The words “Los Colognes” bring to mind many things, none of which have anything to do with laid-back rock music. The thought of a small mariachi band performing beside a piñata and keg of cerveza comes to mind, but one play to the title track from Los Colognes’ Working Together is enough to dispel that thought; it’s a sonic time machine that transports the listener back to JJ Cale’s ’70s musical landscapes without losing a modern perspective.
Los Colognes officially came together in 2010, when lead singer Jay Rutherford and drummer Aaron “Mort” Mortenson found one of Mort’s uncle’s cassette tapes labeled “The Clones.” The music on the tape resembled what the duo hoped to find in their move to Nashville: good ole’ fashioned ’70s country gospel. So after making the trek from Chicago to Music City, the group adopted the name and began looking for session players at East Nashville’s 5 Spot. They weren’t too hard to find, because after just three years of exploring the music community they’d strung together a solid-enough group to produce one of the East Side’s most hallowed hometown masterpieces: Working Together. Local success came quickly, and they started racking up shows in Kentucky and Illinois.
However, it’s not just the band’s name that’s fascinating. A cruise through the free streaming of Working Together on the band’s webpage will prove that their music is truly something unique. It brings to mind the long, winding, and intricate jams of Grateful Dead, the slow, steel beats of Bob Marley, and the clean guitar licks of new Nashville.
Los Colognes is helping to pioneer a new Nashville rock scene, while at the same time paying homage to classic Nashville country. They stand tall as testimony to the love and groove of our city’s music community, and we are proud to call them one of our own.
We recently sat down with Los Colognes’ drummer Aaron Mortenson for an interview:
You discovered the rest of the band at the late night jam at 5 Spot. How did you all end up reaching the decision to make an album?
Jay and I make records. That’s what we do! We made a record in the first month of living here just on our own, in our house, with one microphone and Pro Tools. There’s something kind of fun about making a record on your own like that, and afterwards, when we found those musicians, they felt the same way, you know?
We recorded Working Together right here in Nashville at Studio G. We did the live tracking there, and then took the files back to the home studio in our backyard.
Actually, our new record is coming out in September. We recorded all of that over at Bomb Shelter, though. It’s called Dos. I really liked out how it turned out. It’s not any sort of shift in our style, and I think that sonically it’s just a little bit more comfortable. We recorded it with the band we’ve been playing with for years. It’s kind of JJ Cale sounding, with some Grateful Dead in there. So we didn’t really change anything, except hopefully we got a little better at execution. Some of the Dos songs will be released this summer.
Listening to the opening track of your album, King Sized Bed, which is reggae, and then going straight to My Doorway’s Open, which is country-rock, shows that you can do it all. Is marketing yourself more difficult because of the wide array of genres you play?
Thankfully, we’re just kind of independent, so we don’t have to worry about too much of that kind of thing — you know, like we’re having meetings with executives and they’re telling us that we don’t know how to handle our business. However, on our own, it’s really hard to tell what can and can’t work. Sometimes you’re biggest weakness turns out to be your strength.
Our weakness is that we like a lot of music, and we like to put a lot of different outfits on. We’re still the same, but some days we like to put on a different shirt!
The key to how we do this is just having respect for the respect of all the major forms: blues, rock, and world music. It’s all fascinating. We just try and put it together with a good rhythm to build on.
What are your long-term plans for Los Colognes?
Obviously financial stability, but writing music and having financial stability rarely go hand-in-hand. We’ve been fortunate just to do a lot more music in the past few year and pay bills. That’s never been possible before. I think the main goal is just to keep on playing and touring a lot. We like to tour. We’re going out to California in a couple weeks and playing some shows out there. We’ve toured our whole lives! We should be sick of it, but we’re not. So hopefully it’s just getting around and playing a lot more music for people who haven’t heard it and working on our little thing we got going our little garden. We just keep on tending it, keep on watering it, and that whole thing.
Has the success of Working Together helped connect you with other like-minded musicians?
Yeah! Absolutely. Every time you put something out into the world you’re bound to hit a few new ears, and make a few new friendships. We were fortunate enough with this last record to get to go off and play with some larger acts like Greg Allman and Grace Potter, and they’re really cool. So, we’re just hoping for the same and more of it!
If you could have one artist cover some of your music, who would it be?
Los Lobos. Definitely. Write that down.