Summer Colds: A Journey from Johannesburg to the Indie Rock World
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Summer Colds: A Journey from Johannesburg to the Indie Rock World

In this exclusive interview with Idols 2 Rivals, transcribed below, Summer Colds discusses his musical upbringing in Surrey and early exposure to legends like Robert Mutt Lange, sharing insights into his transformative journey. Reflecting on the shift from Black Bears Fire to Summer Colds, he discusses the inspiration behind the Indie Rock/Power Pop evolution. From the debut album “Here Comes Nothing” to standout tracks like “Whiteout” and “Killing Flies,” Summer Colds delves into personal experiences that fuel his poetic lyrics and ’90s Alternative Rock sound. Discussing his latest single, “Copenhagen,” and its innovative 3D lyric video, the artist reflects on the role of technology in music presentation. As he anticipates the sophomore album, “Missing Out,” Summer Colds promises a polished sound and textured compositions, embodying the evolving indie rock scene.

Idols 2 Rivals (I2R): Growing up with a father who was a renowned recording engineer, how do you think this unique environment influenced your musical style and aspirations?

Summer Colds (SC): I have definitely found myself in a privileged position in this regard. From an early age, I got the chance to accompany my father to the various recording studios he worked in over the years. I took an early interest in learning about recording, engineering, and producing music and had access to all the equipment my heart desired to experiment with. As an adult, I spent years building a home studio and learning mixing and mastering from him. I feel very lucky to have had such an incredible resource all this time. His years of experience and wisdom have been invaluable to me.

I2R: Can you share a memorable experience from your time in Surrey, watching your father work with music legends like Robert Mutt Lange?

SC: Truth be told, I think the gravity of the situation was somewhat lost on me  as a young child. At the time it just seemed like dad going to work as usual. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how unique the experiences like having dinners with Mutt, meeting the artists they were working with, and watching my dad in the studio really were. I remember it all sinking in when my dad bought me AC/DC and Def Leppard  CDs, and explaining to me all the projects Mutt had worked on. I was definitely exposed to a high caliber of music at an early age, and I’m  sure that greatly impacted my musical taste growing up. The first concert I ever went to was a Def Leppard show at Red Rocks in Colorado after we moved there. I got to go backstage and get an  autograph from Rick Allen! Every show I went to after that felt a bit  anticlimactic.

I2R: How did your exposure to a variety of musical genres during your childhood in Surrey shape your approach to creating music?

SC: My first memory of being influenced by music was listening to Heartbeat City by The Cars (produced by Mutt Lange). Something about the sound of it immediately resonated with me. Since this was way before playlists or even CDs, I asked my dad to make me a mixed tape of my 3 favorite songs  repeated over and over so I could listen without interruption. In my teenage years, I became obsessed with Weezer and later found out that my favorite albums of theirs were produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars. I can’t help but think there was a subconscious connection there that contributed to the way my influences progressed over time.

I2R: Reflecting on your musical journey, how did your early days in Johannesburg contribute to your development as an artist?

SC: Before I can remember, I was surrounded by African music. My mother always tells me stories about how enthralled I was with the drumming and  dancing. Apparently, I would try to sing before I could even talk. I think being surrounded by that culture at such an early age really started the process of my  interest in music and my sense of rhythm.

I2R: Transitioning from ‘Black Bears Fire’ to ‘Summer Colds’, what inspired the shift towards a heavier Indie Rock/Power Pop sound?

SC: I had released 2 albums as Black Bears Fire and was in the process of  completing the 3rd. The guitar players who had contributed lead tracks  and guitar solos on the previous BBF albums weren’t available for  tracking at the time, so I began playing lead guitar to the best of my ability. The album was 90% done when I got stuck on a track that I couldn’t quite get right, and out of frustration, I decided to change gears and work on  a new sound to clear my head. The original intention was to return to  that album and finish it. Instead, I went down a rabbit hole and ended up reworking several of the songs to fit into this new style I was  experimenting with. The result was Summer Colds and I’ve been recording under this new moniker ever since.

I2R: Your debut album “Here Comes Nothing” has a unique blend of dark, poetic lyrics and ’90s Alternative Rock. Can you talk about the creative process behind this album?

SC: A few songs on Here Comes Nothing were new versions of the Black Bears Fire tracks that I had reworked. The rest were a combination of songs I had written many years back that had never fit into that Folk Rock style and some new tracks that I wrote along the way. I definitely drew inspiration from the Alt Rock and Pop Punk albums I grew up on as a teen, but even though the musical style I was working in changed, the way I wrote lyrics remained the same. My songs usually start out as poems that I later flesh out with rhythm and melody.

