July 12 Feature – COLOR
by Tim Wenger
photos: Jenn Cohen
It is said that the cream rises to the top. In the music world, that doesn’t always seem true (just take a listen to some of the crap on the radio), but then there are events like Colorado Music Buzz’s Bandwagon 3, where it not only happened, but happened with style, grace, and a ballot box full of votes for a band that I couldn’t even find on the internet without some outside help.
COLOR is a six-piece band from right here in Denver. I’m not exactly sure how they managed to get on our radar here at Music Buzz, but I’m sure glad that they did, or we would be missing out on one of our fair city’s most talented (and generally well dressed) groups.
Their stage show is kind of like an oracle of entertainment, whizzing at you from six different angles, all crashing into you at the same time. They take modern pop, throw in a cello and multiple rounds of backing vocals, layer in some smooth keys, and blend it together, then hand it over to Cheri Gonzales who adds a breath-takingly powerful voice (you can hear the Aretha Franklin influence), and the beauty that only a pop diva has to offer before it reaches your ears.
The music hit the crowds at the Bandwagon competition with an awe-inspiring boom, as they propelled through the first two rounds, and came into the finals to perform alongside a handful of Denver’s best bands. Performing early in the evening, they had their task cut out for them, as each band brought a steady flow of people through the door to watch performances that were nothing short of amazing. But in the end, in the midst of the yelling, tears, and heartfelt passion that consumed Bandwagon from the start, the ballots offered up a five-letter word that just so happens to be the first five letters of this beautiful state in which we live.
The prizes were awarded, the losers went home, and the members of Color huddled around the back bar at Herman’s Hideaway, looking confident, but awe-struck; ecstatic, but taken aback. I shook their hands, offered a business card, and agreed to meet in a few days after the swelling subsided to discuss their band, their vision, and their plans for the fat wad of cash they worked hard to take home from the comp.
The irony of the situation hangs overhead, as Herman’s was the first venue that many of the members took that stage on with this band, and now their greatest feat to date has taken place here.
Five days later, I met up with the group at the Meadowlark and the smiles are still wide on their faces. They are eager to share the inside tidings on the band they have worked so hard to progress.
Their summer plans ensure that they won’t be hanging on to the money for too long. “We’re in the middle of a recording project, so it’s going right towards erasing our debt,” says keyboardist Ben Horne. They are recording at Decibel Garden on 38th and Wynkoop, and plan on putting down a six-song EP. Two main factors contributed to the band’s decision to record at Decibel Garden. “I had some friends who had gone there and they said ‘yeah it sounds good,’ and the vibe was what I liked,” says Horne.
“We’d heard about it from some of the guys who had recorded there, and the studio engineer, Andrew Nast, is just unbelievable,” says bassist Mac MacKillop.
They hope to be done with recording this month, but still have a lot to do before the album is ready for release. “We still have to figure out a cover,” says cellist Julie Schmidt.
The band has been playing as Color for about a year now, and has seen people come and go, but they feel that they finally have a solidified lineup, and are comfortable. “Everyone is really supportive in this group,” says Gonzales. “I think we are all perfectionists too, which definitely shows, but I think that is why our stuff is so solid.”
The history of the band is a story of connect-the-dots. Horne and drummer Brad Sheehan grew up together and have been playing music together since high school. Lead guitarist, Tobias Cragg, and MacKillop also have been playing since high school, and recorded an album with a former band. “It’s been just different people moving into different people,” says Cragg. “Over the last year, a lot of different guys have subbed in and have moved on to other places.”
Schmidt and Gonzales came on a bit later. “I was at a show at Herman’s Hideaway to see my friends play, and Ben and Brad were playing, and I was so enamored with their sound that I walked up and was like ‘I gotta play with you guys!’” Says Schmidt. “I played upright bass with them for a bit, then I got busy and they got tired of my shit,” she laughs. “And then a couple months later they invited me to play cello with them.”
Gonzales is the newest addition to the group, having just come on board within the last six months. “I knew someone who knew these guys, and I went and listened to them, and I fell in love with their sound,” she says. “I think the thing about all of us [is] we are all really goofy, and it’s a good group of people.”
“Ben and I will have a chord progression or lyrics, and it’s usually a pretty quick process from there,” says Cragg.
“At practice, we try to record as much of it as we can,” says Horne. “Cuz’ it’s really hard when someone is going to the bathroom or tuning, and someone else is just screwing around, and we’re like ‘whatever you just played!’ and they’re like ‘I don’t know what I just played!”
“We usually have a mic in the middle of the room,” says Cragg. “If we’re getting bored playing all the stuff we already know, we’ll take 20 or 30 minutes and just sort of mess around, and revisit it later.”
“There is quite a bit of collaboration and discussion about how to construct the song,” says Sheehan. “It doesn’t always change it from the original feel, but I think that all of us have creative input.”
“There’s lots of feedback from the group,” adds Schmidt.
“There is the umbrella of pop music,” says Horne. “For some of the songs, it’s definitely just pop music with influences of folk. Our lyrics, I think, are very folk and linear in how they go.”
The band has played all over town, and their Bandcamp page features live tracks from a performance at The Chapel in Indian Hills, Colorado. With everywhere they go, however, they try to continue making rounds at their favorite spots, and the places that have been good to them. “Herman’s has been really good to us, also The Walnut Room, and Larimer Lounge,” says MacKillop.
With their raw talent, dedication, and appeasing sound, music fans in Denver, and beyond, can plan on being hit with Color for a long time to come. Come check them out at Colorado Music Buzz’s July Issue Release Party at Moe’s Original BBQ, Thursday, July 12!