In what he calls a personal meditation, Missoula bassist Cole Grant has been using his recently rediscovered loop pedal to escape the chaos of the pandemic and continue making music in isolation from his bandmates.
The member of Transcendental Express and Red Onion Purple recently released his debut solo EP aptly dubbed “Covid Loops,” featuring 19 short tracks he made after reuniting with the musical recording/playback device during quarantine.
“Once everything kind of started falling apart … I just gravitated back towards it,” he said.
The loop pedal allows him to make dynamic, multi-instrument songs by himself, a handy tool for a musician living in isolation who’s used to having band practice twice a week.
“I was kind of having a conversation with myself,” Grant said of the series of tracks he’s recorded over the past four months. “That has always been a part of my mental health, was to have band practice. It just really helps to communicate with people nonverbally and all of the sudden, I didn’t have that.”
Most of the loops are mellow and calming, with a few sprinkled throughout that are more chaotic — a reflection of the emotions Grant has experienced under stay-at-home orders.
“I’m a huge fan of avante garde noise stuff, arguably just as much as the really calming stuff that I’m into,” he said, “It’s all about the yin and the yang. You’ve got to have both.”
In a series of loops titled “The Great Slowdown,” sounds intertwine and grow, creating a messy, chaotic noise that feels like a train out of control.
“I was definitely feeling a little on edge,” he said.
Grant used a small Casio keyboard to play piano chords looped on top of a rhythm and then let the layers build.
“You don’t have to press down the pedal to confirm the loop. You can just kind of let it roll and it will keep stacking on top (of itself),” he said. “So every sequence it went through, another layer of drums came through about a millisecond off of the last one, so it just kept building and building and building.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Prairie,” the longest loop in the group, is an easygoing back and forth between two chords that takes you from inside your house and transports you to a wide- open space.
The song was inspired by Bitterroot-based bassist Tommy Sciple.
“He showed me these chords that I use in ‘Prairie’ that are just outside of anything I’ve ever really learned and I was just infatuated with them,” Grant said, adding he was able to take a couple of lessons from Sciple in January.
While some of the loops may evolve into songs for the bands he’s in, for now he said the short snippets of music were more of a personal experience for him. He’s not sure when Transcendental Express and Red Onion Purple will be able to play live shows again, but said the band members are eager to get back to rehearsals.
Over the past couple months using his loop pedal, the emotions have ranged from frustrated to joyful to all over the place, but he said continuing to create is what’s kept him grounded.
“It truly took me out of all the chaos that was going on and it was my solace.”