After the breakup of his band Echo Collection, Trey Hawkins decided to take some time off from music before ultimately returning with a collection of demos called February 3rd he released early last year under the moniker Poison Coats. On it, Hawkins offered four lo-fi, bare-bones tracks that utilized only his voice and a jangling acoustic guitar, interspersed between some troublesome voicemails that attacked his character and his inability to communicate and express his emotions.
Today, Poison Coats is releasing its proper debut EP, Fever Dreams. Hawkins says that what began as a solo effort became something more when he booked studio time at The Cottage, and realized the songs he felt were nearly complete needed a little extra push to be brought to full realization. “I went into the studio trying to create something completely by myself and along the way realized how important other people are to the whole process,” Hawkins says. “The studio process and everything that’s followed since has shown me a lot about the power of collaboration.”
What listeners will find on Fever Dreams is a small heap of rambling alternative folk-rock tracks that betray subtle Southern roots, with some variation. “Left Eye” features heavily distorted, driving guitar riffs, while “Spirals” is harmonically reminiscent of ’50s and ’60s-era crooners. Meanwhile, songs like “Ten Foot Grin” and “Sell Soul” harken to Bright Eyes’ Cassadaga era with their grand arrangements and mariachi-style trumpets. There’s also a quality in Hawkins’ voice that screams Oberst to me, but where the two differ is in their lyrics. While both might deal with themes of loneliness and transitory contentedness, Hawkins extends his lyrical content to encompass the collective doubts we all share, rather than repeated self-deprecation and egotistical self-analysis. Despite his use of first-person pronouns, these observations are not exclusive to Hawkins; instead, they reach for something deeper.
For example, on “Ten Foot Grin” Hawkins sings what is perhaps the most profound line on the record: “I’m pissing vanity / Structuring conceit into humility.” While some of these songs are filled with puzzling, obscure metaphors that, at times, leave the listener wondering as to their meaning, there is undeniable candor in them. As Hawkins continues to write more music, it will be interesting to see if he further shirks the introspective quality found in singer-songwriters. But for now it’s beyond question that a backing band and teamwork have had a favorable impact on Poison Coats.
Poison Coats will host a listening party for Fever Dreams tomorrow night, April 16, at Java Lords that will showcase various multimedia artworks inspired by the EP and acoustic performances. In addition, the band will celebrate the release of Fever Dreams on Saturday, April 30 at 529. Supporting them will be Arc & Stones. Doors open at 10 p.m. Admission is $7.