For the members of Couch, a Boston-area band with almost a million Spotify streams, meeting online is all too familiar. Unlike the many students who first downloaded Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic, Couch’s members — college students from different local schools with little time to physically meet — embraced video conferencing a long time ago. The group’s experience ensured that limited in-person contact proved no obstacle to the release of the five new singles in their eponymous first EP on Feb. 26.
Most of the band's members had already met in high school before forming Couch in November 2018. “It began as just a rotating group each song,” says guitarist Zach Blankstein. “We were planning on featuring different musicians. But we had so much fun working on that first single ... We decided to keep this group solidified and move forward with this core.” But the group stayed true to their original intention of exploring different musical styles by featuring different artists and instruments. “We love collaboration,” says Eric A. Tarlin ’21-’22. And Couch’s collaborators seem to love the group just as much, helping defy genres with the individual styles they bring.
“I don't know that it was even necessarily a decision we made to try and experiment with genres,” says vocalist Tema Siegel, who credits the band’s unique sound to the members’ varying musical backgrounds. “We always say that we try to kind of defy the tropes of pop music by infusing it a little more with jazz and funk and soul … We all bring a lot of different musical tastes to the table and it results in that fusion.”
Fusion seems to be a key word for Couch. Influenced by artists from Paul McCartney and Buddy Rich to Charlie Puth and Bruno Mars, Couch’s unique music brings together instruments as different as bass guitar and saxophone to blur the lines between genres, mixing poppy rhythms with jazz, funk, and soul elements.
While this blend proved successful with online listeners, the coronavirus pandemic forced the group to cancel their summer tour, taking away their chance to form the kind of personal, hands-on connections with fans made possible by a physical tour.
While Siegel was disappointed by the lack of normal concerts, she found a bright spot in the hugely successful drive-in concert the band organized over the summer. “I think everybody who was there missed live music, missed getting out and going to see live entertainment. And so it was really exciting for them. But it was also really special for us to know that we could still organize something and connect with an audience of people watching from their cars. They couldn't clap, but they could beep. And it was a really fun time,” Siegel says. The group’s drummer, Jared Gozinsky, agrees: “Since we all really love what we do with Couch, none of it really feels like work anyway,” he says.
Fortunately for the group, similarly serendipitous situations weren’t isolated incidents. “Our single that we just released called Black Bear Lane only happened, it was only written because four of us quarantined in Vermont very early on in the summer, which, of course, only happened because we were in the middle of the global pandemic. That song definitely wouldn't look the way it did, or definitely wouldn't exist at all, if not for COVID,” Danny Silverston says. The pandemic-related challenges of production “led to some experimentation sonically,” says Tarlin. In particular, limited instrumentation options led the band to experiment with blending soul, R&B, and sleek pop. Couch’s early embrace of videoconferencing proved similarly beneficial: “it's sort of just leveled the playing field a little bit between us, who were managing remote collaboration already and bands that were together in person,” Tarlin says.
The group’s current focus is on the release of their EP, with other plans laid out in broad strokes due to the lingering uncertainty of the pandemic. “I think we're in the immediate future really, really excited,” says Siegel, who hopes that the band will meet in person to start new projects this summer. “Definitely live shows whenever it's safe to do, so very much, looking forward to that,” says Tarlin. Gozinsky shares Siegel’s enthusiasm about giving Couch’s tour another try. “I think as soon as it's safe to do so, I think we're going to be all on top of that,” he says. “Well, we're all itching to play.” But no matter what the future brings, the band’s direction, at least to Zach Blankstein, is clear. “Forward. Keep moving forward.”