Grunge Grows Up

Indie-pop heroine Colleen Green is glad to leave her 20s behind.

Colleen Green (Steele O’Neal)

Colleen Green would rather not stay on a dirty, extra mattress in a grimy (and possibly bed-bug-infested) punk house.*

As much as the Los Angeles-based songwriter loves meeting new people on tour, relying on the kindness of strangers for her nightly arrangements has had some rather disgusting drawbacks.

“Sometimes the only people who offer up their home to you happen to live in really crappy punk houses,” she says. “It’s always very appreciated. But I’m getting old. I can’t deal with that stuff anymore.”

In other words, Green, who is on the cusp of turning 32, has long since paid her dues.

“I definitely lived in my share of show houses,” she says. “In your 20s it’s, ‘Whatever, I’m just going to get drunk. It doesn’t matter.’ Now that I’m older, I’m just like, ‘Nah, not into that.’ ”

And while Green hasn’t yet managed to completely avoid the occasional night in someone’s grimy digs, aging out of the delirium, melancholia, and uncertainty of that first quote-unquote adult decade has served her well. And you can hear her desire to abandon her hungover and hazy youth on her aptly titled third album, I Want to Grow Up, from February of last year.

Owning up to her desire to grow up — a controversial stance given indie’s longstanding love of childlike hedonism — took guts, too. As a result, Green’s warm embrace of her 30s amongst the hoards of youngsters in indie-pop and indie-rock has made her something of an anomaly in Los Angeles’ DIY music scene. She’s experiencing the same relief most everyone feels upon leaving their 20s, but she’s making art about it, celebrating it and pining after it — all in public.

Released shortly after her 30th birthday, I Want to Grow Up reflects this new perspective. “I’m sick of being immature,” she sings on the title track over a crunchy punk riff. On the spiky, two-part pop-punk opus, “Things That Are Bad For Me,” Green owns her future and rattles off ways she can “change [her] body’s destiny” and “start listening to [her] own advice.”

“I’ve been trying to understand stuff more and not just have a knee jerk emotional reaction,” she says of both the album and her 30s.

A native Angeleno, Green grew up singing and started writing songs — or at least something resembling songs — at age six.

“I don’t really know if they were songs, but I had lyrics,” she explains. “I would write them down and carry them around in this little purse I made.”

In the second grade, she tried to be a rapper. And, as a teenager — a period she describes as “crazy and stupid” — she found solace and solidarity in the irreverent pop-punk band Blink-182. These days, she’s known for her succinct songwriting, penning pop ditties chock-full of zippy guitar lines, just enough fuzz, and crafty punk hooks reminiscent of both Liz Phair and The Ramones in their respective heydays.

Green’s music might align her with the indie-pop set, but her love of hip-hop remains. One of the most affecting songs on I Want to Grow Up, “Deeper Than Love,” stemmed from an attempt to write a song inspired by the rapper Akon of “Smack That” fame. The lyrics — which are gargantuan compared to a typical Green track — took multiple drafts, and the finished product is a buzzing, synthesizer-driven slow burn in which Green resembles Horses-era Patti Smith at her most existential. “Someday I hope for a lover to kill me,” she coos in the track. “It’s the closest I can hope to get to anybody.”

The song’s emotional rawness and radical honesty terrified Green, and she nearly shelved it after recording it. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should let people hear this. This song is fucked up. Everyone is going to think I’m a freak,’ ” she says.

Encouraged by her label and several friends, she decided to keep it on the record. An unexpected happy ending followed: Her fans adored it, and she looks back on it as a moment of unexpected emotional growth.

As for what comes next, well, Green isn’t exactly sure. Though she’s always working on music, she’s in no rush to release another record. Either way, expect her next project to mark another move towards catharsis and emotional maturity.

“I don’t know if all my problems will be solved through song,” she says with a laugh. “But it helps.”

*Punk house (noun): a residence, typically in an urban area, inhabited by three or more punks and/or creative types who live messily together, often host DIY concerts in the basement, and rarely shower.

Colleen Green plays with SWMRS, The Garden and Eeelsat 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, at Oakland Metro, 522 2nd St., Oakland. $13; oaklandmetro.org.

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