After treating fans to a stream of gorgeous singles, 22-year-old e4444e (aka Romy Church) has finally dropped his debut album Coldstream Road. Harking from Newcastle, the singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist is crafting soundscapes that will melt your heart, and soak your daily experiences in a much-needed dose of spirituality.
Coldstream Road moves like watercolour; swirling, cascading through life’s sparkling notes. Each song brings a new stroke or tone to the image Church is creating. Thematically, the album captures the holiness of the everyday in its most sensory, elemental form. If a bushwalk on a cool Autumn day could be projected through music, it would be this record. It is a 47-minute sojourn overflowing with curiosity and the nervous energy of unknown potential. What Church has created is a refreshing audioscape feels both familiar, and enigmatic.
However, in a chaotic turn of events a few months ago, the man himself made the all-too-familiar mistake of leaving his phone, wallet, and hard-drive on his car roof before driving off. That hard-drive was the sole home of a nearly completed Coldstream Road. Although having to quickly re-record the entire album nearly from scratch, the finished product is undoubtedly immaculate.
We caught up with Romy to discuss the process, ambient listening, and why Newcastle is the superior Australian city.
For months, there’s been one question on your mind. It plagues your every waking minute, you lie awake at night wondering, you can’t go one more second without knowing: where do I listen to the new e4444e album for optimal vibes? Don’t worry, Happy’s got you covered.
HAPPY: Congrats on the record! How does it feel to have it out finally?
ROMY: Thank you, thank you. It feels pretty good! Yeah, it feels weird, it’s a new feeling. I hope people listen to it…
HAPPY: [Laughs] They definitely will! Could you walk us through the concept behind the record?
ROMY: I guess, there are a few things going on with it. Home would be one of the loose concepts. I wanted them to be warm, sort of simpler, drier songs than I’ve done before. I always thought that this would be the thing that would… I was kind of letting go of what I wanted to write, and just writing what I naturally wrote on the acoustics. It was all folks on the acoustic guitar mostly, except for Susan. So, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on for me, but it’s hard to pinpoint one exact thing. Everyday life and the plainer sort of things. And then the everyday, ordinary psychedelia of life, I guess. Because life is weird.
HAPPY: Very weird, especially now.
ROMY: That’s probably a good way to describe it accurately, it would come out weird I guess. It’s why the music sounds a bit strange.
HAPPY: What I picked up on listening to the record, was that it had this sense of exploration about it, both sonically and with what you were singing about, which I found so poignant especially after we’ve been locked up for all these months.
ROMY: Yeah, well I wrote and recorded it before this, but I’m definitely the sort of person that’s always kind of exploring my own nature and trying to get to know myself more and more every day. I feel like I use music to put up a mirror against myself, and that’s why I don’t like really telling myself what type of lyrics I want to write, or what type of music I want to write. I just write the lyrics that I’m thinking about, and I read them and think about them in the weeks that it takes to make something, you know? I end up knowing more about myself, it’s a tool of self-reflection. Yeah, exploration is a huge thing, exploring myself.
HAPPY: Yeah, it really comes through. It’s also very obvious that with the project you’ve created, it’s music that’s really meant to be experienced. Are there any artists who you take notes from when creating soundscapes in your music?
ROMY: Hmmm, if something’s reminding me of something else, I don’t really want to go towards that because I feel like musical always feels better when it’s not referencing other music to me. At least in my experience.
HAPPY: Yeah, when it’s always fresh.
ROMY: Yeah, I like the feeling of it being mine. But the soundscape sort of thing… when when I was a teenager, I remember listening to Actress a lot. Just the way he would make textures and put weird sounds together that don’t really go together and create these weird… I don’t know [laughs]. He’s one of my idols. Yeah, heaps of people. Even the way Stereolab, like it could be a rock song, but Stereolab makes it into a weird soundscape. I think CAN as well. CAN is a huge one for this record. They’re like a traditional band in the weirdest way. Yeah, there’s a lot of little things going on.
HAPPY: We all know the e4444e tagline is “try in the sun, in the car, or in the dark.” Where do you recommend audiences try out the new record for the optimal listening experience?
