Interview: Colouring on their new 'Heathen' EP.

Colouring’s just released ‘Heathen’ EP showcases the London-based four piece’s versatility as a band - from the electronically-laden ‘White Whale’ (which features additional production from The 1975’s George Daniel), to the emotionally charged 'The Wave', to ‘If I Ever Lose Your Love’, a slow-burning love song.

Having toured with The Japanese House in the U.K. last year, 2017 saw them tour across the U.S. with The 1975 (alongside Pale Waves) - the band continuing to grow in every sense of the word.

We recently caught up with Colouring in New York City to discuss their songwriting, politics, and more…

We’d hate to think that we’re sticking in the same territory - I think that’s what our heroes all do, they all change, and they take photographs of their life, and then they move on.

COUP DE MAIN: You wrote your single ‘Heathen’ after both Brexit and Trump had happened, telling NPR that you felt frustrated and powerless. How has it been dealing with the upcoming British election while you’ve been somewhat detached from it while on tour in North America?
JACK KENWORTHY: Yeah, we’ve been talking about it quite a lot. I think it’s maybe the first real election that we’re actually old enough to understand a lot of things - how things have affected us from the last one. So we were saying that it’s just… We’re all Labour-born families, and things like that. It’s just a funny thing, the things that Jeremy Corbyn says, who is our man, are all things we all completely agree with. But the scary thing for us is that not everyone agrees with that - you have to have leeway for these things, if you’re either one way or the other, it’s really detracts a lot of people from that. Although the idea of raising minimum wage to ten pounds is amazing, and losing university fees is incredible, it’s like, how are you going to do that, and who is it going to affect? It’s going to have a trickle-down effect somewhere. It’s an exciting time, I think a lot of people who weren’t really sure that… When it first came about I think everyone thought, ‘Oh, there is just no chance that Labour’s going to get in charge.’ But it seems like people are getting more behind him.
ALEX JOHNSON: It’s really polarised a lot of the young voters as well.
CDM: And young voters are the hardest to reach.
DOM POTTS: There’s been a record number of young people signing up to vote, which is so encouraging.
SEAN REILLY: And after particularly Brexit, there’s a lot of people in the country who maybe didn’t vote and wish they had - things like that. It’s had a knock-on effect for this election. I think you’re hopefully going to see more of an outcome from the population, rather than just a small number. Well, that’s the hope anyway.

CDM: In the chorus of ‘Heathen’ you sing, “You don’t believe in love.” Do you believe that true love exists?
JACK: Yeah, totally. I do.
ALEX: I’m getting married, so I do.

CDM: The song also uses string-players, which is something new for you guys! How did that process work?
JACK: It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, I think we’d spoken a lot about it. We’d never used strings on anything. We knew various people - I went to one guy I went to University with, I called him up. I wrote this string thing on-- the start of ‘Heathen’ was that string-line, and in the chorus. I don’t know why, I was just messing around with that. Sometimes you start a song on a sound, and it kind of gets replaced somehow, but with this one, it just seemed to feel like it worked. It definitely has taken a role through the next EP as well.

CDM: Back in April you were recording with “the world’s best choir” - is this for the upcoming EP? What can you tell us about it?
JACK: <laughs> We just called our friends to come and sing. The song, we’re not sure when we’re releasing it, I think it’ll be on our album, not a single. With the music, we always want to try new things on each song, and we’ve never had a choir. So we just called all our friends and all sang. They were all really shy and nervous, but it was so much fun.
ALEX: We didn’t know how many good voices there were.

HOW WE FEEL ABOUT THE ‘HEATHEN’ EP…

CDM: ‘The Wave’ is definitely one of our favourite songs that you’ve put out thus far. You said that the song relied a bit more on the other guys - with the sound fully coming together when they started recording their own parts. Has the Colouring process always been this collaborative, or has it developed over time?
JACK: Yeah. It really varies song to song. In some songs it might be like that, or there’s other songs it might be I’ll have a pretty solid idea of what the song is from the start, and it might change a huge amount. With that one though, it was a lot slower - not slower, it was slower tempo-wise, but it was trying to be big, and loud, and bombastic, and I was never really into it. But we kind of started recording it very quickly, and Alex was playing some brushes for it, some softer drums. I remember I went and started playing the piano and these guys were in the control room saying, “Play less,” and things like that. The majority of it, the bulk of it, really happened in an hour. We spent the rest of the time refining that idea.
SEAN: Jack is the soul of the music, and we’re kind of the body.
ALEX: I’m literally a drum-body.
DOM: I think what was so nice about ‘The Wave’ though was that often we work as building up songs - they build and build and build, and get to where they are. Whereas with ‘The Wave’, there were so many ideas already there, and the beautiful process of it was taking things away - thinking about what didn’t need to be there. We’re really happy with what came out.

