A Copeland Comeback

Copeland return after a six-year hiatus with a new album and a renewed outlook

Copeland Press Photo
Tooth & Nail Records

Come Friday, May 22, SDSU's Cal Coast Credit Union's Open Air Theatre will be rocking with the sounds of Paramore -- and Copeland?

It’s kind of an odd pairing,isn’t it? One band couldn’t be more entertainingly bombastic onstage if they tried, while the other deals in some of the most serene, subdued indie pop around -- with a frontman calmly seated at an electric piano and singing in an aching falsetto for the majority of their shows. The bizarre juxtaposition sure isn’t lost on that man, Copeland’s Aaron Marsh.

"We always think about that a little bit," Marsh told SoundDiego. "Who are we playing for? Who’s our audience? We wouldn’t try to outgun them because they’re such a powerful band. We wouldn’t stand a chance [laughs]. We wouldn’t try to compete with them at all. Instead, we’ll try to do something that complements them and contrasts that in some way -- maybe play some of the poppier stuff, some of the moodier stuff and just try to go the other direction and offer the fans something different. We’re just really grateful to be gone from the scene all this time and come back with this kind of opportunity."

Copeland, "Ixora"

Yeah, let’s talk about that for a minute. The last time we heard from Copeland seems like ages ago. After starting up the band (which now also includes guitarists Bryan and Stephen Laurenson and drummer Jonathan Bucklew) in 2001 and finding national success with their first two albums in particular, "Beneath Medicine Tree" and "In Motion," the guys took off in a much-different direction than the guitar-led quasi-emo/indie-rock sound their fans had come to expect from them. Albums like 2006’s "Eat, Sleep, Repeat" and 2008’s "You Are My Sunshine" (which was thought to be the band’s last) were stark departures from their previous work and featured a heavier electro sound, led by Marsh’s increased use of his sky-high falsetto and electric piano. They had evolved into more Radiohead, less Jimmy Eat World. Some fans simply gave up and moved on.

"The big shift was after the second record," Marsh explained. "Once we lost that big rhythm guitar on the third record, I think that’s when we saw people decide if they were still on board or not. It’s cool. It was very freeing. I feel like our fans now would be fine with a heavy record or with all strings. I think we’ve set the precedent that anything goes. It’s very cool, I feel lucky to have the fans we do."

Those fans were similarly blessed with a surprise fifth studio album self-releaed last year entitled “Ixora,” which found Copeland picking up right where they left off with "You Are My Sunshine" -- albeit perhaps a bit more focused and rejuvenated. After all, six years away from a band is a helluva long time, and everyone involved has been through a lot. People get older. Life changes. And those kinds of things tend to make their way onto records.

"Relatability is something I was going for [on ‘Ixora’]," Marsh said. "A lot of the emotions on it are tied to becoming a father -- that’s a huge change of identity. I went from a single dude who lived in a van and played music every night to getting married, owning a home and having a child. It was a massive identity shift."

And it makes for an achingly beautiful record with some of the strongest melodies the band has laid down, bookended with lyrics tackling depression, doubt, lost love and never-ending longing. It’s the sound of a band who has gone through the peaks and valleys of personal and musical growth over the last few years, and emerged from that journey a bit bolder, wiser and better for it.

Welcome back.

Copeland performs at SDSU's Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre on Friday, May 22, with Paramore. Tickets are available online here

Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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