Colonel is a one-man show, the brains behind which is Colin Mosely. The “band” originated in Champaign during Mosely’s time as a student at the University of Illinois and has since evolved into what can best be described as drone-folk music. As a musician and an artist Colonel’s live performance implements visuals that enhance Mosely’s calming melancholy vocals and set it apart from other solo performances. He gave us a little bit of insight on the meaning behing his latest EP, his time in Champaign and almost getting murdered on tour.
Smile Politely: How did your time as a student in Champaign influence your music career?
Colonel: I think it influenced it a lot in a positive way. I went to school there as an art student and that kind of helped me a lot to take my music more seriously and to try a little bit harder with different creative things. It’s definitely a good place because there’s a good small group of people just doing it for themselves. I honestly never felt like I fit in to any sort of scene in Champaign because it seemed very punk driven when I was going to school there. But I did enjoy going to the live shows, the house shows and when Error Records started. But yeah, it is a very good place with a lot of people who just work hard and like to help each other out whether they are compensated for it or not.
SP: Do you feel like your art and music relate to each other?
Mosely: I would say definitely. I’m a painter so it’s a little different but performance is always important to me. When I play live, since I’m not a full band I always felt like I couldn’t represent something visually that’s more intriguing so I use projection videos as part of my music performance to present more of a mood and get people more involved.
SP: What are the projection videos usually?
Colonel: A lot of the sources are from the stuff I’ve just kind of recorded on my phone when I’ve been on tour or free public domain stuff that I find online. My most recent show and this upcoming one are going to be similar in a way that I actually have a friend of mine who is going to be doing video DJing for it. So the video stuff, instead of being fully edited before, it’s going to be a live process so we can change different effects on the video, put different videos up, and choose how the audience sees it.
SP: Have you always been influenced by folk music or did it take a while to come to that as your signature taste?
Colonel: It took a while. In the early days of the Champaign music scene when I was in high school or eighth grade trying to get rides from my sister to Champaign to see shows it was a little different because it was all about the hardcore scene so that’s kind of where I started out. And then I don’t know, maybe I got a little bored and I just started delving into more stuff so it hasn’t always been the folk. I got influenced by a few guitar players I came across, some older guys from the 60s and 70s and just kind of went from there.
SP: Your latest EP is called whtvrfrvr. Can you tell me more about that?
Colonel: I guess the title for that EP the, whtvrfrvr, seems kind of like apathetic maybe [laughs]. It came from the fact that a lot of my music was maybe a little more melancholy but I never wanted it to be depressing or anything. I like to think of it as a positive sort of “whatever” like oh it’s all good, don’t get too worried about it. One of the songs on there, “Vacation,” is sort of a good synopsis for that short little EP because the lyrics are talking about sort of Americana or folk ideals about vacation or you’re always thinking about this grass is greener on the other side idea with vacation, it’s the only thing I ever wanted and then you get there and it’s like ah well it ends [laughs]. So, sort of a pessimistic look at vacations. I recorded that short little EP last year in order to have some new material to tour with. Last summer I went on a three week tour out west. I went to Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California. Sort of just a tour I put together myself, and the stuff I had recorded I felt didn’t represent what I was going on and I wanted something people could take with them.
SP: How was the tour experience?
Colonel: It was great. It was my third time going out and I guess it was the longest one too. I had a super fun time, it’s just fun meeting people and getting into weird situations when you’re sort of on your own. Two out of the three times I’ve toured by myself so sometimes you’re like I don’t know where I’m going to be sleeping tonight so you kind of have to take the punches as you go and you end up being in weird situations or have interesting stories so that’s cool. In Denver I played at this weird sort of pizza place slash bar and I played up above so you could see me but it was almost in this little balcony and I walked down and these guys were like “oh I liked your music we didn’t know it was a person playing live we thought it was just coming out of the speakers.” But because I didn’t know where I was going to stay in Denver and couldn’t get a hold of anyone I knew, I ended up staying at one of the guys’ houses, and I had a really weird experience where I thought he was going to murder me at one point [laughs]. But I am alive so it all worked out. Definitely a little terrifying.
SP: I saw on Bandcamp you had an additional bass player and some backup vocals on the latest EP, will there be more of that?
Colonel: Definitely going to be more of it in the recordings and hopefully will be live eventually. Something I’m pretty excited about which people will see at my new shows is I’m building more loops and more sort of material background stuff that plays into the music. It’s still very folk inspired but I really liked how Isaac Arms from Champaign described it as drone folk. I’ve never heard that term before and I was like okay that kind of helps describe it. On the Bandcamp these past two years I’ve been kind of procrastinating. I’ve been changing my music so much it doesn’t give a good representation of what my live performance is now.
SP: What’s next for Colonel?
Colonel: I have some exciting stuff happening that I can’t talk about [laughs] I’m still waiting for them to email me back but I’m going go on tour again this summer hopefully. I’m in the process of recording right now and I want to save up money to record in a studio. But there is a music festival I will be playing soon that I can’t talk about, they haven’t given me permission to yet. So things are looking up, I’m pretty excited about next year. And I’m looking forward to being back in Champaign.
SP: Definitely I’m sure it’s exciting to come back, especially for Unofficial…[laughs]
Colonel: Oh shit, is that this weekend? Well hopefully instead of people being belligerently drunk on the streets they will come be belligerently drunk in an Irish bar, which would make sense for Unofficial.
Photos courtesy of Jon Tracey.
You can catch Colonel at Mike N Molly’s this Friday night.