Colleen Green wrote a haiku about social media, and she’d like a moment to read it out loud. “Instagram my war,” she declares. “Through a magnifying glass/Some things look too big.”
Green wrote the poem a couple of years ago on tour in Europe, but its themes have been on her mind lately. Take “You Don’t Exist,” a highlight from her new album, Cool: “If I had a million followers,” she muses over a gritty guitar riff, “Then maybe they would say, ‘CG’s so popular!’”
“It’s a pretty universal gripe,” Green, 36, says over the phone from her home in Lowell, Massachusetts. “I would much rather live my life in a way that I think is noble. And if it means that my album doesn’t sell as many copies or doesn’t get as many streams as someone else, I’m OK with that.”
This laid-back attitude is all too fitting for Cool, from the album title to the cover art, which features Green sitting on the ground in a leather jacket and sunglasses like a lost member of the Velvet Underground. “’Cool’ is a word that people often use to describe me,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’ve learned over the years that sometimes the most obvious choice is the best choice. Thinking of an album title is really, really hard. It was right there in front of my face.”
The songs on Cool are rooted in confidence and honesty, steeped in indie-rock attitude and glossed over in a groovy sheen. The lead single “I Wanna Be a Dog” is a blissful rocker about — quite literally — aspiring to be a canine, brimming with the sunniness that Lorde tried so desperately to achieve on Solar Power. “Cuz I’m still communicating from my tail end/I don’t really see the difference,” Green sings. “Yeah, now I want to be a dog!”
Other tracks get more serious about relationships, particularly on the opener, “Someone Else,” where Green attempts to gain the independence she struggled to find in the past. “’Someone Else’ is taking back my power in a relationship [and] not letting the other person totally dictate my happiness,” she explains. “Because in the past, I have tended to be really codependent, and that’s something that I have been trying to work on. It’s up to you to make that choice of how you’re treated by other people and how you want to treat yourself.”
On “How Much Should You Love Your Husband?” Green debates the concept of marriage and likens it to work (“Love considered a career/More than what you make a year”). Speaking of the track, she starts to ask herself questions: “Do I even have the wherewithal to put that much effort into something? If it is that much work, is that what it’s supposed to be? What is it supposed to be, anyway?”
Then she sums it up to herself: “The romanticized ideal of marriage is that you’re totally faithful to each other and you sleep in the same bed every night, and I don’t know if I want that. Sharing a bed with somebody every night for 50 years doesn’t sound that fun to me.”
Green sees Cool as carrying forward the themes of its predecessor, I Want to Grow Up, which she released when she was 30. “In 2015, I did want to grow up,” she says. “I was really excited about it, but I was not feeling like I was quote-unquote supposed to at age 30, and not really knowing how to reconcile society’s or my parents’ expectations of what I should be doing at that age versus what I wanted to be doing. I was just trying to live.”
I Want to Grow Up fulfilled Green’s contractual obligations at the time to the Sub Pop offshoot Hardly Art, leaving her looking for a next step. “After that, I was kind of just like, ‘Oh, I can do whatever now,'” she says.
Last fall, after a decade living in Los Angeles, her mantra of “just trying to live” led her back to her Massachusetts hometown, where she took a part-time job watering plants in office buildings. Looking back, she says she hadn’t even wanted to move to Los Angeles to begin with: “I moved there originally because I learned that I had an incurable autoimmune disease, and it destroyed my entire world.”
At the time of her diagnosis, Green had been living in Oakland. It made sense to relocate to her brother’s apartment in Los Angeles, where she was able to rest and work on music. But she never really felt like she belonged on the West Coast. “I found it hard to relate to people in California,” she says. “I wasn’t happy with my living situation. I hate cockroaches, and I was in a house with four roommates and I felt like I was in like a frat house. I really, really wanted to live alone. Here I can actually afford it.”
Cool, which she recorded with Strokes producer Gordon Raphael in L.A., reflects what she’s learned in the six years since I Want to Grow Up, and what she hasn’t. “I’m in a much more comfortable and self-assured place,” she says, before adding: “I’m still working on it.”
Notably, this is Green’s first album not to take its title from a Descendants record. But just like Milo Goes to Compton, Sock it to Me, and I Want to Grow Up, it features exactly 10 tracks. “It’s the magic number,” she says.
She tested this rule a couple of years ago, when she decided to cover the entirety of Blink-182’s Dude Ranch, an all-time favorite of hers that clocks in at a whopping 15 tracks long. “I was like, ‘There’s another song, still? Oh my god.’”
Like Green, Blink-182 eventually grew up. “They pretty much got as far away from Nineties skate pop-punk as you could possibly ever get,” she says. She mentions that she’s been in touch with Blink singer Mark Hoppus, who recently revealed he is being treated for stage 4 lymphoma. “When I found out, I just was devastated,” Green says. “Ever since I was on his radio show, he encouraged me to text him any time, but I don’t, because I don’t want to be inappropriate or anything. But I texted him a couple times just sending him love. He seems in good spirits.” (Along with many Blink fans, she’s holding out hope for a reunion with original member Tom DeLonge: “I would love to see them play a last show with Tom. That would be really amazing.”)
Green hasn’t performed live since February 2019, and she has no plans to until it’s completely safe. She’s been gearing up for the release of Cool (once again on Hardly Art) with a self-imposed selfie challenge, and will perform livestreams on her Patreon account. But that doesn’t mean she’s completely psyched about technology.
“Everything’s online, everything is virtual,” she says. “I feel like the older I get, the younger everybody else gets. Like, ‘I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times’ type of feeling. I feel like a curmudgeon sometimes.”
She refers to “It’s Nice to Be Nice,” one of the highlights on Cool: “If just chose to accept it and have a good attitude, it would be a lot nicer.”