Welcome to the second edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much.
We introduced you to one of Nashville’s up and coming bands the Colorfeels last month, and it is with great pleasure that we present to you the transcript of our conversation with the band. Big ups to Parker and Justin for their extensive, well articulated answers (totally went above my expectations). As for me, I absolutely loved the responses for question 3, 4, 6 . Dylan you may be interested in their response to question 5 bud. “Patterned auditory delights” everybody.
- Well let’s start off with a standard question here, How did you guys meet / form?
Parker: I met Justin during my senior year of college in 2008. We first met during a recording project for school. He was the mix engineer on a session I had for class. I also did a tracking session for our friend Jessica (of which Justin was in her band at the time). During that session I quickly discovered that he had a keen ear, but when I saw him playing guitar a few months later I knew that I had to play music with this guy.
Justin: I was playing and writing with Jessica Breanne at the time and Parker ended up playing organ on a recording session with us. Shortly after that, Parker approached me about writing some songs. Jared was playing with other Nashville bands, but kind of a free agent at the time, so we snatched him up before anybody else could have him. Taylor has known Parker since childhood and happened to be moving back to Nashville at the same time that we were looking for a roommate/bass player. Drummers have come and gone in mysterious ways.
Parker: I had always written and recorded stuff fairly independently since I was in middle school, but at that time I felt like I needed to branch out and find someone who could push me creatively and help me finish songs. So I approached Justin at a show, got his number, and soon thereafter we started writing and demoing songs. Everything seemed to click and our voices worked really well together. We spent most of 2009 just writing and hanging out. We would play the songs in various living rooms for friends, but knew eventually we wanted to expand our sound. When the songs began to shape up, we wanted to start playing them live. We played a few shows with various lineups before reaching the current incarnation of Colorfeels which includes Jared and Taylor.
- What are your greatest musical influences? (band and individual)
Justin: We are all inspired by nature and science and patterns and our musical influences reflect that. I personally love listening to the weirdest stuff I can find, but can also listen to the Beach Boys on repeat. Composers like Phillip Glass tend to be common ground for Parker and I, and we all enjoy the vocal driven fringe-pop of today (Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors). It may not come out in our music, but we also love hip hop and dance stuff. Anything with electronics, really.
Parker: I’d say my top 5 musical influences are Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Sigur Ros, Muse, and My Morning Jacket. I’m not sure how that translates to my own writing, playing, and singing, but those are definitely the artists whose albums I have worn out over the years. There is so much great music out in there in the world though. I’ve just now started exploring new music again. A new band that I’m really digging right now is Givers.
- What’s the story behind your name (and especially your album title)?
Justin: ‘Colorfeels’ comes from a combination of a couple ideas, the first being a play on the art term ‘colorfields.’ It also comes from a fascination with the relationship between visual and auditory sensory input.
The album title, Syzygy, was chosen after everything was recorded and we had chosen the order of the songs. We found a list of the 100 best words in the English language and started looking at definitions of words that we liked. Turns out, “syzygy” refers to the straight-line-alignment of three or more celestial bodies. It has also come to refer to a positive coincidence – in literary terms. We felt like the “stars had aligned” in the making of this album and it just felt right, not to mention the beautiful visual qualities of the word Syzygy.
Parker: You also can’t forget about the Jim Bumgardner coincidence… haha. A while before starting to think about album titles Justin and I stumbledupon this incredible guy one day who among other things is a brilliant computer programmer and (to our surprise and delight) an amazing piano player. After watching a lecture video of Jim at the 2007 Gel Conference, we were instant fans. Anyways, he wrote this little program called Whitney’s Music Box (the little visualizer on our website is based on it). When we first saw this program it blew our minds. It’s hard to fully explain it effectively with words. Basically, when the little circles cross a line they make a note. When multiple circles cross the line at the same time they make these wonderful and odd chords. Syzygy! When I realized that little coincidence I knew that Syzygy was definitely calling out to us. Definitely check out the whitney music box here:http://wheelof.com/whitney/
4. So I was reading the lyrics of the songs on the album, and I can’t help but continue to gravitate to the lyrics of “Pretty Walk” and “Mirrored Walls”. What’s the story behind those songs?
Justin: Pretty Walk is a about being led to believe that everything is fine and then, all at once, realizing that everything is not fine. I would say Pretty Walk is a sort of meditation on the exact moment of recognition that everything is wrong. Then again, maybe everything is just fine. Maybe it’s all in my head…
Parker: Yea, I see the first verse of Pretty Walk as an expression of emotion that you are feeling about this person, but also at the same time you are using some powerful words that might scare that person away.
The initial idea for Mirrored Walls was sort of implanted in me after a dream I had. In the dream, I was looking in the mirror and watching my face wrinkle and my hair turn gray in some weird time-lapse. To me this was definitely my anxiety about growing old showing itself. Mirrored Walls is a take on the idea that time is going to take it’s toll on us, that’s inevitable, but once we sort of get over that and just let go we can find our peace.
5.Now count this as a follow up / supplemental question to the previous question here: What is your songwriting process? Who writes what first?
Justin: Initially, Parker and I wrote most of the songs in an unusually collaborative way. We would sit in a room together and work out what each next chord or lyric should be. But, it usually begins with one of us having a melody or riff that we really like and bringing it to other members of the band. We’ve written songs in many different ways, but one thing that is almost always true about our process is that lyrics come last. When I listen to music, I personally don’t even hear lyrics most of the time. So, when I’m writing I want the music to be perfect and then I want to write words that compliment that music.
