Creating an album is a challenge, even for seasoned veterans of the music scene who have the full support of a record label, and a team of producers behind them. It’s even harder when you’re writing, recording, and mixing whole albums solo. Add in being a university student, as well as involvement in another musical project, and it makes the whole task seem impossible.
Low Colour and its creator David Cowling (The April Fools Childrenhood) are proof that the impossible is possible.
Music wasn’t always what Cowling wanted to do, but following a fateful Christmas at the age of 14, everything changed: “My parents got me a red Fender and I started playing music then, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until about 2010. I did some recordings like a couple of EPs in my room in 2008 and 2009, but 2010 was when I put out a thing that I was really proud of and did a lot of work on.”
Cowling hasn’t looked back since those early days, and his guitar collection has grown since then, but he still has the original Fender that started it all. But it’s not the only thing that has stayed with him since the early days.
The name The April Fools Childrenhood has been around since pretty much the beginning, too. It came out of the desire to play all the songs that he learned over the course of the year. Cowling recounts, “[The concert as a gift was] really ephemeral, and doesn’t inherently give you anything to put under the tree. I started thinking about ways I could have a ‘present’ under the tree that announced the concert that night. So I made a poster advertising a concert in the living room on December 27. And I figured I should make up a name.
“It’s a cross between my birthday and one of my favourite video games. I’m born on April 1st (April Fools Day), and one of my favourite video games is called The Neverhood. Childrenhood is just a play on Neverhood and childhood. I’ve never seen reason to change, and I like how insane of a name it is.”
2014 was also a pretty big year for Cowling, when he released an album titled Youth is Yesterday that was made up of a collection of songs from 2012–2014, and got some album sales and recognition from CBC Searchlight by making into the top 100.
But then Cowling moved, right around the release of Youth is Yesterday. For anyone who creates, the space in which they work is incredibly important, so the shift in space caused some creative difficulties: “I just like, for whatever reason, totally lost the ability to make music. It was just terrible. I don’t know what it was about the old place. It was a wider space and bigger, and I felt more comfortable making noise in my room. But [in the new house] I’m so interconnected to everyone that lives in the house, I think I got nervous about making music.”
Finally, at the end of 2015 Cowling was able to write what he described as “a kind of OK song,” which broke him out of his creative funk. “Out of writing like 20 songs, the four on Low Colour came out of that end of 2015 beginning of 2016 [writing period], when I felt like I wasn’t writing anything that sucked anymore,” recounts Cowling.
Even though there are four songs on the album, Cowling is hard pressed to pick one as his favourite. “More than anything I’ve ever released, this feels more like a collection, and I’m really happy with how it all works together,” he said. “That was something I was thinking about early with this. I don’t really have one [song] that is my favourite, but I’ve ended up going with ‘Miss Resentment’ as my single. But that’s as a result of me thinking that it is more accessible and has more going on in it.”
Cowling also would describe “Miss Resentment” as the least experimental song on Low Colour, since there is an absence of drums on all of the tracks, but it doesn’t really fit in with any genre. According to Cowling, “It’s not pop, but l like writing poppy hooks and melodies — it’s got that influence in there. I could go with folk, but I’m not living in the country in the ’60s. I don’t really have any folk insight, I’m talking about being in love. So I go with ‘experimental will cover it,’ since it’s slow and atmospheric. But genres are bad, I just go into describing how it sounds.”
While there is a focus on love and break-ups on the album, Cowling — self-described as serially monogamous — said that it’s more about general feelings surrounding love and break-ups than any one person. Cowling took his writing inspiration from Sean Vanaman, and decided to inhabit a character and took the emotion to an extreme place, as opposed to a real feeling.
Other than being excited about the four songs that are featured on Low Colour, Cowling is also looking forward to the upcoming dual album release show with Leave bandmate Emma Citrine on February 10 at 2625 Kaslo St, Vancouver. “It’s this giant concrete room, and it’s super reverberant. I’ve wanted to play there ever since I saw the space. I’m also going to show off new stuff since the songs on Low Colour came out of 2015 and 2016. I’ve written new stuff since then.”
However, don’t expect Cowling to head into the studio to make another album just yet, “I’ve been working on this thing for so long that I’m just so pumped to just play shows. I’ve already got four booked for February and March. I want to not be worried about recording at the same time. I have songs that I’ve written that I’m excited for, but I think that I’m just going to workshop those and refine them, and figure out what they are going to be.”
He is also going to place a focus on scoring a feature length film for Vancouver Island-based filmmaker Graeme Higginson, and the remaining composition courses for his BFA in music.