The Co Founder: Keeping Things Interesting

The Co Founder: Keeping Things Interesting

Californian indie outfit The Co Founder will soon be releasing their marvellously monikered new studio album 'Never Miss A Good Opportunity To Shut The Fuck Up'. We've heard it. You'll want to too.

Although the album's not out till May [2024], The Co Founder boys kindly gave us early access. We've been listening to it for the last couple of weeks. It's damn fine! 

For a foretaste, the lead single 'Shoes For Runners', an especially delicious slice of emo rock, has just been released. Check it out.

NMAGOTSTFU, as well as being an initialism longer than most words, is an impressive and deeply satisfying album. Shot through with diverse musical influences, it somehow succeeds at being both edgy and nostalgic, and in a way that keeps you coming back for more. 

Founded originally in 2015 by songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist Hayden Eller, The Co Founder released several albums and toured extensively in the US, Japan and beyond, before taking a break in 2019. Now, with Covid out of the way and a new line-up in place, they're back. 

We confess we hadn't heard the old Co Fo. It was word of mouth that led us to Co Fo 2.0. We reached out, the guys answered, and we got to have a nice long chat with frontman Hayden and guitarist and album co-writer Andrew Graves.

Don't miss this great opportunity to shut up and meet The Co Founder. For the story of the band, the album, their influences and more, read on!

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Please describe The Co Founder for anyone who hasn’t heard you before. 

Hayden Eller – We describe ourselves as indie punk, but we’re pretty heavy live. I like to scream! We have a ton of different influences: Militarie Gun, Webbed Wing, Third Eye Blind, Tom Petty. I could go on. 

We’re stoked you let us hear your new album before the release. It bangs! 

Hayden – Thanks guys. It’s the best album Co Fo has ever written. Short, anthemic songs with a few rough edges thrown in to keep things interesting. 

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Before we talk more about the album, tell us when and how The Co Founder was founded.

Hayden – The project started back in 2015 in my college dorm room, with my friend Charlie on drums. At first we were The Co-Founders, but later I dropped the plural and lost the hyphen.

I like the name because it’s open ended; people take what they want from it, which is where we aim our music to land.

The band took a break in 2019. Why? 

Hayden – We toured so heavily from 2016 to 2019 that I was starting to get burnt out. I was feeling like I was writing the same song over and over, and my old bandmates and I weren’t on the same page about how much we wanted to continue touring.

Co Fo took a break because I needed space to grow as a musician and songwriter. 

How did Co Fo 2.0 come about? 

Hayden – Andrew and I have been close friends since 2017. When I started writing again and moved to Oakland, California, where Andrew also lives, it was a no-brainer to have him involved.

He’s an incredible musician. I’ve never written with someone who thinks about music the way he does. 

The Co Founder @ryantuttlephoto

What enticed you into the Co Fo fold, Andrew? 

Andrew Graves – I was impressed by Hayden’s versatility as a songwriter. Every time we’d meet up to record demos, he’d be listening to different bands and putting new spins on the songs we were writing. 

There’s a lot of variety on the album that speaks to how Hayden’s able to pull inspiration from so many different places. 

Tell us about 'Never Miss A Good Opportunity To Shut The Fuck Up’. What inspired it? 

Hayden – In the time Co Fo was dormant, I got married. Some of the songs draw from being in a committed, long-term relationship.

I’ve known my wife, Kelsie, for close to 10 years. She's seen me go through some pretty gnarly ups and downs. 'Never miss a good opportunity to shut the fuck up' is something Kelsie said to me offhand one time.

It's sound advice. What's your typical songwriting process? 

Hayden – I tend to take the lead. I don’t have any musical training – I never took lessons or anything like that – so it comes down to me just messing around and trying stuff out until I hear something that resonates with me.

I’ll work on an idea by myself until I start to hit roadblocks, then I take it to Andrew and he adds his perspective. I’ve never had a songwriting partner with the musicality that Andrew possesses. It’s super inspiring. 

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What are you writing on when you’re messing around? 

Hayden – I used to write on a Takamine acoustic guitar my parents bought me as a high school graduation gift, but lately I’ve switched to starting with my Fender P-Bass and drums.

I start by creating a drum track in Logic and then I play bass until I find a cool chord progression or riff. After that, I’ll either layer on guitar or start writing vocals.  

What comes next? 

Hayden – After we fully demo out 3 or 4 songs, we re-record everything with our friends Daniel Charlson and Jordan Krimston in San Diego. Those are the absolute homies; they take our silly little demos and turn them into fully-fledged pieces of art.

Jordan and Daniel are super-talented artists. Jordan rewrites and records the drums while we’re in the studio and we build from there. For this album, we had three separate sessions in San Diego.

The Co Founder @ryantuttlephoto

Did you have a clear vision for the album?

Andrew – We actually didn’t plan to record an entire record. Our intention was to record a couple of singles and to put them out to get back in the swing of releasing music. We had so much fun, we figured we’d record a few more to make an EP. Then we realised a full record was inevitable.

Whenever we had a session with Jordan and Daniel, we came out of it with a huge boost of inspiration. It was fairly bittersweet after the last session because we didn’t want to stop hanging out and recording songs.

The album's been announced and the first single is out. How are you feeling? 

Andrew – I can’t deny there’s some nervousness around what people will think about the songs, but my predominant feeling is definitely excitement. We started recording demos about a year and a half ago so putting the songs out in the world is an amazing feeling.