CDM: Is there a music video coming for ‘The Wave’?
JACK: Yeah, we’re just working on things. We’ve got a girl who’s recording some bits. We’ll be doing something for it, and then the next single, there’s going to be another video.

IF WE COULD CATCH A WAVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WE WOULD GO TO…

CDM: Jack, you wear two blue sellotape stripes which appear as a cross in your live performances and some photographs. What’s the significance of this symbol for you?
JACK: It kind of started… All of our artwork is done by this girl called Grace O’Neill, and there was a blue colour palette that seemed to sort of stick. The first EP, we’d spoken a lot about the artwork, and I think we kind of think of music as colours, and that body of work just felt quite blue. It seemed to stick. I wear bits of blue, and we put it on our instruments to sort of represent the artwork, and the world of music.

CDM: Do you have synesthesia when you’re writing?
JACK: I don’t have that, but musically, I do think of music in colour - and texturally, in colour. I always describe sounds as colours, and different things like that, and that’s kind of why we named our band that. We kind of aim for each song to have a different feeling overall, and a colour overall.

CDM: How involved are you in the creative direction of your videos and other visuals?
JACK: With Grace, she’s very open, she wants to hear what we’re after. We gave her a brief of, ‘This is the idea we have,’ and then she turns it into something amazing. For the ‘Heathen’ video that was very much Shaun [James Grant], the director’s idea and vision. He came up with that so quickly - we had to do that very quickly, and he just had this great idea, we just let him, we can’t take any credit for that. We like to do that though, with Grace, we love this idea of collaboration with other artists and other types of art, whether it be visually, or whatever. We do see Colouring as a collective of people, it’s not just the four of us, we have so many people around us, which we always make sure are part of it.

CDM: You’ve been on The 1975’s North American tour over the last month or so, how has the experience been for you guys?
JACK: It’s been pretty cool. We’ve just gone from playing club nights in London, to 8,000 people on the first gig which has just been an absolute pleasure. It won’t sink in fully until I think, in six months - we’ll see the effect of it, and how much we’ve learnt. I think we’ve changed as people, and how we picture the band, and the music, we’re already thinking about what was missing from the sets, and what people connected with most.

HOW WE FEEL ABOUT TOURING WITH THE 1975…

CDM: You’re getting reactions on a mass scale, so it’s a good way to test things.
JACK: Yeah. They [The 1975] are so amazing, they’re so talented. Their show-- watching their show and how they put this whole… With them, it’s not just the music, a lot of bands put their soul into the music, but with them it’s this whole monster around that with their aesthetic, and their artwork, them as people, how they each have their individual personalities and playing styles, it’s been amazing to see how a band like that gets to where they are.
SEAN: I think a lot of our experience on this tour, is testament to their fans. They’re proper music fans, and they are so willing to give us a chance, and really listen to our music, which is wild. We’ve had such a great time on this tour because of them.

CDM: When we first interviewed you on the phone last year, you said that Colouring was about creating a feeling. What feelings are you hoping to share with the world through your music?
JACK: We use it kind of as a journal of our lives - for me, lyrically, it’s more easy, but with the guys when they play, it all comes down to a feeling of how they were at that time, or how they felt when they had that song, and expressing it through the music. I always think that the best music we do comes from an honest place, and one that isn’t contrived or anything. We’d hate to think that we’re regurgitating the same thing all the time, so I think that hopefully the next EP, the next music, the next album, we touch on things we haven’t done yet. We’d hate to think that we’re sticking in the same territory - I think that’s what our heroes all do, they all change, and they take photographs of their life, and then they move on.

Colouring’s ‘Heathen’ EP is out now - click here to purchase.

Listen to ‘If I Ever Lose Your Love’ below…