Colorfeels’ debut album, Syzygy, is a rewarding slice of tightly-orchestrated indie pop. We chatted with band members Parker Cason, Justin Maurer, Taylor Zachry, and Jared Ziemba about the band documentary Be There, their place in the Nashville scene, and their creative process, all while sitting alongside a patio made for cats, aptly named, “catio”.
Where there any songs on the new record that were written beside the catio?
Taylor: All of them. Inside the catio, actually. We wanted to write from the perspective of a trapped animal in pure isolation [band laughs]. In order to do so, we felt we needed to do it in there.
Justin: It’s our response to Animal Farm.
Jared: Wow. This is going a weird direction already [laughs].
So a real question: When and how did Colorfeels form?
Parker: I was sort of in a place where, creatively, I felt kind of stuck. Since I was 15, I had always been recording by myself. Initially, I met Justin through Belmont. We were doing a session project with a production class, and he was the mix engineer for me. Usually, when you go into those things, people don’t know what the heck they’re doing, and it’s pretty brutal. But, it was cool. He had really creative ideas and wasn’t just going through the motions. So, that’s how I met Justin, but then we actually played music together on a session with a girl named Jessica Bran, who is in the Electric Hearts these days.
Justin: They just released an album also.
Parker: Yeah, so we played on that session, and after a show, I approached him and asked if he want to get together and play some music sometime. That’s sort of how it started, and it worked out. We just kept doing it, writing, and hanging out. I think it was all sort of an experiment. We kept getting good responses from people, and I think our voices work well together, so it went from there.
I brought Jared along, who played with Oscar Anthony and his band (West Folk) for a little stint. And, I kind of stole him from them [laughs]. It was cool, because this guy could play a bunch of instruments, sing a part, and I’m looking for those people to join a band. And then Taylor was the fateful, obvious choice.
Taylor: I was lurking in the shadows.
Parker: I waited for Taylor for six years to get back to Nashville [band laughs]. We probably would have started a band a long time ago had Taylor been in Nashville.
Taylor: I remember being at UT, and Parker would send me demo stuff that he was doing by himself. I would listen to it and be like, “man, I need to be playing music”. I would come back home and visit the family on holidays, and we would usually get together once every six months, or even once a year sometimes and just talk. He’d ask when I was moving back to Nashville, but I needed to graduate. I always feared hearing about Parker making it big, or even just him playing in a band and me watching, being like, ‘man, I could have been that bass player’, but here I am studying business.
Justin: So, when Taylor made it back to Nashville, He and I and Parker all moved into a house together with a couple other roommates. We wrote about three or four of the songs on the album while we were there, and that was a cool experience. It was a five-month lease in this giant house. It was like summer camp basically.
Taylor: Winter camp.
Justin: We never unpacked. We got stuck in the snow, and wrote a few songs from that.
Taylor: It was great. It was super cheap. We had this pool house, that was basically the same temperature as outside, but it was this giant playground of instruments. We had two drum kits up there, keyboards out the wazoo, and both of the other roommates were musicians so there was always some band rehearsing in there. We tried to jam as much as possible.
You write all of your own songs, and many of you are songwriters individually. How does that work in the band? How do you contribute andedit?
Parker: I think it’s a continual learning process, because a lot of the stuff from Syzygy started as Justin and I in terms of writing. I think it was all sort of an experiment to figure out how to work together creatively, even after we had these songs done. I think moving forward, I don’t think there is necessarily one way to go about it. I think we all understand each other enough now to just sit in a room and write a song together better than we could have a year ago. Taylor could bring in an idea, and we could work on it as a group. Justin and I could come in with a complete song. There is no set formula.
Justin: Because we started out as individual songwriters trying to come together and make something, it was initially Parker or I that came to the table with some sort of chord progression. Now, I think a lot of the writing happens a lot more collaboratively, or more out of a jamming kind of scenario. We tend to play off that, and then we’ll try to focus that into having some kind of structure rather than us having a structure and putting lyrics to that.
Taylor: We’ll get there to rehearsal and kind of tool around, and then start improvising. Sometimes, something will come out of that, and we’ll make a note of it and come back to it later.
Parker: It’s kind of hard to say moving forward. We’ve never consciously started writing and finishing songs.
Justin: I can almost always say that lyrics come last. I know for myself, and I think Parker is the same way. When I listen to a song, I very rarely hear the lyrics to a song. Like, my brain filters out lyrical content, and all I hear is music.
Same with all of you guys?
Taylor: It depends on the genre I think too. For me, like listening to Americana is where I hone in on lyrics.
Jared: I’ll hear something in my head, and that’s what I want it to sound like. Then, I’ll write lyrics to match that sound rather than writing music to match the lyrics that I’ve written. And that’s something that I think can be said for almost every song on the album. It’s more about the sound of it than the lyrics. But, we don’t want to the lyrics to be cheap, so we spend a lot of time on them.
How are you approaching your music career-wise?