Parker: Yea, I think we all gravitate more towards the feeling of the music initially. If it’s striking some emotion in us, then we go with it. The majority of the songs on Syzygy were the result of Justin or I bringing pretty hashed out ideas to each other (or to Taylor later) and finishing them collaboratively. Most of the songs came out of the batch of stuff that Justin and I wrote as a duo in 2009. Some of the newer songs are Unplanned Holiday, Glimmer, and Be There.
6. One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about the album is the length of your songs. Every single track is above four minutes, and many of the songs are over five minutes. I’m not complaining, but I find it fascinating that you guys are so willing to produce music that are often times twice as long as some on the songs you hear on the radio. What’s the reasoning behind that?
Justin: The reason we have long songs is because the songs just wouldn’t be complete if they were shorter. I like that you said we are “willing” to produce songs that are longer. I tend to take Michelangelo’s view that art is something that already exists and is just waiting inside its medium to be freed. What I’m getting at is that I don’t really even think about the length of a song, I only think about whether it’s finished or not.
Parker: I can agree with Justin on that. I think there is just this little feeling in your stomach telling you whether or not the song is finished. We definitely didn’t write the songs with length in mind. I do recall sometimes thinking, ‘man, this song is almost six minutes long,” but it was more of an observation. I don’t think it ever affected the creation of the actual song. If I did ever start having anxiety about the length of the songs I would always recall that most of my favorite albums have pretty lengthy songs on them. The non-conventional structures and long intros/outros played a big part in the song lengths on the album. I understand the importance of radio in an artists career and it is still an unmatched place for exposure for artists. However, there is a lot to be said about the blogosphere and promoting your music on the internet. We’re constantly learning more about that whole world, but it provides independent artists like us with a great and viable way to get our music out in a cost effective way. We just wanted to make the album that felt right, on our own terms without worrying about how radio would judge it. We’re hoping that Syzygy will still give us the opportunity to tour, get in front of people and make fans that way.
7. I know that you guys just released your first album, but I was curious to get your thoughts on how you think your sound will change in the future? I mean, does the sound on Syzygy provide the basis for your future work, or does it represent one of the many directions the band will go in musical terms?
Parker: I’m really excited about the musical avenues that we can explore in the future. We are all multi-instrumentalists and I think I speak for everyone when I say we have an affinity for odd instruments and using non-conventional sounds to make music. I don’t see us coming out with an album that leaves you saying, “Wow this does not sound like Colorfeels at all,” but I imagine it will be pretty different. I think that our vocals will always be the anchor in our sound, but if resources allow we will look at trying some a unique instrumentation while still making ‘pop’ music.
8. What pieces of equipment or musical tactics do you use in creating your unique sound?
Justin: We are dedicated to using any and every sound available to us, so our musical arsenal is always growing. Jared alone plays just about every woodwind, percussion, guitar, or keys you could ask for. Parker and I play a lot of guitar and keys, but both enjoy picking up some percussion or fiddling with new (and old) electronic instruments. We use an omnichord in a couple of songs. I personally have a large (a little too large) and constantly growing collection of keyed instruments.
Parker: I have this old Italian keyboard, a Crumar Orchestrator, that made it’s way on to several tracks on Syzygy. It gives that old analog synth sound to songs like Genealogy and You Know. I feel like a big part of our sound has to do with what Jared is able to do with his Flute, Clarinet, and Sax.
9. If you were to describe your work in three words, what would they be?
Justin: Patterned auditory delights.
Parker: Friends Having Fun.
10.Does it concern you at all that you could be giving away free music on your soundcloud and bandcamp, especially in an era where free downloads are looked upon with suspicion from the record labels?
Justin: For us, music is about the experience. We had an awesome opportunity to make this album completely independently, without any help from labels. And that allows us to promote our music in ways that aren’t always primarily motivated by profit margin. We do dream about quitting our day jobs, but we want to first have a fan-base that believes in what we are doing.
Parker: Yea, I think that at this point in our careers it’s more important to just get the music out there. Unfortunately, most people don’t value digital music these days. We aren’t going to fight that. It doesn’t make sense for Taylor Swift to be giving her music away, but for us we are just trying to make a name for ourselves and try to reach as many ears as possible. There are a lot of revenue streams still very much available for artists. Touring, merch, film and TV placements are all still great ways for artists to make money. But again, it’s just more important for us to connect to people and make new fans, find people who are in it for the long-haul, than to make loads of money.
11. I just wanted to repeat my appreciation for both your work and your willingess to be apart of this interview, so I will leave you with one last question: If you could give a shout out to any other talented unknown band, who would it be?
Justin: Casa Castile, here in Nashville, is a young band doing great things. It is kind of the brain-child of one guy, Andrew, but has turned into a seven or eight piece band that is all over the place, musically. Very entertaining. They played our album release show and hopefully that won’t be our last show together.
Parker: Hey big thanks to you for the opportunity to chat! I definitely gotta give a shout out to Jessica Breanne and The Electric Hearts! www.theelectrichearts.com They are about to release their debut album that is going to blow people away. There is no one on this planet with the pipes that Jess is blessed with. Another Nashville band that I think will be a household name very soon is The Apache Relay. They are good friends, great guys, and they work really hard. They happen to make some pretty freaking awesome music too!
Colorfeels- “Mirrored Walls”
Once more, I would like to repeat how appreciative I am for the generous answers provided by Justin and Parker of the Colorfeels. This is legitimately one of the coolest things I’ve ever participated in. Hit up their website http://www.colorfeels.com/