Chris Koza is the kind of man who gives cigarettes to homeless people. In person and in his music he is wantonly candid and authentic. Koza and his four-piece band happily loll at mid tempo, blending roots music, twang and a heavy dose of pop to create a giddy sound so large it breaks the boundaries and escapes the snaking sidewalks of this city.
Koza himself is a New York City/ Minneapolis straddler. On his new album, The Dark, Delirious Morning, he mixes drum machine tones of big-city modernity with the organic sound of Midwestern acoustic guitars. The result gives his classic pop a modern feel that deserves a snug position on radio playlists. Koza’s music is infectiously uplifting and defiantly optimistic. It is luxuriously toe-tapping and a good cure for people who can’t afford Prozac. It makes even those fading summer sunburns feel OK.
I talked with Koza outside the Triple Rock before his set last Saturday. While I was staring jealously at his vintage glasses, we discussed Ms. Pac-Man, hair metal and the definition of "modern geek."
Erin Roof: I like on your Myspace page how you have a quirky list of influences, like pocket handkerchiefs and things like that. Is there anything you’ve seen today that particularly caught your eye and inspired you?
Chris Koza: I’ve got to go through my whole day. I played the Ms. Pac-Man game at the CC Club. It’s the best Ms. Pac-Man game west of the Mississippi.
ER: What makes it different?
CK: Well, I’ve played a few on this last tour. It handles great. The ghosts are a great combination of cleverness and stupidity. When they’re too smart, you know, it takes the player out of the game. You should just let it play itself.
ER: I’m terrible at video games.
CK: Yeah, me too. Ms. Pac-Man is the only one I ever really liked.
ER: Were you allowed to play video games growing up?
CK: Yeah, we had Super Mario, Duck Hunt. I really haven’t done a whole lot today because we got back from tour at 6 o’clock in the morning.
ER: How did it go?
CK: It went really well. We were in Missouri last night. We played this outdoor concert an arts society set up. It was in this little town square. So, I guess if there was anything I saw in the last 24 hours, it’s on the drive back. We passed a lot of little, small towns that, if none of us were paying attention, we could essentially think we were driving in circles. They all looked the same at first glance.
ER: Is there a particular reason that you felt pulled toward pop music, and have you ever felt like you just needed to let loose with some angry chords?
CK: I used to try to play angry chords. I’m not really an angry guy. I mean, I get disappointed about things. I can feel really damn depressed for several days at a time, or maybe even entire seasons. But I felt when I was writing songs that were more angry sounding it made me feel worse, and it kind of took away some of the joy I found of writing songs. For me, right now where I’m at as a songwriter, it’s not where I get my inspiration.
ER: If you were to do something completely opposite, like say a hair metal band, what do you think it would look and sound like?
CK: Well, it would have to start with the main ingredient being David Bowie, ‘cause he’s got the glam. He’s got the fashion, the looks and the abilities. He’s got all the energy. Then I would put a bunch of diesel grease all over everything. And I’d probably tune all the strings on the guitar down to the lowest notes possible and try to belch as much as possible when I sing. And climb up the rafters.
ER: Tell me about your new album.
CK: We released The Dark, Delirious Morning at First Avenue on June 7th. I’ll call it adventurous, acoustic-based pop with equal parts classic rock/pop songwriting and modern geek.
ER: What do you mean by "modern geek"?
CK: Well, you know, like the nerdy tones or maybe the occasional lo-fi static.
ER: Can you explain your stage show for someone who hasn’t seen it?
CK: They can expect a group of people that are into the material, and they aren’t overly flamboyant, but they’re not a bunch of bumps on the log either. It’s very honest. The performance, whatever material we’re playing is rootsy, it’s kind of earthy-like one big pop muscle flexing at the same time.
ER: What are your plans and goals?
CK: My goal is to be a touring musician full time. Tour the U.S. Tour the U.K. Tour Japan. Get out there. See the world. Be able to play music and share it with people and be able to do this without going super broke. It’s my livelihood, but I also want it to be my life.
Chris Koza, with The Alarmists, Blue Heels, and The Wars of 1812; Friday, Aug. 29th; 8 pm, Varsity Theater, 1308 4th St SE, Minneapolis