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Interview with Stillwater, Ok's Colourmusic
Colourmusic are the rarest of musical rarities- a band from the isolated hinter portions of America's Heartland (Also known as "The Sticks") that not only doesn't suck, but actually turns out to be pretty great. And not in that sort of special olympics, everyone's a winner, "well, they're good for [insert your tiny state here]" kind of way, but actually, honestly, for realsies good. Kind of like how The Flaming Lips are so good you're kind of surprised to find out they're from Norman, Oklahoma.
Speaking of Oklahoma, that coincidentally happens also to be where Colourmusic hangs their matching hats and outfits - they're a part okie, part british band with a talent for stage theatrics and a musical style that doesn't exactly defy description, but makes you kind of feel dirty for trying. They're dreamy, hypnotically melodic, beat oriented, psyche influenced dancey wonderful that conjures up memories of England's rave scene back when Manchester was an adjective, and reminds you of the kind of Children's music popular in the 1970s. Think Super Furry Animals meeting The Beta Band at a Free Design reunion show and you're close to what I'm trying to get across.
They're in Los Angeles right now, even as we speak, touring in support of British Sea Power (SPOILER ALERT: Reviews of both BSP's and Colourmusic's performances will follow this weekend,) and they were nice enough not to laugh me off the internets when I asked to interview them. I spoke to Piedmont Roy, and BritRoy about Syenthesia, Oklahoma, their sadly arrested video game development, and obviously their music. Read on, and feel the magic that only a marriage between Oklahoma and England can produce.
LAIST: First, let's talk generics - who are you all, and what do you do in the band?
Piedmont Roy: We Are:
BritRoy, Taurus: Guitar and vocals
Piedmont Roy, Virgo: Guitar and vocals
Ponca City Roy 1: Guitar and vocals
Ponca City Roy 2: Bass and Vocals
Newkirk Roy: Drums and Nonvocals
LAIST: Colourmusic is a rare Okie/Brit hybrid. That's unheard of in nature. How in the hell did that happen? And how does the widely divergent origin stories affect your music?
BritRoy: I accidently came here in 1998 as an exchange student. I say accidently, but I was about to be sent to a university in North Dakota by my University in England. I had just watched the Coen Brothers movie 'Fargo' and decided to try and get myself into somewhere warmer.
Lucky me, I arrived here in June and began to sweat my arse off through the Okie summer. I had a great time and I met Roy also by accident at a party full of foreign students. Piedmont Roy and I had similar tastes in music yet the music that we were both making at the time was very different. We mutually disliked each others music and were quite vocal about it. It was obvious then that we had to work together. No pain, no gain!
Piedmont Roy: That's actually true, we did hate each other's music, but we loved how much we hated everyone elses's music and decided that the other one was "cool" enough to work with.
LAIST: Do you think there's a connection between the American "Heartland," and urban England?
BritRoy: I don't think there is any connection. the two are completely opposite territories in my mind. But where I grew up in Northern England there are many similarities to this part of the world. those things would be the space, countryside, friendly welcoming people and boredom (of growing up in place where there is nothing to do so you have to keep yourself entertained).
Piedmont Roy: I don't know because I've never been to either place.
LAIST: Why did you decide to make Stillwater, OK your base of operations, instead of say, London?
BritRoy: Stillwater is a perfect place to have a base as a band because it's cheap, you can make lots of noise without disrupting anyone and there a few distractions. I think it would be near impossible to be in a band in London. I know people that do it there and their rehearsal space costs are astronomical and transporting gear around town is a complete nightmare. There are also too many fun things to do in London every day of the week. Therefore less writing music.
Piedmont Roy: Plus we can't really speak the language over there in Europe. I don't know how BritRoy is able to balance between two languages all the time.
LAIST: Who would win in a fight?
BritRoy: I'll let someone else answer that.
Piedmont Roy: Two words: July 4, 1776.
LAIST: Where did the name Colourmusic come from? Is is explicitly synesthetic? Is it drug related?
BritRoy: colourmusic is another term for 'marijuana cornbread'.
Piedmont Roy: Technically colourmusic is the theory that color and sound are the same entity, only we don't register this because we have two different sense organs interpretting the signals. The eye hears color in the form of light. The ear sees color in the form of sound. Colourmusic was a very important theory to our founding fathers. I'm sure I came up with the name because it's central to my religious beliefs.
LAIST: Talk about your songs for moment. What are your influences? How did you develop your sound?
BritRoy: Roy and I were heavily into mid to late 90's UK electronic music when we started recording together. It seems far removed from us if you listen to our music but it defintely has affected our ideas in approaching songwriting and music.
Piedmont Roy: That is true, we loved electronic music but we felt the next stage of it's development was to become purely organic. Our songs are our attempt at making electronic music organic.
LAIST: Like Many people in this decade, you have a Myspace page with songs on it and everything. Can you talk briefly about the songs you've got posted on your Myspace Page?
"Yes" BritRoy: This was the song that started the band. If it wasn't for coming up with this song in 2002, I don't think colourmusic would be here today. This song encouraged us to continue making music and dictated our future direction. Piedmont Roy: "Yes" taught us how to write songs that weren't narrated from the perspective of a person, but by people. It's purely groupthink narration. Our first album is full of songs that are not about a person or personal but about the voice created from individuals speaking at once. "Circles"
Piedmont Roy: Similiar to yes conceptually! "You Can Call Me By My Name"Piedmont Roy: Written in about twenty minutes. I realized I have an outstanding little girl voice recording this.
LAist: Regarding your songwriting style, specifically the dreamy, call and response, benedryl and booze quality. Is there a deliberate attempt to conjure up feelings of anxiety and comfort at the same time? And, how did you develop your song style?
Piedmont Roy: The only intentional thing we do is work the songs in a way where they are interesting to us and don't really remind us of anything we've heard before. Our process is pretty much torture and it's recursive. We go over and over and over and over the songs, changing any and every detail to see where else it might go, until we have no more time left. Most of the time we kind of know where the song is going but we are looking for moments that we can't repeat and that provide a shape to the song we never expected.
BritRoy: it was always very important for me to make upbeat catchy music. I think you have to rebel against the times and at the time that we started the band every other band was doing the depressing 'no one understands me', suicide music. so we purposely tried to write happy songs. however happy songs are far harder to write than unhappy ones. happy songs almost always seem cheesy whereas if you write a 'suicide' song then people think you're a poet. i think more than anything, we want to keep making songs that are interesting and don't take themselves too seriously.
LAist: What are you listening to right now?
BritRoy: Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
Piedmont Roy: Iggy Pop "The Idiot"
LAist: Which of your songs do you recommend for new listeners, and why?
BritRoy: I think 'circles' is a good one for new listeners. it's catchy and dreamy like you've just taken a heavy dose of ketamine.
Piedmont Roy: "Yes" is the best workout song ever. Especially when you are in the middle of a long jog.
LAist: You're embarking on your first major tour and much of it is in support of British Sea Power? How did that come about? Who else are you touring with?
Piedmont Roy: We have the same manager and who helped us out. There are other bands but I don't have the schedule in front of me.
LAist: Is this your first time, collectively or individually, coming to LA?
Piedmont Roy: I have family out in LA, but this will be the first Colourmusic comes to the big city.
LAist: What are you hoping to see and do while you're out here?
Piedmont Roy: I would love to watch movies
LAist: Finally, If you had to choose right now, Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii? And why?
Piedmont Roy: I wish I knew the difference. I still have the gray nintendo.
Colourmusic are currently on tour with British Sea Power. They're playing Spaceland tonight, and they'll be in San Fransico at Bottom of the Hill on Saturday.
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