by Adam Cash, Contributing Writer
On July 30th, Tayls will take the stage at Basement East in Nashville to present songs from their debut album Have You Ever? (I’ve Always) for the first time, and frontman Taylor Cole is determined to pull out all the stops to bring these songs into the world.
“It’s gonna be the biggest amount of show that I could pull out of me, I think”, he says. “I’m still wondering what else I can do to make it just… unforgettable”.
The potential for a Tayls live show to be an utter barnburner jumps immediately off of Have You Ever (I’ve Always), on which every single song is oozing with potential to be sung along to by raucous and enthralled gig-goers. Similtaneously, the album traffics in joy, anger, frustration, and grief, and it’s produced with ambition and grandeur to match. Leaping between and weaving together punk, maximalist indie-rock, Britpop and country effortlessly, it’s a record guided first and foremost by Cole’s crystal-clear and intentional ambition, while also absorbing by osmosis the sounds of the country music industry machine that surrounds the Nashville eight-piece band.
Cole’s work in Tayls is shaped by his own self-interrogation and imagination, as well as intense study of musicians and frontpeople he admires. “For the past 10 years or more, I wake up every single day, around three, four or five AM, and I call it my ‘first morning’ or my ‘witching hour'”, he says. “I would usually write songs or think about how I wanted to be perceived as a frontman, how I want the band to look, how I want it to sound, what I want the message to be, how explosive I wanted it to be.” The band was intent on getting all of the pieces together before considering a tour, from merch to recordings to a full set of music, and the machine is ready to run. When Cole watches artists he admires whether live and in person or through online videos, he soaks the entire performance in, from vocal techniques to the way they move on stage to careful consideration of their lyrics. This time around, he and the band enlisted Jake Ingalls of The Flaming Lips (Cole’s “favorite band in the whole wide world”) and Memphis psych-rock outfit Spaceface to produce Have You Ever? (I’ve Always). He also offers the lyrical storytelling and grandiose arrangements of Conor Oberst in Bright Eyes and the untouchable confidence and swagger of Oasis’ Liam Gallagher as strong influences on his music and performance in Tayls.
Cole’s approach to talking about his work comes across as confident and deliberate, perhaps with moments where he has to give himself permission to be confident, but nonetheless focused on self-realization and pushing himself to his limit as a performer. He drums in another band, indie rock group Creature Comfort, and describes that as the thing he’s best at. “I play drums really well, and I’m not afraid to say that, but put me in front of the mic and put a guitar in my hands and I’m really trying to push myself”, he says. He says he’s taking guitar lessons, in case life circumstances require him to play more in Tayls (co-founder and lead guitarist Greg Dorris splits time between Europe and Nashville), and has a great deal of admiration for James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Even though he seems to be the guiding hand behind Tayls, Cole deflects plenty of credit to his bandmates and other contributors like Ingalls for making an eight-person band work. “I know that the songs are going to be a lot better and grow, and the potential for them to become whatever they could be is there if I open it up to the band. But then they allow me to take it back and say, yo, we don’t need to go in that direction. Let’s do something else”. The presence of Ingalls allowed Cole to focus on being a part of the group during the recording process and for Tayls as a whole to keep experimenting with the sound of the record. “Jake was so good at conducting that many people and just keeping the vibe really great.” Cole says. “He helped us keep the fun in the room, keep the magic happening. We were always recording at one time, like three or four different instruments in different rooms. You’d be like, alright, is he laying down guitar? I’m gonna go try this new piano part over it and just record it and see what happens. We’ll delete it later if it sucks, just go in there and do it.”
Cole’s desire to push himself and Tayls beyond the confines of Nashville’s music scene is a motivating factor both for the way the band operates and the way it sounds. Cole, who has an inside view of that world as a talent buyer for multiple venues in Nashville, is reluctant to associate himself with it, even though the cast of players that are also involved in the Nashville scene inevitably give it a touch of local flavor. “I think maybe I wanted the band to sound like this because I wanted it to be totally different than anything coming out of Nashville. I wanted it to be not typical, I wanted it to push the boundaries as much as I can,” he says. He uses Tayls as an outlet occasionally to express his feeling of isolation from the scene, which he describes as highly competitive, and Have You Ever (I’ve Always) track “Better” specifically lampoons and highlights that frustration.
Nonetheless, Tayls, colorful, loud, joyous, and wearing its heart on its sleeve, is going to be impossibe to drown out in Nashville for years to come. Years of mental preparation and a year and a half of pandemic later, Tayls is ready to get its show on the road, and Cole is more than ready to see his work and intention come to fruition. Just like in his music, there’s no hiding his ambitions — Taylor Cole is ready to be a superstar. And with an upcoming tour and a slot at Nashville Pride coming up on the horizon, the road is becoming clearer.
Adam Cash is a freelance writer, musician, and librarian raised in rural Oregon and based in Los Angeles.