ROMY: [Laughs] Ooh, damn, I have to think about that. Maybe on the beach? At like 5pm on the sand, with your headphones, or with a few friends, loud. Or in the morning. I love listening to music in the morning, the dawn or dusk thing.
HAPPY: Yeah totally.
ROMY: Or night-time, with your headphones in bed. I still do that all the time as I go to sleep, put on a record in the dark. It just has something different.
HAPPY: I know, it’s so good! That’s how I got through quarantine pretty much, just chucking on my headphones, cranking up some ambient tunes.
ROMY: Yeah, right?
HAPPY: But honestly, listening to the record, I would totally vibe a location album gig somewhere. Like what RÜFÜS DU SOL pulled in Joshua Tree? Where would be your ideal location if you were to do something like this?
ROMY: Ah, that’s a hard one. Maybe… the record cover is the Snowy River in Thredbo?
HAPPY: Ooh yeah?
ROMY: Ah, I’m trying to think… the record also reminds me of farmland somewhere in northern New South Wales for sure. Yeah, northern New South Wales, or just exactly where the album cover is, next to that river. In the grass, in the bush.
HAPPY: Yeah, I was lowkey thinking Fort Scratchley would go off.
ROMY: Oh yeah, that’s a good idea! Yeah, I’m not very good at thinking of those sorts of ideas. I’m pretty just stuck in the music.
HAPPY: I totally stole the idea from RAAVE TAPES, so I can’t take credit [laughs].
ROMY: Oh really, did they do that?
HAPPY: Yeah, back in 2017 for one of their single launches. Cause I’d never considered it to be a gig venue at all and thought it was the coolest thing ever.
ROMY: [Laughs] Yeah, I think I remember that actually.
HAPPY: I’ll stop getting sidetracked though [laughs]. When you hear people discussing your music, it always seems like people find it a little bit impossible to pigeonhole what e4444e is into one specific genre. We hear folk, electronic, and experimental get thrown around a lot. When you’re writing, how do you navigate these conventions that we all know and love, versus looking for new textures in your sound?
ROMY: The way I think about it might sound a little weird, but it’s things like saying “I’m about to write a rock song or about to write a cool soundscape”, that never really enters my head. I think genres and stuff like that just come afterwards. I’m not thinking about the conventions or trying to make something, something, you know what I mean? There’s a Zen saying that “people mistake the finger pointing to the moon, for the moon,” and I think that genres are the finger, and the moon is the sound coming out of your speakers.
HAPPY: Damn, that’s so true.
ROMY: Yeah, I just don’t think about it.
HAPPY: Being from Newy myself, I obviously already know this, but could you break down what’s so great about the city’s music scene for us, and why you continue to create music there?
ROMY: I’ve never thought of it as a place where you have to make one type of music, or where one type of music is dominating over the other. At least not in my experience. So I just like how everyone is doing their own thing. I know there’s scenes of like indie rock, and there used to be a big noise scene. And before that, I think hardcore garage, techno music used to be a big thing?
HAPPY: [Laughs] I remember it well.
ROMY: I guess it’s like any other place, but Sydney seems a bit more cliquey – or maybe I’m just not going to the right places.
HAPPY: [Laughs] Well a few years ago, it seemed like Newy’s music scene had a bit of a surge of new talent, yourself included. And this upcoming community started to form, which I feel like really caught the attention of the big leagues in Sydney and Melbourne. How has this community contributed to or influenced the e4444e project we see today?
ROMY: Yeah, just going out and seeing other people try and make music is probably my favourite part of it. And it’s given me a place to play when I was younger. Like supporting everyone else, jumping on gigs… but yeah, the thing that’s most encouraging, that was and still is most encouraging for me, is people. People seeing other people try to make music because that’s what I’m trying to do, I guess.
HAPPY: Yeah completely. Congrats again on the record, thanks so much for chatting to us!
ROMY: No, all good! Thanks for chatting with me.
Coldstream Road is available everywhere. Check out e4444e here.