Despite their relatively young lives, Caleb Chapman, his brother Will, and Scott Mills demonstrate remarkable depth, talent, sensitivity and life experience. Combining their soulful perspectives and musical gifts under the banner of Colony House, the Nashville-based trio is preparing to launch their first full-length album.
The collection of 14 original songs shows diversity and range, while maintaining cohesion as an album. At times you can hear elements of Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, Local Natives and even Paper Route, yet Colony House is putting their own mark on the musical landscape.
When I Was Younger drops July 22, but until then, you can check out the video for their single Silhouettes here. We caught up with Caleb to learn more about the origins of the band, the art of storytelling and the complexity and beauty of life.
Give us a little bit of the background to forming Colony House.
My brother and I have been playing music since we were kids, banging around on whatever we could find. We did the typical high school band thing, but then started trying to figure out how to do that on a career level. We met Scott through a cousin, started playing together, and then the first year or two was spent figuring it all out – touring, writing, what it means to be a band in this day and age, and all that it requires from you.
What does the songwriting process look like for you guys?
I’m very particular about the sounds and the lyrics. I typically begin musically and then add on the lyrics to what has inspired me from the sound. So what works with us is I’ll start to write the song on an acoustic guitar and bring in pieces of an idea to the band for us to start gluing it together based on their input. I bring the skeleton, and we all start putting flesh on it. I like that we each bring something different to the process – personality, tension, camaraderie, disagreements, finding middle ground – it’s a constant process of exploring someone else’s idea and then being committed to it.
What are you hoping to express through this first album?
The theme is the story of growing and wrestling with questions. There is a purposeful contrast between the front half and back half of the record. The first half of the album reflects childhood – with more of a pop, polished sound. In the middle, you see that it’s not all that simple; it’s not all black and white. As the record plays on there is a more raw, heavier sound. You come to terms with life, death and loss of love – there is a weight there. We really tried to make it accessible musically and lyrically without losing what inspires us.
Can you give us some examples?
Everything I write is personal – it’s about family, life experience – there are some raw issues. Keep On Keeping On and Won’t Give Up were written in two different time periods but both very honest. Won’t Give Up is written about an accident in our family where we lost my little sister. It’s so personal and somber, but it’s who we are and who I am. It’s the valley of the record and a declaration that life seems like this unfair mess that we get caught in – yet we don’t give up.
You’ve mentioned your love for storytelling – talk about that.
I’m heavily influenced by cinema and all forms of storytelling. There is such beauty in the arc of a story. The conflict, the resolution – how the resolve can be complex. What we celebrate in art is an arc, and in it you can fit twist and turns, but if you zoom out there is clarity to it. In a song format, you’re learning to connect those dots in three and a half minutes. It’s about being purposeful in those few minutes. In a live setting, it’s the only time you can tell a specific story to that exact combination of people at the same time, in the same space.
I want the story to tell that there is hope it all our situations. It doesn’t mean the questions are answered, but there is a sense of “this is not the end.” We want to invite the listener into that story.
How would you describe your music?
We each bring something from a different angle. My brother has an aggressive approach to the drums, which has a big influence to our sound. When you add his energy to my more singer-songwriter, alt-rock sound, I think it results in a cool combination. Lately I’ve been inspired by The Police and Lord Huron – even though we may not sound like them, there is still inspiration there. Our musical pallet is always changing and evolving. Nashville is such an inspiration to me. There is a strong artist community here, pushing each other and supporting each other. There’s a rad, alternative, indie-rock scene going on, so it’s a cool place to be.