Sports Coach is the Boston, Massachusetts-based project from multi-instrumentalist, J Thatcher May. Last week we discussed the album Beau and His Dreams in our Under the Radar Series. Today, Open Ears has the pleasure of premiering the latest album and spending a little bit of time interviewing the experimental electronic musician about his creative process, touring the United States, and cruising around.
BC: First of all the name… when and where did the name “Sports Coach” first come about?
It’s funny you ask because I actually realized I started Sports Coach exactly 2 years ago yesterday. I put out my first album HIT THE SHOWERS November 13th, 2014. I made music before Sports Coach under the name “Holm.” (with the period). I was making more hip-hop and jazz influenced “beat music” for a couple of years and created a small following. I started to gravitate more towards indie music when I started trying to sing over my beats. The fans I had made weren’t as into this and my albums started doing really poorly. I decided the best thing to do would be to completely start over and re-create myself and my music. That’s when Sports Coach was born. As for the name itself, I thought it was funny in an ironic kind of way. I’m not really a Sports person and most certainly have never been a Coach of any kind. It was all just a joke at the time.
BC: How has the release of this album been different compared to the other albums previously released? It seems like Sports Coach has slightly moved away from the lo-fi sound presented in earlier albums.
It’s been pretty different, but not at all different at the same time. I’ve noticed I tend to go through these creative cycles. I’ll make a guitar based kind of “indie-rock” album and then the next album I’ll make a lo-fi synth thing and the next will be a higher quality synth thing… Of course, the exact order of genre varies. It kind of depends on what mood I’m in at the time of writing. Beau and His Dreams is my 12th album since I started this project and I’ve definitely spanned a wide range of genres, for better or worse. This album is definitely a little less lo-fi than my last few albums but it’s similar to two higher quality electronic albums I put out last year, one called “they likely came by sea, with eyes forest keen” and another called “until something works”. I put those out over September and October so it’s almost full circle, stylistically. As for what I’m working on currently, though, I’ve definitely gravitated back to the lo-fi sound as of now.
BC: After recently catching only a little bit of your set – I say only a little bit because the set was cut short because of technical difficulties at The Gateway in Brooklyn. Would you say that touring has had any influence for Beau and His Dreams?
That show was easily my worst show on that Sports Coach – Lance Bangs tour. Which sucks because it was one of the best bills, no doubt. I started that tour with a set-up that consisted of an Akai “MPD-32”, which broke in Charleston, South Carolina, and a Korg “Kaoss Pad Quad” which, unfortunately, broke that night at the Gateway, on stage. On top of that, the sound guy wasn’t really proficient and came up to me after the show and said: “Sorry, I didn’t realize, but I was doing this when I should’ve been doing this and that’s why it wasn’t working out.” So basically, all the problems that could’ve happened, happened all at once. But you move on, you have good shows and bad shows. Touring did have an influence on the album for sure. Before that two-week tour, I had been on tour for a month from May – June as Sports Coach. During that previous tour, I was playing a completely different, super lo-fi, album. It did well but I wasn’t really getting the reaction I wanted. I like to make people move in some way, that previous album just wasn’t doing it. So when I got home in Mid-June, I wrote Beau and his Dreams and completely scrapped the previous album, never put it out. When I went on tour with Beau and his Dreams in Mid-July the reaction was great. Obviously, not every show is going to be a party, not everyone is always going to feel comfortable enough to move around and dance. But most nights, the crowds were really receptive and into it. That being the case I knew the album was worth finishing and putting out.
BC: The Sports Coach is based out of Boston, but the label, Step Pepper Records, is based out of Alabama. How did that come about?
Back when I started this project, my first ever real tour was with my friend Amahl from New Orleans who makes electronic music under the name “AF THE NAYSAYER”. We did a 3-week east coast run, from Boston to Florida. At the time he had put out an EP with this label, Step Pepper Records, and we played a show in Alabama and got to hang with the main guy, Andy, for a little bit, really nice guy. Fast forward 2 years later and I was looking for a label to put out a cassette for Beau and His Dreams and was conscious of the fact that it was very much and “electronic” album. A lot of my label friends, being from more guitar rock-based backgrounds, weren’t super into it. I remembered Step Pepper since they primarily work with electronic music and sent them a message. They were immediately super into it and supportive. Working with them was a breeze. Really professional and the tapes look great.
BC: Physical releases are coming alongside the release. Is there any particular reason you enjoy distributing your music via cassettes?
For me, it’s really just a personal thing. I’ve always loved cassettes. I dig the look, the feel, the sound. I have a pretty big collection of older tapes and tapes from bands I’ve played with on tours. There’s just something really gratifying about having a physical version of your own music. I have three Sports Coach tapes out now and I’ve been so stoked to be able to create each one. Tapes are definitely a niche market and not everyone likes them since a lot of people don’t have cassette players and such, but regardless they’re neat to me. Unfortunately, Beau and His Dreams won’t be coming out on vinyl but putting something out on vinyl is definitely a goal of mine.
BC: Thank you for your time today! Are there any closing thoughts you would like the readers to take in today?
Thank you for supporting my music ! When listening to this album, envision my dog Beau living in an 80s themed city with lots of neon lights. He’s wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket, just cruising around.