AthFest 2006 Coulier "Bands start, play a few songs, and then break up. It's not rocket science; it's Rock Music 101. And so another Athens band is throwing in that cliched towel, and this time it's Coulier. From its first practice at the straight-edge house party haven known facetiously as the Chi House, up until the gross dude-nudity of the CD release show for its 70-minute cockpunch of a final album, Coulier had one rule: no repeating parts. Pointedly eschewing the time-honored verse-chorus-verse pop structure held so dear, the three collegiate smart-asses also unwittingly laid out their unofficial maxim. Coulier rarely stayed in one place creatively for very long; its trajectory led the members from the uber-sincere confines of the screamo genre to prog-influenced epics and, eventually, to a sort of fine duality between doom-metal and comedy. In three short years, Coulier perpetually morphed, growing in membership seemingly because it was too fun for the members' friends to not get involved, and then, inexplicably, shrinking back to the original line-up. Many things can be said and debated about the group's musical output, but it cannot be said that Coulier was ever predictable. Originally comprised of Marietta transplants Navid Amlani (formerly of Atlanta grindcore outfit Camaro Crotch) and Adam Newman, and then offset by decidedly un-punk guitar virtuoso Brion Kennedy, Coulier formed in January 2003 and began practicing at the Chi House, which Amlani (sometimes reluctantly) called home. After a few run-throughs of their spastic, complex, but wildly anthemic math-rock, roommate and fellow UGA undergrad Stephen Newhouse asked if he could fill the position of bass guitarist. Classic four-piece rock instrumentation firmly in place, the quartet set about the regular duties of any fledgling band on the DIY circuit: playing their first shows and releasing a four-song EP (packaged in screen-printed manila envelopes, no less). Early Coulier shows were marked by a naive bacchanalia of drug/ drink-free madness; fans were urged via flyers to attend wearing bicycle helmets, and were rewarded with a shower of silly string. Newhouse adopted the title of de facto frontman, and spent as much time stirring the crowd into a frenzy as he did playing bass. His screaming, which in metal magazines might be politely referred to as "intense," led to maladies ranging from the typical sore throats to a visit to the hospital for an inexplicable fit of cross-eyed vision. Kennedy, to whom this sort of raw spazz was previously peripheral, stood as far off to the side as possible and simply played his parts. Of the numerous revelers partaking in the youthful insanity, Chi House roommate Noah McCarthy got particularly "into it." As McCarthy's seemingly trance-like flailings became a staple at Coulier shows, the guys made the obvious decision to ask McCarthy to join as a full-time member. He played bass on one song. Within a few short months, Coulier had established itself as a sort of resident band for the Chi House. Shortly after recording more material for an ill-fated split release with Left to Rust and Bender (both of which have since disbanded as well), McCarthy, feeling burned out from art school, took a job at a ski lodge in Colorado, effectively ending his tenure in Coulier. While Newhouse brought in replacement "freak-out guy" Drew Smith, and Kennedy and Newman began to incorporate alcohol into their musical diet on a far more regular basis, Coulier began its first transformation. As new songs moved further in a more metal direction that ably straddled the line between tongue-in-cheek and utterly sincere, Newhouse's interest in the band waned. The increasingly nebulous mood of the band culminated in a performance at the Caledonia Lounge where, after his bass equipment failed, Newhouse resigned himself to watching his bandmates from the crowd, arms crossed in apparent disappointment. It was a clear harbinger of what was ultimately a return to form: Newhouse and Smith bowed out and Coulier continued on as a three-piece. (In the months since, Newhouse and his ex-bandmates have made their peace; the former has continued on in his successful but unlikely-monikered screamo band I Would Set Myself On Fire For You.) Returning to their double-guitar/ drums "roots," Coulier set about the business of being an increasingly ridiculous math-metal band. With the frayed dementia of screamo excised from the group's sound, Kennedy came into his own as a far more confident musician, emphasizing the group's newfound muscle with cocky stage moves, matched windmill for windmill by Newman. After a hijinks-ridden tour with We Versus the Shark, Coulier holed up in the now-defunct Epi-1:Ecosystem studio (read: Cinemechanica's house) to record a debut full-length. The trio upped the level of experimentation (read: dope smoking) and embraced the gloriously over-the-top touchstones of progressive rock and metal. Cool, Cooler, Coulier! featured such auspicious musical absurdities as comedy samples, harmonized leads, slowed-down Satan voices, unabashed Black Sabbath rip-offs, and a single actual fart. The guys had effectively distanced themselves from their emotive roots and moved on to a realm of stoner humor that would eventually grow to be their trademark. Mixing sessions continued after a brief episode involving Kennedy, an unspecified amount of liquor, and an enormous amount of concrete. The album was eventually released on Atlanta mainstay Stickfigure Records and received positive, if incredulous, reviews. From that point on, the members of Coulier dedicated themselves as steadfastly to shocking or surprising their audiences as they did to writing increasingly labyrinthine riffs. The CD release party for Cool, Cooler, Coulier! featured not a single note played by the actual band; instead, super groups formed from local musicians played songs from the record, while Kennedy and Newman challenged girls in the audience to drinking contests (and lost). When Amlani was unable to tour over one spring break, the remaining duo simply soldiered on and debuted what would eventually be the entirely acoustic swansong, Vibin'. Vibin' was intended to be a slow, jazzy opus, but grew to include Pantera-style sludge, moments of eerie disquiet that could be traced back to Slint, and a healthy dosage of signature Coulier humor. When the final product ended up lasting a mere 20 minutes, the band, determined to fill the entirety of a CD's possible duration, came up with a bizarre solution: "Halibut" is the album's 50-minute closing track, composed not by the band but by friends, via a somewhat complex chart system that required no musical knowledge. Coulier then stretched the track out to a cartoonish degree of slow-motion; the finished product sounds like some sort of imaginary outer-space field recording. Just for the hell of it, the bandmembers threw in a remarkably candid, autobiographical remix by Mr. Epi, also known as Joel Hatstat of synth-punk band Pegasuses. Overall, Vibin' is a complete overload of information that, surprisingly enough, warrants repeat listens. It closes, through the magic of studio overdubs, with the sound of every note on the fretboard played at the same time. With Newman moving on to more metropolitan pastures in New York City, Kennedy considering several years of studying abroad in Germany, and Amlani pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals in Atlanta, it was clear to these three longtime friends that Vibin' was to be their final recorded mark on Athens' (vastly underrated) metal scene. However, plans for their final show involve - in no uncertain terms - a soundman's worst nightmare: one drummer, no guitar players, and 10 bass players: Adam Newman, Brion Kennedy, Che-Na Stephens, Mercer West, Andy Pruett, James Salcrow, Joel Hatstat, yours truly and two others. Inspired by doom metal bands such as Sleep, Coulier's final metamorphosis (which will be heard for the first, last and only time at this year's AthFest) will be loud, sludgy, and - hey, what do you know? - include several repeating parts. Turns out some rules don't always apply. By Jeff Tobias

Back to top