The Co Founder: New album, new sound, new world
by McKenna Cardwell
photo by Queen Susan Marie Barrow III
Since their start in September 2015, The Co Founder has evolved from one man’s acoustic solo musings to a three-piece band. Drummer Jake Barrow and guitarist turned bassist Luke Hogfoss have joined vocalist/guitarist Hayden Eller to produce their first collaborative album, Wye, set to be released Sept. 8.
The Co Founder began in earnest over the summer of 2015, when Hayden was offered a job in the Peace Corp, but turned it down because his heart was in making music. “Playing live was something I saw as a step towards reaching a goal that I had set for myself, and so I just kinda went for it. The first time I played my guitar/sang in front of an audience of more than 2-3 people was last August at Café Racer, and so it’s been a really gratifying experience slowly becoming more confident as a performer.”
As Hayden’s music progressed, he saw the need to add musicians into the project, first bringing on Vervex’s Jake Barrow and later Luke Hogfoss formerly of Hayden’s favorite local band, The Palisades and currently a member of City Hall. It was The City Hall, a band that both Barrow and Hogfoss play in, that Eller reached out to over social media when he was just beginning to create a name for himself. The pull of Bellingham’s music scene encouraged the three to stay in touch, and they began adapting a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality by subbing in for one another when needed.
A mutual respect and strong friendship quickly developed between them, making the eventual transition from fellow musicians to Co Founder bandmates a natural progression.
“I honestly can’t remember the first time we all sat down and played Co Founder music,” Barrow said. “Luke and I have heard Hayden play solo on tour for a while now… so it was like coming in on something that we already knew really well.”
The creation of Wye began a while back with the skeleton structure of their first song written around Christmas of 2015. Working with their sporadic schedules, the band came together when possible to collaborate and then record instrumentals here and there.
“It was almost like watching a puzzle grow as we added in a piece here and a bassline there,” Hogfoss stated. “Jake and I were able to bring in additions to sort of “self-actualize” the already great music that Hayden had written.” Eller added. “The type of music we’re playing now is pretty spot on to what I’d hoped to transition into when I first started out, so getting the chance to not only fulfill that, but to do so with two really close friends whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for as musicians has been pretty indescribable.”
With a mutual friend, Tye Hastings, providing engineering and sound mixing help, the album was completely written, recorded and produced by the band.
“It was kind of a slow process,” Barrow said. “We had to record everything little by little, in places like Luke’s parents’ house and our living rooms and the drums were recorded in a basement.”
It is their undoubtedly strong bond and the successful collaboration between three talented musicians that elevates The Co Founder’s already mature sound.
Continuing to utilize the “bare-bones” and “stripped down” feel of Eller’s original music, the band focused on balancing compact and concentrated song structures with wide open chords. Including what needs to be there and nothing more. “I just wanted to focus on writing really simple pop songs for this album, so when I was writing the initial demos I tried to strip as much away as I could. I wanted to see what the result would be if we stuck to an ideal that each song needed to be similar to that Nirvana approach of ‘nursery rhymes on steroids,’” Eller stated, adding, “I have a soft spot for really big, anthemic, music, so (to me) Wye is an interesting juxtaposition between this stripped down three piece playing really simple songs that have pretty big choruses.”
“I’m influenced by bands like Blink-182 and Nirvana,” Eller said. “And their message that you should have a sense to limit yourself as an artist and allow room for the listener to fill in their own relationship with the music.”
Leading up to the release of Wye, The Co Founder is posting four videos, one every week, to preview their new music and give their listeners a chance to win band merchandise. The videos were recorded throughout Western’s campus, of which all three members are graduates.
The Co Founder is also booked to tour the West Coast, packing up their gear and traveling to San Diego and back. The tour begins Sept. 22 at The Crocodile in Seattle and ends at the Make.Shift here in Bellingham on Oct. 8.
“Touring is hard work,” Hogfoss said. “You lose money and sleep and a lot of hygiene, but it’s important to build relationships with your audience to gain any sort of traction as a band.”
Appropriately named Wye, which is a triangle junction on a track that alters the course of a moving train, this album combines the traction of three individually driven artists to propel The Co Founder forward in a common direction.
“It is really inspiring being able to work with two of my favorite musicians,” Eller said. “When I’m able to bring something to two people who I really care about and who are extremely talented, it is more rewarding if anything than working on something solo.”
LIVE SHOWS: See The Co Founder Sept. 15 at The Shakedown with Hibou and Fauna Shade, and Sept. 22 at the Crocodile (Seattle) with Female Fiends and Candysound. The band ends their tour at Make.Shift Oct. 8. Follow their Facebook page for updates and visit thecofoundermusic.com.