Parker: I think the biggest thing is we want to keep things consistent creatively, and try not to compromise on creative vision. But, we aren’t naïve about the music business. Regardless, it’s trying to find long-term fans. It’s hard in today’s world because everyone has such a short attention span. I think it’s hard for us, because the album causes you to immerse yourself in it to get it, you know? I feel like we have a little bit of a challenge to take on. We want to get out and tour, getting it out to people, but we want to make sure it’s not just playing in front of five people. We kind of have to be patient, and hope that we can get a little bit of buzz going, getting the right shows, and getting people interested. You just gotta be patient, and that’s the hardest part for us.
Jared: There’s also this whole other idea of producing more content. We all want to write more, but there’s also a need to support what we already have. I think that will be a big thing going forward is making sure we make the time to be creative rather than sitting on something we already have. It’s the idea of not letting things get stagnant, and giving people more things to be a fan of.
Justin: It’s almost like creative immersion in any way possible, either for us or for the audience.
Taylor: Yeah, it’s a changing world with music business and fan interaction, and it’s so difficult to really come up with a model. We’re working on the model, though.
Justin: I think another conscious choice we’ve made as a band is to always be integrating other kinds of art into the things that we produce. Visual art is a big deal for us, and having the visual art that has as much an impact as the music. That’s kind of reflective in our name. Bringing people into that through visual art, writing, filming, or anything.
Parker: For example, we’ve been working on our art and paintings, and we’re getting ready to offer that as something for people to buy. I think that’s going to be something we really push in the future, which is going to be a lot of fun. We did that for our Kickstarter. We did 27 of these 4” x 12” paintings, and we’re going to try to do more of that as something different to offer.
Can you tell me about the documentary you just released?
Parker: It was good! We had our friend, Will Rucker, who I’ve known for a while do it. I would tell him where we would be recording and at what time, and he would come and film it. For my own personal or selfish reasoning, I just wanted something to reflect on and see that one-day. To have that documented is such a big thing. So, he was there through that whole crazy process. It ended up being a 40-minute documentary that’s really cool.
Justin: It seems like the people who like our music really like the documentary. I don’t know what that means, really. But, it’s cool to show people a finished product and be able to let people in on the process. I think a lot of people appreciate having that view of the whole thing.
Jared: I like the whole empathetic process, like the effect on all of the senses. Like with the fans, when they’re more empathetic, it’s better received.
So why have you chosen Nashville to be the jumping off point?
Taylor: Nashville chose us.
Justin: That’s the short answer
Taylor: We just live here, and is the obvious place.
Justin: We have actually discussed the idea of relocating, but I think Nashville is a place where we have a lot of connections. Parker’s dad is a legend in old school Nashville. Everyone knows Buzz Cason, and the fact that we have those connections here is great. We have a studio, a place to rehearse, and connections. For one reason or another, we have a lot of great connections that we can’t seem to get away from at this point. It’s just a good place for us to spread our wings.
Parker: With that being said, we understand that you can get stuck in Nashville. So, we hope to transcend Nashville (not in an asshole way). Nashville is such an interesting place. It’s commercial. It’s indie. The audiences sit with their arms crossed, but I’m apart of that. I’ve seen a thousand shows in Nashville and understand that
Taylor: [laughs] we’re the product.
Justin: And I think Nashville isn’t our ideal place in finding an audience, and playing with other bands that may be similar to us. No one really knows who to stick us on the bill with, but it actually kind of works to our advantage because we’ve played such a diverse range of shows. It’s been nice, because we get to play for people who we would have never come in contact with otherwise.
What kind of gear do you use?
Taylor: We try to not be too narrow minded in our selection process.
Justin: We try to play with as many different kinds of instruments as we can. Jared is a big part of that, playing anything from woodwinds to shakers to cello (soon).
Jared: Cello soon, I’m making that purchase.
Justin: Basically, anything he can spend two hours with. Parker and I love to experiment with electronic stuff. I’ve been playing with an omnichord, which is an electronic harp kind of.
Parker: I’ve got a really crappy, old, analog, 70’s synthesizer that I really like, even though it likes to break all the time. Lots of electric guitars.
Jared: And the banjo.
Parker: We REALLY like Fender, Gibson, and Nord. We would love to play Nord on stage. [laughs]
Taylor: We got a lot of keyboards. We’d really love to condense our keyboards.
Jared: We feel like the people at Nord are very nice, and could potentially give us a great endorsement.
And lastly, what is your favorite “Catio” feature?
Taylor: I like the natural vines [band laughs]. The chicken wire is nice, because you can see into it and make sure your cat’s safe and everything is in place.
Parker: I kind of like how the old shelf was recycled there.
Taylor: Yeah, you gotta give them something to climb. There’s a lot to talk about.
Any last comments?
Justin: visit colorfeels.com- a new interactive section called the ‘360 color field’. It’s a virtual reality [laughs]. You can also buy T-shirts, vinyls, DVDs, CDs, and the rest.
Jared: We’re not assholes. Feel free to come and talk to us.
Taylor: Despite the grimace our multi-instrumentalist wears, he is approachable. On that note… I think we’re done.