Track x Track: R.F. Coleman - I Couldn't Trust
Enigmatic Melbourne-based artist takes us through his new EP of off the wall pop
Image credit: Chris Hillary
Following a string of singles over the last three months, Naarm/Melbourne’s R.F. Coleman has unveiled his debut EP I Couldn’t Trust, accurately and awesomely described as “an amalgamation of beats, mouth trumpets, and a stream of consciousness” that was co-written by Josh Moriarty (Telenova and Miami Horror) and co-produced by Scott Horscroft (The Presets, Silverchair, DMA’s, Empire of the Sun).
Across five tracks on I Couldn’t Trust, Coleman channels a number of sounds including 60s & 70s psych-pop and rock and 80s new wave & funk. To find out all about it, Coleman was kind enough to take us through it track by track - have a listen and get to know below!
I Couldn’t Trust
I’m an addict. Drugs, alcohol, gambling. Addicted to self-destruction. Putting a hit out on myself, getting stabbed and shot. Destroying important relationships. Two years sober, I finally have a bit of perspective. “I Couldn’t Trust” is, unintentionally, about not feeling worthy of existing, not worthy of the love of my wife, kids, dearest friends and family. I didn’t write lyrics. I didn’t mean for there to be a message. It came out of me. And it has resonated with a lot of people, which at first made me feel vulnerable, even ashamed; now I’m proud.
In the film clip - which I wrote and co-directed - I played 6 versions of myself. Belligerent drunk, anxiety-riddled gambler, compassionate coach (read: father), angry brawler fighting pro athlete (yes, I fought myself), and the hero performer. The closest I’ve felt to myself: lighter, colourful, dare I say it - happy. I can finally trust myself to be a good partner, Dad, friend. Someone worthy of a decent knock.
Circa 2009, I was misdiagnosed with 'thought disorder'. Effectively chaotic or disorganised thinking, manifesting in 'abnormally' phrased speech and writing; clanging non-tangential thoughts strung together like bumblebees. As the song's beat came, I started freestyling. It was a one-take of nonsensical lyrics. And Thought Disorder was built from there.
“Always Attractive” is about feeling yourself - and why not!? When Josh (Moriarty, of Miami Horror and Telenova) played me the basic musicbed it was sunny, I was wearing my sequined pants and I screamed: WOOO, Always Attractive! Felt good!
The lyrics make sense, to me. “Friendship bracelets” is referencing the one I wear every day from my daughter; “novel glasses, they’re my thing” about a younger R. F. that owned dozens of novelty sunnies he thought gave him a ‘vibe’. The bits about Van Gogh, Bananarama, drunk Boris Johnson and Shawshank Redemption - well, there’s no explanation. I was just enjoying myself. So much so that I left in some flat notes, with one in particular that bothered me when the track first got released. But then I thought of it like my birthmark - which someone once referred to as ‘poo arm’ - and I was comfortable with the aural poo arm not being airbrushed out of my song. But my favourite part of Always Attractive is the “mouth trumpet” that comes in at 2:40. Call me ‘off’, but I like it.
Crazy For You
Crazy For You is a love tune, really. A feel-good sing-along about insatiable desire. As an ode to Tokyo - where I fell in love with my now wife - I collaborated with 80-year-old Japanese artist, Brick Grandpa, to film an extra special clip in Japan. It’s shot just outside where I took the single’s cover art (yes, it’s a selfie of me kissing my wife-then-girlfriend, much to the amusement of some policemen). The brief to Brick Grandpa was simple: close your eyes, and think of someone or something you love! He nailed the brief, sending me a text simply saying: ‘this song made me move and feel strong, nice things’. That made me happy.
Play Me Loud
This was the first song made as R. F. Coleman. It’s hard to listen to now; probably why I made it the last single on the EP. Melancholy. Feeling foolish. Super anxious and self-conscious. About my heavy breathing. Being abandoned. “I’m a scar / you’re my star”. Bogged down. “A puddle, soaking wet”. Perhaps the most grim lyric is about someone very close to me taking their own life by “tasting lead”. Then, finally, giving in with a heavy guitar solo. Play me loud if you want. I’ll still be holding out for someone like you. Wilder than you. Must have been having a particularly grim day when that song was made. But even after all these months I love the little pops of instrumental colour and sincerity of the vocal! We all have bad days. When I do, I turn up the volume, close my eyes and hold on.
- R.F. Coleman, March 2023