I’m someone who has a hard time finishing my creative projects, but Hayden has a lot of drive and motivation to keep things moving forward. I’m really grateful for that.

You've just released the first single off the album. Tell us about ‘Shoes For Runners’. 

Hayden – The song’s about an unhealthy relationship that doesn’t live up to expectations, and the paranoia that goes with failed communication.

It was the first song we wrote for the album. It was apparent from the jump that it was going to be one of the lead singles. The lead line that Andrew wrote after the first chorus is one of my favourite parts of the whole album.  

How does it compare to your earlier stuff? 

Hayden – The song is more purposeful, more thought-through. I would say that about the whole album really. We worked tirelessly to strip away anything we felt was unnecessary. Each chord is purposeful.

This album is definitely the most confident I’ve been in my voice as an artist. I worked really hard as a vocalist to better understand my voice and how to utilise it properly.

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The Co Founder is more than the two of you. Tell us about your live band. 

Hayden – In the live setting, we’re a five-piece: Colin Frost on bass, Ryan Tuttle on guitar, and Brayan Tarazona on drums.

Our line-up came together super organically. After Daniel was finished with the mixing and mastering, we shared the album with these close friends. They were excited to be involved.

Describe the personalities in the band. 

Hayden – Andrew and I are the most anxious, for sure. Watching us make a decision is painful! Ryan and Brayan are both really level-headed and consistent, and Colin is just super chill. Nothing phases him. 

We all mesh really well. We have just enough anxiety to keep everyone honest, but we love and care about each other enough to prioritise our friendships and open, honest communication above everything else.  

The Co Founder @ryantuttlephoto

What's the best thing about being in a band? 

Hayden – Having a reason to scream with your friends for a few hours a week. The catharsis that comes with that emotional release is unlike anything else.

Andrew – Back when we were working on demos for the album, meeting up with Hayden to record was always my favourite part of the day. I was in a bit of a musical slump during and after Covid, but the writing process for this record rejuvenated my love for it.

What’s been the band’s biggest highlight so far? 

Andrew – At the end of last year, we opened for Into It. Over It. on their ‘Intersections’ 10-year anniversary tour. Evan Weiss was a big inspiration when I was growing up. I always loved his guitar work. Getting to share the stage with him is one of my favourite moments as a musician, for sure. 

Hayden – The biggest moment for me was having New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik sing on this album. It felt pretty surreal to hear how thoughtful he was with the different parts. He was super prepared and had written out ideas for different harmonies. We couldn’t be more stoked with how it turned out. 

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Who are you biggest influences?

Hayden - I have a ton: Tom Petty, Tom Delonge, Andy Williams, Luke Hogfoss, Cola Boyy. Some bands I’m hyped on these days are Scowl, Spiritual Cramp, Shut Ups, Star 99, Marbled Eye, Polkadot. I know I’m missing some.

Ian Shelton from Militarie Gun and Taylor Madison from Webbed Wing have been particularly big influences for me over the past few years. I love their ability to write catchy songs that don’t feel redundant. 

And for you, Andrew?

Andrew – Some of my favourites are Julien Baker and Laura Stevenson. Their performances are incredibly cathartic and always leave me with my jaw on the floor. I feel like I’m witnessing them work through their emotions in real time. 

I also have to mention Slang Church. They’re an Oakland-based art collective and they’re an essential part of the East Bay music scene. Billy Bouzos and Co Fo bassist Colin Frost co-founded the collective and give so much to the community. They both inspire me every day. 

The Co Founder @ryantuttlephoto

Give us an album everyone should own. 

Hayden – Damn, that’s a hard question! One that's been on heavy rotation recently – not necessary formative but an absolute banger in its own right - is Militarie Gun’s ‘Life Under The Gun’.

Andrew – blink-182's self-titled album was a pretty pivotal one for me. It was released the same year I started learning guitar. My relationship with music really started to evolve at that time and I loved learning how to play the songs on that album. 

If you could be in any band, other than The Co Founder, now or at any time, which would it be?

Hayden – I would want to take David Kennedy’s spot in Box Car Racer. Fun songs. Fun shows. Playing to packed out rooms every night. Tom Delonge as a bandmate has to be hilarious.

Andrew – Soundgarden would be cool. I would’ve loved to be in the Pacific Northwest when grunge was starting to take off in the ‘90s. I always loved their heavy take on the grunge sound. Getting to play with Chris Cornell – rest in peace – would be sweet too. 

Thanks so much for your time today, guys. 

Hayden – We’re stoked to have this opportunity to collaborate and to share about the record with a blog that actually gives a shit about the music.

Cheers, guys. It's an impressive album. Thanks for giving us early access. We'll send you some tees to show our appreciation.

Hayden – Thanks guys. I fuck with the Blank Stare Tee. That’s a pretty good illustration of how I feel most days!

Andrew – The Gunslinger Tee is cool too.

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We’ll ship those bad boys out to you. Thanks again. And finally, what’s next for The Co Founder? 

Hayden – We’re heading on a short run of shows in a few weeks. Really stoked to play in Los Angeles with our friends No Win.

And we have some yet-to-be-announced tour plans for this summer to support the album release. 

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► ︎‘Shoes For Runners" by The Co Founder is streaming now on Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and elsewhere.

📸 Ryan Tuttle / Band photo by Christine La

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