COA Vocalist Colin Campbell: “We’re a Hardcore Band That Tunes to E in a Drop-Tuned World”

Photo: Heather McGrath

If you’ve been in the Boston hardcore scene for more than five minutes you’ve run into COA at some point. One of the few survivors of the early 2000s Boston hardcore community where every band that broke up within a year or two has entered legendary status at this point.

Playing alongside bands like Palehorse, Mental, Ramallah, The Hope Conspiracy and many others, this alone could rank COA highly amongst the local and legendary scene but they take their dedication even further. With frontman Colin Campbell booking shows for nearly 20 years in both The Hub and his native Brockton, Massachussets he’s basically held the scene up on his shoulders.

COA emerged during an era where bands were focusing on speed and sounded raw without being processed. Power violence and the Youth Crew sound dominated the scene in the 2000s and everyone covered either Minor Threat or Infest (COA fell into the latter). Classics such as “Everyday I Walk the Same Way Home,” “F.E.M.A.,” and “50 Bag Hate” remain anthems for young and alienated Boston kids and have become required reading for those entering the scene.

The group's musical repertoire is a bit limited with only one album under their belt and a number of EPs. Their most recent release came in 2009 with the EP Science of Violence, which showed their sound moving further away from the more old-school hardcore sound of their first album, 2004's Illegal Exhibitions of Speed. COA, however, has maintained their status through live performances and a deep rooted connection to the community; they never gave up on Boston Hardcore and Boston Hardcore never gave up on them.

Now, 14 years since their last release, COA is gearing up to drop some new music. Life may have gotten in the way the last decade and a half but hasn’t lost any of that fury that’s kept them alive over two decades. With their new Trauma Dump EP, the boys Colin, Mike, Nick, and Mickey confirm that they’re still kicking and that anyone looking to climb the Boston hardcore ladder has to go through the final boss himself.

I first saw COA. when curiosity brought me to a free show at Presidents Rock Club in Quincy a decade ago and now I was able to talk to vocalist Colin Campbell about the bands upcoming EP, the legacy of the band. and how this lineup has maintained such a relationship since 2008 with the ever present chaos of life.

Read the interview below and check out COA first EP in 14 years, Trauma Dump.


A few years back you posted about an album's worth of demos you’d had for a decade. Do any of these tracks come from that batch or are they all brand new?

Colin Campbell (vocals): “Lovers, Muggers, & Thieves” on the upcoming EP is from that recording session. It’s the same recording session that Science of Violence came from. It was recorded at the Pain Cave with DFJ (Justin Detore), the rest is new material. We will continue to rework those unreleased songs on more stuff we have for 2024.

What influenced your lyrics on this record?

Colin: Getting over some stuff and being able to write with hindsight instead of in the rage of the moment, getting to know myself better over COVID lockdown. Reflecting on who and what I am. We all have moments where we think: I don’t want to be this person that I am anymore. You can get tired of being yourself. Being real is hard.

Photo: Aaron Pepelis

How do you feel you guys have progressed since the Science of Violence EP?

Colin: We put out that tape in 2009. 14 years of hating yourself, mental breaks, trying to see the light, and honing your craft can make a difference. We are the same band, but different.

How would you describe the Trauma Dump EP in one sentence?

Colin: We’re all here because we are not all there.

COA has been going strong for over 20+ years now, where do you look for musical inspiration now? How much has changed for you guys in terms of recording and releasing music?

Colin: We know what we are. We're a hardcore band that tunes to E in a drop-tuned world. It’s a fucking hardcore band, don’t church it up. Our inspiration comes from our world around us. It’s weird to spend your life thinking you’re insane. In the last few years though, my perspective flipped. Am I the last sane man alive? Seems like the whole damn world has gone insane.

Music is worthless. It’s quite literally worth nothing. Everyone pays nothing, or next to nothing to access their favorite records, new bands, and whatever algorithm these services spit at you. I scream my heart out for 20-30 minutes hoping that you’ll buy a t-shirt, something I actually make money on so I can continue making the valueless art that the t-shirt represents. Mickey (bass for COA) jokes that COA is a clothing line with a soundtrack. Video killed the radio star. Streaming hung the DJ.

When we started to be a band CDs were in their final form. Streaming wasn’t a thing people could even imagine. Imagine buying music? It wasn’t a free product. We were exclusively a vinyl band while touring extensively for 3-4 years. We went to Europe without distribution and had tapes because the pressing plant was behind. We took all those vinyl releases and put it out as Pain Machines.

COA's music is still sort of hard to find, the releases on streaming only cover about half of your discography. Why is that?

Colin: We don’t have a lot of our catalog streaming because the stuff that is up isn’t owned by us. John [Wylie] from Eulogy sold our catalog. Our recordings on Double or Nothing were on a handshake deal.

He sold the Eulogy conglomerate of recordings. Our recordings don’t belong to him. He sold them to some guy from the MTV show Made; Fronzilla. He's got a band called Attila. He’s got some business partner, Mike. Everyone involved is shitty at returning emails and calls. These people are hard to get to the table. Why would I upload what I do own when other people who stole from us could see a dime from it?

Where did you record this EP and with who?

Colin: We recorded this with the ever patient Alex Garcia-Rivera from American Nightmare fame at his studio, Mystic Valley Studio, in Medford, Massachusetts to tape. We recorded analog in part to test ourselves, and in part for the natural sound.

A lot of what’s coming out now is over produced, non natural sounds, even when something is “raw” it’s produced to sound that way. There’s no tricks, this is what the band sounds like. The magic is there is no magic. Let the band speak for itself.

You mentioned at the Bane show about how meaningful a dynamic this 4-piece of COA has after 15 years. Talk about that connection you Mike, Nick and Mickey have as a band that’s played together this long.

Colin: In short, these are my friends. I don’t want to do a band without them. Lots of older bands have a core group of 2 guys, or maybe just one guy from a decade ago. It’s sort of a bum out. 

I just don’t think I would be doing this type of band without these friends. It would feel like a betrayal.

Are you thinking of doing any record release shows for this? Are you going to do a vinyl release? Do you have a set date for the EPs release?

Colin: The songs will be out for Halloween. We should have vinyl out in November so all the bad kids can get it for Christmas. Triple B has done a great job with the vinyl package and Linas Garsys did a wonderful job putting it all together.

Heather McGrath took the cover shot and it’s exactly what we wanted, we have worked with her for a lot of our releases. She’s a great friend to us and has a great eye for what we want. “Trauma Dump” record release show is currently in the plan and will be announced shortly, count on it being in Brockton.

READ MORE: Meet Anchit Chhabra, One of Hardcore’s Busiest Musicians (Hold My Own, MH Chaos, Sector)

What does the future look like for COA? Do you think you guys will record more music?

Colin: We have more stuff in the can and an outline for 2024. I’m having fun with my friends, so who knows what the limit is. Our relationship with Triple B is great. I don’t see us doing extensive touring, but I do see us doing what we have always done. Holding down New England, playing with younger bands, our friends, and having fun.

Anybody you’d like to shout out at the end?

Colin: There’s so many people to shout out but let’s keep the list in check here: Sam and Alexa at Triple B, Heather McGrath, Linas Garsys, The Rev. Aaron Rreturn to the Pit) Todd Pollock, Alex at Mystic Valley for all their help getting this testimony to the people.


COA will be playing in Framingham tomorrow (10/28) with Damnation A.D., New Lows, Unreal City and Hard Target.

Trauma Dump is out now via Triple B Records (order here). 


Tagged: coa, colin of arabia