, and set up in a house outside Austin in the country, with all these acres of land in the middle of nowhere, and just partied and recorded."
Coleman's skewed brand of pop and Austin address have meant plenty of comparisons to the city's iconic and psychologically damaged icons: Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston. Though he admires both artists, Coleman's sound doesn't quite fit alongside theirs. "Those guys are monster songwriters. Like I'll listen to some Roky Erickson and try and take that mindset and try to write that kind of song, but I can't do it. I can't even cover Roky Erickson. Same with Daniel Johnston."
In truth, Coleman's influences are all over the map. A voracious consumer of music, at the moment his stereo is rotating early Iron Maiden, Royal Trux records from the '90s, along with old-school country LPs. "As far as my specific inspirations, I find (it) more in my interactions in the city, with my friends," he says. "I don't really have a method to what I do. I'm always writing. If someone wants to collaborate I'll take what I'm working on and fit it to the vibe of that particular project. Or most times a theme will pop up in my head and I'll go on that for a while until I'm burned out — but by then I usually have enough songs for another record."
True to form, Coleman has another as yet-unreleased LP already in the can. This time he worked with producer Louie Lino (Nada Surf, matt pond PA) an Austin transplant from New York City. "He has a studio here and I've been going there off and on since February," says Coleman. "I've got 11 tracks, a full length done and mixed.
"It's all over the place — one song sounds totally punk, one sounds like a hippie jam. It's different." Coleman adds that he's not quite sure when or on what label the album will appear.
With his creativity refusing to abate — he's also a sometime visual artist, illustrator, poet, stand-up comedian and screenwriter — it looks like there will be even more John Wesley Coleman songs for the world to hear.
"In fairness, my songs are pretty short," he says, laughing. "So if I have more than most people, that's OK, right?"