I2R: In your song “Whiteout,” what inspired the lyrics and how did you go about composing the music for it?

SC: The  lyrics were actually written way back in the early 2000s. Mostly about the frustrations of spending some of my formative years in a small town and watching my friends succumb to addiction and destructive behavior. The song was originally written as an acoustic track but rhythmically fit into the style I was developing for Summer Colds, so it worked well as a framework for the new Power Pop sound.

I2R: “Killing Flies” has been a standout track; could you describe the story or emotion you wanted to capture with this song?

SC: This was one of the newer tracks that I had written while recording Here Comes Nothing. It was inspired by running into an ex-girlfriend who had taken a self-destructive path. I think a lot of people can relate to the feeling of trying to form a new dynamic with someone they’ve grown apart from. Perhaps someone they used to be close with, who they can no longer connect to on the same level.

I2R: Your latest single “Copenhagen” explores the theme of a clandestine love affair. Can you discuss the creative journey of writing and producing  this song?

SC: This song was also written a long time ago as an acoustic track that originally had a sadder, more mellow feel to it. I wrote it for my partner about the difficulties we faced when our relationship was first forming and we were forced to keep it a secret. I was inspired when recording Here Comes Nothing to resurrect Copenhagen into the new Summer Colds sound.

I2R: The 3D lyric video for “Copenhagen” is quite innovative. Why did you choose to use the Unreal Engine, and how do you think technology is changing  the way artists present their music?

SC: I  first came across Anuvamedia on TikTok and was blown away by his style. I’ve always observed Unreal Engine in the context of virtual reality environment building and video game development. I was really inspired by his application of this technology and his ability to draw viewers into the lyrics of a song. I think that a lot of artists are resistant to new technology, but I believe it’s important to be adaptable and go with the flow of what people find interesting. Finding creative ways to apply new technology can be an art form in and of itself.

I2R: With the pandemic affecting the music industry, how did you find the resilience to continue creating and what did your creative process look like during this time?

SC: The timing couldn’t have been worse for me as far as the creative process goes. I had just released Here Comes Nothing, formed a band, and was starting to play shows to get the album off the ground. Immediately after our record release party, the pandemic hit, and live shows started getting canceled left and right. Every band we were linking up with was no longer traveling and touring for us seemed out of the question. Recording music has always been a secluded process for me, so locking myself in  the studio and working on new material felt like the natural thing to do. I found solace in channeling the energy I had been putting into live performances into something constructive during that time. I think the project really saved my sanity, to be honest.

I2R: Can you give us a sneak peek into what “Missing Out,” your sophomore album, will offer to your fans?

SC: Several tracks on Missing Out were songs we had been playing at our shows that hadn’t yet been recorded. The rest of the tracks are material that has never been heard, ranging from songs written a long time ago to new songs that were written during the recording process. Stylistically I feel that Missing Out is a natural step forward from Here Comes Nothing. I learned a lot about production along the way, so it has a more polished sound while still maintaining the energy of the debut. I also spent a lot more time layering guitars and creating texture in songs over the length of the recording process.

I2R: How has the indie rock scene evolved since you started, and where do you see ‘Summer Colds’ fitting into the current musical landscape?

SC: I believe we were not alone in the feeling of discouragement that accompanied the music scene during the pandemic. Then again, a lot of great music was written during that time and continues to trickle out. I think we all took for granted how important community and camaraderie are in the music scene and I myself have been overjoyed to start watching live music again. Everything from being packed into tiny dive  bars to being shoulder to shoulder at giant music festivals. I am excited for the future of Summer Colds re-entering the live music scene when the time is right, and bringing this new record to life.

I2R: Looking back at your career so far, what would you say has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

SC: I would say the contrast between having so much access to creative  inspiration and resources growing up and moving to a small town in Oregon without a thriving music scene. Over my years here I have learned  to play multiple instruments, record, mix, and master music as well as  run live sound out of pure necessity. I feel like I wouldn’t have always  chosen to do so but am grateful for the experience I’ve gained using a DIY approach.

I2R: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your musical journey with ‘Summer Colds’, and what message do you hope your listeners take away from your  music?

SC: As corny as it may sound, every day I get to spend making music feels like a gift, and it has genuinely saved my life on more than one occasion. Music is everything to me and I truly appreciate every moment anyone spends listening to what I create. Even if no one was listening I feel like I would have to keep making music just to stay sane in this world, but it sure is a lot more rewarding when it means something to someone or has  an effect on a person no matter how small it may be. I can’t thank my listeners enough.