Psych-Rock Quartet Augustus Talks New Album, Idle

Colin Kelly and Jim Herlihy of Augustus.
Colin Kelly and Jim Herlihy of Augustus. Bohemian Foundation
Musicians Colin Kelly and Jim Herlihy of the Boulder-based, indie psych-rock band Augustus have been in and out of the rock-and-roll scene for the past five years.

Kelly is the primary songwriter and vocalist for the group; Herlihy plays guitar and sings backing vocals. Half a decade ago, the two met at a concert and left with a shared vision about what they wanted to create together. Since then, various supporting members have joined and left, all leaving a mark on the band's sound. Currently, drummer Ryan Healy and guitarist Marshall Carlson tour with the group, but Kelly and Herlihy have remained the core unit.

You can catch them orchestrate their sound at Globe Hall, this Saturday, January 26, alongside Futurebirds. Westword spoke with them ahead of the show about their latest album release, Idle, the energy they have for the band, and meeting Dean Ween.

Westword: You released Idle in November 2018. Did you have a certain muse for this album?

Colin Kelly: The songs kind of snowball and develop into their own entity. Even a line like "spitting up glass" was a reference to being really hung over. One of my friends said it, and I really liked that.

My wife is also very inspiring to me, so I do write a lot about her — but also general frustration at the world around me, because I'm a bit of a curmudgeon.

How would you compare the Boulder music scene to Denver's?

Jim Herlihy: Non-existent to existent.

Colin Kelly: It's microscopic. It's very different.

Herlihy: There is a wealth of extremely talented musicians and amazing songwriters. Notable bands have come out of there. But as far as one continuous scene that exists, it doesn't seem to have anything right now.

Last year we threw a one-day benefit concert and we brought six rock bands all from Boulder and Chicago, and it had the ingredients to feel like a scene. All these bands, they're all touring, putting records out and playing venues like the Fox Theatre. But no one collectively felt they were part of the same thing.

Kelly: I think it's also more of a listeners thing. You have the college, then you have people raising their kids, their families, and it doesn’t have the populace of people that would go out, like Denver.

Can you talk a little bit more about the one-day music fest you hosted?

Herlihy: It was called Benevolence...We donated all the proceeds to Raices, which is a nonprofit organization helping migrant families navigate the legal system and reconnect with their families from the horrible time last summer when the Trump administration was, by policy, separating kids from their parents.

Why was it important to you to do this?

Herlihy: For me, the process of being an independent band, no management and no label, no booking agent — it's a ton of work that is incredibly inwardly focused on moving people who aren't struggling, who are healthy individuals.

Maybe there's a disparity in that, and I oftentimes struggle with how much work we put into ourselves, and it doesn't seem to help anyone else. I wanted to help do something even in a small amount... . This was a way that we could get people to help, and it felt nice to do something still music-related.

Do you each have a favorite song off of Idle, and would you tell us about it?

Herlihy: I like "Underthumb." It’s the song we play live, and the response is [Herlilhy claps slowly with a blank face]  — and we are like, dammit, that didn’t land at all. We'll do it again, the same way or better, and get the same response. I love the melody. I like the sections, and it moves really nicely, but it kind of rocks in this very kind of weird way. It has aggression to it, but it also has this cool vibe. I also like it because Colin doesn’t like it.

Kelly: That was a song written in response to feeling downtrodden by the day-to-day being in customer service. It’s feeling you're trapped underneath something, you're never going to get out of it. I got off work, went home and wrote the verse in twenty minutes.

Do you find it hard to really like the songs you make since you are the songwriter?

Kelly: I think it's definitely challenging. Sometimes you need to be further removed. A couple years later, I can enjoy something I've written. I don't know if I have a favorite off Idle, because I kept that album very close to the chest.

"Things Got a Way of Changing" took me three or four months to write. I labored over that one, so I guess it's my favorite. ... I finally finished demoing it at the beginning of the summer last year and fully panicked. It was just like, oh, my God, I wrote this song, I've never written a song like this. I don't think I'm going to be able to ever do this again.

I could tell you what it's about, but the songwriter’s the last person that should have a say of what’s it about.
click to enlarge This is Augustus. - AUGUSTUS
This is Augustus.
What's the energy that keeps you showing up for your music?

Herlihy: Regularly checking in, saying, why am I doing this? And the answer for me is I still enjoy it over anything else. I want to keep pushing it so that hopefully we get to a point where it's a little more sustainable, where civilian life isn't going back to a restaurant — where's it's, now let's go into the studio, then back on tour.

Kelly: I just love playing music and songwriting. I guess I'm chasing something down, some type of catharsis, a feeling of satisfaction with a song I've written, or a guitar solo.

You went on four national tours last year, from L.A. to New York City. What was one of the best moments from that?

Kelly: New Hope, Pennsylvania, is a cool little town that has the famous music venue where Ween got their start. We actually played a show and had this humongous technical malfunction — and Dean Ween came and saved the day.

Herlihy: He was sitting at the bar drinking, and he's like, 'I'll come run sound for you guys.' And we're like, what? Oh, that's nice.

When the audience comes to an Augustus show, what do you want them to leave with?

Herlihy: To tell your friends to come and see the next show. Whatever you want to call it, rock and roll, at the end of the night, it's a song, and we hope people like it and it gets stuck in their head.

Kelly: I don't want somebody to come up to me after the show and be like, "That was nice." If that's the response I get from a show, I just don't want that. I can handle, "I hate this band." I just think ["nice"] is a very mediocre response. That was medium. That was lukewarm. That was not exciting. I'm not going to remember that this even happened tomorrow.

What’s the bond between you and Colin that keeps you moving and focused for the band?

Herlihy: Co-dependency [laughs].

Is that healthy?

Herlihy: Absolutely not. We are both seeking the same thing.

Kelly: The bond is being terribly stubborn.

Augustus with Futurebirds, 9 p.m. Saturday, January 26, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street, $20 and up.
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Taylor Heussner has been writing for Westword since January 2018. She received her bachelor's degree in creative writing from Colorado State University and writes for myriad literary magazines. When she's not attending concerts, you can find Taylor searching for music, writing poetry or petting the neighborhood dogs.
Contact: Taylor Heussner