Faith for the Faithless

Jonathan Weil (Cold Showers) talks faith as a connection to himself and others through music.

Ask me about religion and I’ll tell you that my relationship to a higher power exists solely on airplanes. Come turbulence or inconsiderate passengers or even screaming infants do I vaguely consider what could be present besides the people around me. Especially if the red wine and benzos aren’t comforting enough will I contemplate thousands of feet up in the sky: Who’s really steering the ship and will they ensure safe passage? No matter how severe the flight may seem, the pains of air travel inevitably resolve themselves and eventually I’m two feet down on the ground, none the wiser and no more God-fearing than I was prior to the first call for boarding.

Yet for the duration of my band Cold Showers, faith is a recurring theme and not by conscious choice. My songwriting as a critical agnostic of Jewish descent inevitably revisits the concept of faith, not in the traditional Judaeo-Christian practice of relating to some otherworldly presence, but more the connection to self and others — especially as a means of healing. The band initially solidified in my formative years. I was hopelessly entangled in several toxic relationships, I was young, angry, and selfish, and unknowingly searching for an outlet as many of us do. I found it in Cold Showers.

Dating back to the early singles, each and every release began creatively as a purge of words, thoughts, phrases, sounds, and emotions. The songs eventually materialized and between the lines I found relief in writing, re-examining and discovering new meaning in my own words. After eight years, the process is nearly intuitive — that’s how I heal.

Our latest album Motionless began on the heels of an abrupt end to an eight year relationship and took shape during the unexpected deaths of several friends, the aging and subsequent deterioration of my closest friend, my father, and my decision to legally inherit my grandfather’s name, Weil, in place of the name I was born with. Matter of Choice and Love and Regret centered around several broken relationships, including a parent suffering from mental illness, my resentment towards them, and the far reaching possibility of transcending the self doubt and pain those relationships carried. Trauma and experience lay the foundation of every Cold Showers album because pain is personal and relatable. Exploring these subjects through the creative process oftentimes had an improving effect, sometimes as impactful as the gravity of the subject matter.

A more recent example would be the song “Motionless (Song for Patrick)” which I wrote shortly after my friend Patrick looked me in my eyes and told me he didn’t want to continue living. Resolute, he took his life months later. The song quickly materialized as an attempt at both confronting Patrick for his determination and stubbornness and confronting myself for avoiding the words I didn’t have the courage to share with him while he was alive; the same unspoken words I’m unable to forgive myself for to this day. I couldn’t watch him die and I didn’t have the courage to tell him as much and what remains aside from memory are words on a page. My habitual commitment to reflection in the music keeps the flame that is Patrick’s memory burning and eases the guilt I carry. That’s what I call faith.

Each album we write inevitably returns to faith as connection to self and others from a narrative standpoint perhaps being the only sobering answer I’ve found to the trauma, conflict, and loss I’ve experienced in my life. The common thread between all three albums aren’t necessarily the experiences that inspired the words or emotions so much as the indescribable urge to write, to digest and in time, repair, having faith that reflecting in song can have a healing effect. Each release marks a personal chapter, not just for me but for each of us involved in the writing and recording process. Myself and my bandmates all experienced personal triumphs and traumas during these periods and to varying degrees, some catharsis in completing the works and moving on with our lives. Ask anyone else involved in Love and Regret, Matter of Choice, and now Motionless.

Until now, the context to our songs were ambiguous and intended as such. The narratives of interpersonal experience form a dense fabric and however publicly available or collectible the songs may be, they‘re still as close and deeply personal as when they were first written. After all, isn’t that what music and the arts are intended for? To resonate, challenge, inspire, or even just exist in the background of our daily lives?

Now, my vulnerability — the same vulnerability that inspired these songs — is yours to share in. It’s our connection. And that’s exactly the faith I subscribe to.

Cold Showers, a band formed in Highland Park, CA in 2010, fuses the brash power of their shoegaze pedigree with the smoky compulsions of their pop, dark wave, and post-punk ancestors.

After releasing singles on Mexican Summer and Art Fag Records, Cold Showers signed with Dais Records and released their debut LP Love and Regret in the summer of 2012. They now return with their most expressive and decisive record yet. Motionless, released May 24, is the band’s ode to their pop forbearers, their goth-like precedent enhanced with ambient narratives, acoustic overlays and compelling female vocals. Enlisting long-time collaborator Tony Bevilacqua (The Distillers) to co-write the album, Cold Showers expand their boundaries and let their creative mastery come to the forefront. The result is a warmly melodic, experimental and evocative pop record.

(Photo Credit: Shannon Cornett)