Interview: The Colonies

There are no coincidences, only mildly funny meetup plans, so I’m sitting upstairs at the Colony Club with The Colonies. They’re an indie-garage band of GWU students, and they’re matching the table tennis vibes of the space. The four-piece of Pete Stevens (vox, guitar), Joey Mamlin (drums), Dylan Trupiano (guitar), and Jordan Mullaney (bass), are midway through recording their forthcoming third LP, “Bound To Be Something Good.”

The band wear their influences proudly on their sleeve, and The Strokes come up more than once in our talk. That being said, their newest single “Bound To Be Something Good,” finds the band zeroing in on a sound more their own to great effect. A catchy hook, a wiry guitar riff, and a summery rhythm have made it their most played song to date. As the band enters a transitory period - before graduation, and before the album release - I want to hear about the band’s role in the local music ecosystem and where they’re going next.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You came here today from a music video shoot. What song is it for and how did that go?

Pete Stevens: It was the music video for “Bound To Be Something Good,” which has over 10,000 streams now. We actually started shooting it in July and our schedules just got so crazy we couldn't finish it until today. We worked with Alex Rubenstein who was involved in theater at GW. He wanted to direct it, so we said sure.

Joey Mamlin: It was a pretty fun process. We have a music video out already for an older song.

I saw it today.

Joey: You watched it? It's pretty interesting [laughs]. We were not super involved with that. We spoke with Chase Johnson who made the video. He had the idea and we were like, yeah, that's cool, run with it. So it was cool to be a lot more involved this time. Obviously we’re in the video this time, and none of us appeared in the other video. Alex was great. It was a perfect mix of his direction and our contributions. There were certain times when he really took the lead, and there were certain times when we were directing things. I think it worked out really well.

Jordan Mullaney: For this song more than other songs, people in the street have just stopped us - friends and whatnot. I think it's got the most recognition just based on the streams, but separately from that, the qualitative feedback has been really good. I think delaying the video might give it an extra push that will be worthwhile.

The first thing I thought when I heard the new singles was that there are more beachy vibes than before, but that might be just because the album art planted an idea in my head. What do you think about the sound?

Dylan Trupiano: Since Pete does the songwriting, I talked to him a lot and he wanted the process to add a more summery vibe on the album, so you were right on that. Also a blend of what we did on our last album - a lot more garage rock, I guess - so kind of like letting those blend together in a way where it's like garage rock but on a really nice sunny day. Somewhere where the weather is good. When we recorded the album last year [“One Of A Kind”], I hadn't recorded a full album before with anyone, so we were learning as we did it. This one has been a lot easier. We've been able to lock it down and take our time with this one, and it's a little bit more of a collaborative process where everyone can have their own opinion or voice. Very democratic.

Pete: We're like halfway done right now. Like, four more songs to record, then [the album] should be out.

How does the band fit into the local scene? Are you part of a GW scene, are you part of the broader DC scene, are you friendly with bands that you see around a lot?

Pete: There’s an organization on campus called Searcher Records, and they take bands under their wing and help with them. When we were starting out freshman year, we didn't know how to get shows or anything. Two people named Morgan and Danielle started the organization and they would give us a lot of shows. We started playing places like Tropicalia, Velvet Lounge, stuff like that. Whatever artists they also help, we generally play shows with. Another GW/American University band that we play with a lot is called Smith Gardens. There's a more R&B/hip-hop artist named Michael Ferrier that we do a lot of work with too. I just reach out to a lot of fans on Instagram and stuff, and other bands have reached out to me. Or like Color Palette - we've developed a relationship with him and we recorded one of the singles “Fade” with them and with Jay Nemeyer [of Color Palette]. We have a show at Black Cat with Mystery Friends. I've never met them - that's just purely established through Instagram DMs.

Jordan: Joey and I are presidents of the Student Musicians Coalition on campus, so that's where we record and practice. We’re always running into musicians so we're getting feedback on things. It's a good environment, sort of a rotating cast of people we’re always seeing. Bencoolen are our predecessors. Jukebox The Ghost and HOLYCHILD practiced in the SMC.

That's a pretty broad associated group. You are all seniors in college. Are you looking forward to post-graduation? What are your goals for when the album comes out?

Pete: I think we all want to stick to doing this if we’re all in the DC area after school. Maybe we can even spend more time on it. We'll have jobs [laughs], but hopefully we can add more time to it, too.

Jordan: We're all similar majors, political science, a few minors in American Studies, so I think we all have similar ambitions. That's part of why we chose GW and why we're likely to stay in DC.

Do you want to talk about the songwriting process? You mentioned Pete writes the songs. Is that just lyrically?

Joey: Pete writes all the lyrics, and he writes his guitar part. It's usually a chord progression, maybe a little rhythm, and the structure of a song - choruses, versus - and then he brings it to us. Basically it’s just his own guitar and his own lyrics, and we kind of fill it in piece-by-piece. We jam it out most of the time. Every once in awhile, Pete will have something very specific in mind, and then we’ll incorporate that. We perform a lot more than we record, so I think our best recordings have been the songs that we performed the most and ironed out the kinks. That was the case for “Bound To Be Something Good.” It was a song that we had performed a lot, and really all of these songs on the new album, with the exception of maybe one or two, have been performed in pretty heavy rotation.

What have you been listening to? Anything that’s influencing your sound?

Pete: Hippocampus’ album came out like two days ago. They sound really different. I'm not sure how different we’ll sound, but maybe we can incorporate cool elements from that. I always love The Strokes, and that will always be involved.

Joey: A lot of times when I hear a guitar part that Pete’s written, I get a Strokes-ey kind of feel, so that's a good description of our music. I've been listening to Kamasi Washington's newest album in heavy rotation recently.

Jordan: I come from a jam improvisation background, so I try to incorporate that through my bass playing into the songs. Maybe give it more feel. Dr. Dog is really influential, and I think that plays into our rhythm section.

Dylan: Over the last few months I’ve been listening a lot to David Bowie, and “Heroes,” the Berlin era. I really like how he makes the guitar sound on that album specifically. I've been listening a lot to Abbey Road for some reason. Brockhampton’s new album was pretty cool. I like to listen to stuff that's outside of the music we typically make, and I like trying to find ways to incorporate some stylistic choices they make into stuff we do.

I'm always interested in how bands choose their album art, if it's meaningful, or if It just fits a vibe. How did your album art come to be?

Joey: The most recent cover art was by our friend Ali -  he made it on his computer and just sent it to us. We were like, wow, that's pretty cool. I think that's how we came about our first album art. Someone just sent us this image. It's like a blue light, it’s kind of like wild and a little bit trippy. The second album, we set out to have a picture of a bicycle. That was our image initially. I don't totally remember where that came from [laughs]. We had a mini photoshoot of me riding my bike and our friends edited it, and then it just turned into the album.

Jordan: I just want to credit Searcher Records for a lot of the cover art we've had and the promotion they've done. We usually pitch an idea to them and they finalize it or give some consultation on it and generally that's the process.

The Colonies are opening for St. Lucia at the 9:30 Club on November 6.

All photos by Meredith Wohl.

Follow The Colonies at the links below.