On Stage (Spotlight): Colony House is not what it seems

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Colony House

Colony House, which is headlining a show on September 19 at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com), is a band that could be confusing to people.

The quartet from Franklin, Tennessee – Caleb Chapman, lead vocals, guitar; Will Chapman, drums, percussion; Scott Mills, guitar, additional vocals; Parke Cottrell, bass, keys, additional vocals — has a new album titled “Only the Lonely.”

But, the album is not a tribute to Roy Orbison and doesn’t contain Orbison’s classic hot of the same name.

“Only the Lonely” has a front cover that copies the album graphics of the Beach Boys’ timeless “Pet Sounds” album.

But, the disc is not a tribute to the Beach Boys and does not include any surf-pop music.

The Chapman brothers are the sons of contemporary Christian pop musician Steven Curtis Chapman and used to perform with their dad when they were younger.

But, Colony House is not a Christian rock band.

Formed in 2009, Colony House is an indie-rock foursome that released its debut album “When I Was Younger” on Descendents Records in 2014 and its sophomore album “Only the Lonely” earlier this year on RCA Records.

“Me and my brother started playing together when I was in first grade,” said Caleb Chapman, during a phone interview last week as the band traveled from New3 Haven to a show in Boston.

“Our dad got us instruments. I had drums at first but I broke them. I decided to take up guitar so Will and I switched.

“In high school, me and my brother started playing with my dad in his band – and we started touring with him. We were listening to a lot of Christian rock back then. It was my dad’s work.

“After high school – that’s when we had to decide what to do. That’s when we met Scott, who played electric guitar. We met Parke around then. A few years later, we got him as our bass player.”

Gradually, Colony House began developing its own sound.

“Our main influences in high school were all over the place,” said Chapman. “We were listening to a lot of hard rock. And, emo was huge. On top of that, we were listening to acts such as Van Halen and Michael Jackson.

“Our dad is from Paducah, Kentucky originally so he was into bluegrass a lot when he was growing up. So, bluegrass is also in our DNA. It’s like a big old stew of influences.

“In high school, we had a band called The Following. Then, we changed the name to Caleb. It could have been called Will but the arm-wrestling matches went my way.

“Colony House started right before the first album came out. We named it after an apartment house in Franklin where some of us had lived before.

“Pour first album did great. We had no expectations. As far as we were concerned, the accomplishment was that we made a full album. We had been talking about making an EP but the producer said we should make a full album. The first album was just a shot of energy. Then, we realized our sings were reaching out of Franklin. We toured so much off of that – and we learned so much.”

Last year, Colony House turned its attention to making a follow-up to “When I Was Younger.”

“We finished making ‘Only the Lonely’ in winter 2016 and released it earlier this year,” said Chapman. “We cut it at a couple studios in Nashville – mostly The Sound Emporium.

“It was our first time to record an album in a big studio. We wanted to all play together in a room and track it live. For each track, we wanted the best take of the band.”

Video link for Colony House – https://youtu.be/PcoIbdT6n9I.

The show at Fillmore Philadelphia, which also feature MUTEMATH and Romes, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native is both the name of Ben Sollee’s new album and the name of his current band – a band that will headline a show on September 20 at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

“Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native,” which was released August 11 via Soundly Music, is a thought-provoking conversation about the practice and art of an ever-evolving American genre — and it’s Sollee’s most personally revealing work.

Sollee consistently performs and creates music that causes the listener to reflect and think. On “Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native,” his curious spirit leads to an exploration of the beginnings of bluegrass.

It also deals with bluegrass’ connection to the sounds of early Irish and Scottish musicians and other worldly rhythms from across the globe. As he traces the origins of roots music back to the immigrants who helped shape it, Sollee reminds us of how the immigrants of today continue to shape our music and culture.

Musicians on the album include Jordon Ellis (Percussion), Bennett Sullivan (Banjo), Julian Pinelli (Fiddle), Jonathan Estes (Bass), Josh Hari (Bass), Jonah Smith (Background Vocals) and Sollee (Cello, Vocals).

“We cut the album back in January,” said Sollee, during a recent phone interview from his home in Louisville, Kentucky.

“We recorded it in a cabin at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky. They have an artist-in-residence program there. I was looking for an inspiring place to make some music.

‘I was also looking for a place where, as a group, we could create an experience together so there would be a narrative arc. Many artists seek a quiet place to make some music.

“One of the things that solved all that was that it was January and it was pretty cold outside. Everyone was tending the fire. Make a fire and you have to keep it.

“We translated that environment into music. You can hear the fire popping on the record, the creaks in the room – you can tell everything is being played live by the ensemble.

“Whenever we got stuck creatively, we could walk out back down into the woods. It’s really quiet there in the winter. Also, there was the element of new musicians getting used to each other.

“We were there as a group for 10 days. Alex Krispin, the producer, and I stayed there another three days to mix the album and finish it up.”

Each song was captured live as an ensemble with a mobile analog studio and few overdubs.

‘Some of the songs came from fragments of things I’ve had for years,” said Sollee. “Some songs – like ‘Presence’ – were brand new. ‘Well Worn Man’ was written a day before we started recording.

“I had been listening to a lot of field recordings and played cello along with them. Then, I’d take away the original track and build my songs from there.”

Sollee, who has recorded roughly an album a year since 2008, has played with trance bluesman Otis Taylor, with banjo virtuosos
Abigail Washburn and Bela and collaborated with Jim James of My Morning Jacket, with DJs, acoustic musicians, visual artists, software specialists and environmentalists.

He has composed ballets and music for films and for stage. He has helped raise his son and support his family with an ambitious tour schedule. He has cycled 5,000 miles by bike, towing his
cello “Kay” behind him as part of the “Ditch The Van” tours.

“Sometimes when I’m writing songs, the music comes first,” said Sollee. “Sometimes, the lyrics come first. And, sometimes, they arrive together. Since I do a lot of film scoring and TV work, it’s important to have ways to inspire creativity.”

Video link for Ben Sollee – https://youtu.be/ku3lqnsMCgA.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Rivers as the opening act, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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