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Interview with The Color Failure
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Brandon: I've wanted to be a rockstar since I was a little kid. But the love of making music and fear of performing lead me down the path of being a composer. It was a solitary effort. Being in a band is really only something I’m recently revisiting in the span of my life. But I did also love writing spooky stories growing up. For the longest time I wanted, in tandem, to be Billie Joe Armstrong and Stephen King. I think if I’d never picked up an instrument and caught the music bug, I would have been a writer.
Will: My dad is an orchestral bassist. Ever since I was old enough to sit still through symphony concerts, I've been immersed in the music world. If I hadn't gotten into music I think I would be in a high-level kitchen somewhere. There are a lot of similarities between those two worlds.
Bella: Both of my parents and all of my siblings are musically talented. My mother was a singer and a dancer, and my dad played guitar. My older brother taught himself to play piano, which inspired me to do the same. We grew up playing Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution at friends' houses and singing at church. I don't really subscribe to any organized religion these days, but I have fond memories singing with the worship team. Which is how I met my now husband!
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Brandon: I love watching movies. I’m very obsessed with seeing everything that comes out. Movies have a big impact on my lyric writing, and soundtracks obviously carry over into the music I make, whether it’s concert music for the stage, my own film scores, or Color Failure.
Will: Cooking is a big passion of mine outside of music. Lots of different flavors and techniques to play with and put together. Plus there's the added bonus that whatever you made tastes good. Hopefully.
Bella: I teach spin class at LifeTime Fitness. It’s something based around rhythm and the music I play in class incorporates a version of dancing and choreography that lets me bring my passion for health and fitness into my musical side. I also have a career in hair and makeup. I keep creativity and artistry as a focus in all aspects of my life — it doesn't really feel like work at all to me.
How long has music been your career?
Bella: I've been writing songs, singing and playing a little bit of piano and guitar since I was 10.
Will: 12 years.
Brandon: I started my first band at 13, and we got paid to play a girl’s birthday party who found us on Myspace. I think after that point I was always making music, and just happy if I could occasionally get paid to do it.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Will: Dallas born and raised. The Dallas area has a ton of opportunities for musicians.
Brandon: Born and raised in Dallas, too. I can’t really say it’s influenced me, not beyond all the amazing musicians I’ve met along the way. Will and I met at UNT in Denton, which has such an eclectic mix of genres and artists happening at any given time. I don’t know that there’s a quantifiable “sound” to the scene, but that in and of itself resonated with me. The community supported my own eclecticism.
Bella: I’m currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, but I'm from Dallas, too. My family and friends are all in Dallas, so it's been a lonely few years since moving here with my husband. I play a lot of jazz and acoustic music, but I really just enjoy playing covers of songs that I can add my own bit of flare to.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Bella: Best show would have to be the first show in Austin.
Brandon: That was our first Color Failure show ever. A friend of mine in Austin was putting together a fake concert for a short film he was making, but booked a real venue and hired real bands to play real sets for him to film. It was a warehouse that overlooked downtown, that was shared with… a yoga studio maybe?. So there’s crazy New Age sort of decor everywhere, hula-hoops and trapeze suspensions. Some of the people in the audience were absolutely tripping hallucinogens, other people were like, making-out and fooling around up in the rafters… it was just a crazy great audience, maybe 50 or so people that were going nuts while we played our songs that none of them had heard. For your first show as a band, it couldn’t have been better.
Bella: It was such a memorable experience getting to go on a road trip with my bandmates. The energy in the space was incredible.
Brandon: Our first show and it was three hours away. That’s Texas, though.
Bella: Worst show would have to be the one in Denton where I came down with an upper respiratory infection or something the day before, and was starting to lose my voice.
Brandon: You were a trooper.
Bella: I refused to cancel the show. I wanted to make it happen. I had to go get a steroid shot and pushed through the best I could. I still wouldn't call it a bad show. If anything, the raspiness in my voice just added to the rock and roll vibe.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Will: I loved playing in the basement at J&J's.
Bella: Definitely J&J’s basement. It was small but it was more intimate that way.
Brandon: JnJ’s Dirty Ol’ Basement in Denton. It was a little underground stage beneath a pizza shop that was a stop for a lot of great punk bands. We played multiple shows there for the first album.
Bella: In the future I would love to play at a venue in Atlanta called The Masquerade. I saw Foxing there recently and fell in love with the space they call 'Heaven'. It's small but it has a grungy charm to it that I love so much.
Brandon: I think I’ve really wanted to play Trees here in Dallas because of the history. It’s a great venue. Nirvana started a riot there! It’s still one of Dallas’ sacred venues, there’s really not many of those left post-recession and post-COVID.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Brandon: I’ve always dreamed of playing with Silversun Pickups. I also look up to Annie Clark of St. Vincent so much. She seems like someone who would be super cool to have to waste time in the green room with.
Bella: I would definitely want to play with some of my favorite classic punk/emo bands. Green Day, Good Charlotte, Bowling For Soup, Blink-182, My Chemical Romance and bands like that.
Brandon: Change my answer; would also hop on a pop-punk revival tour. Book us for When We Were Young 2023!
Will: Any Line-up? Queen, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Muse. With a surprise guest… Florence Foster Jenkins.
Brandon: … Change my answer again.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Brandon: Failure is not an alternative to success, it’s the way to success. There are no rules. You’re never more “ready” or “authorized” to start any endeavor you want to do than right now.
Will: Listen to as much as you can. Anything and everything. Practice slow in order to play fast. Play what makes you happy.
Bella: I would tell them to try their best to be authentic to themselves but don't be scared to try new things. I have always been a more stripped down acoustic or jazz type singer but when Brandon approached me to make our first album I really fell in love with the synth pop/rock sound he was creating and now 5 years later I am just as excited to continue making this style of music with Color Failure.
Brandon: The sort of running joke of the band was that it didn’t make sense on paper. But I think the eclecticism is what kept the group interesting and fun to play in. No matter where the band goes, we’ve done some things I’ll always be able to look back on with so much pride. Like our song Lionshare is almost… genre-less. It’s a complete nonsensical hodge-podge of the best things we all brought to the table. Will’s cello, an arrhythmic time signature, turntable scratching, dozens of arpeggiators, Nick’s huge glam-rock solo, Bella’s quiet intensity. I could never make that again with another group of musicians, and when you’re making music, songs like that are so much more rewarding than something quantitatively popular or qualitatively artsy.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Bella: I would tell myself that everything and everyone I thought would be super important forever really isn't. Not that it doesn't matter, but life is long and there will be so many things, ideas and people that come and go. Be sure not to get too wrapped up in what's going on at any given moment that you stop living authentically and enjoying your life. At the end of your life, you can't take any of the things or people with you.
Brandon: That’s a solid answer. Same, really. Risk more. Leave the comfort zone more.
Will: Bet everything on the 2011 Dallas Mavericks.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Brandon: Our song Outlier was written by our late guitarist Nick, who passed away in 2019.
Will: Outlier also means the most to me.
Brandon: It’s funny, because our first album and everything I was making was really glam and synth heavy. Outlier was probably our heaviest “rock” song. In retrospect, it was so funny that I roped this tattooed, heavy metal guy into the group at all, but he totally jumped headfirst into being a part of Color Failure. I’d show up to band practice playing Passion Pit, and he’d roll up playing Frank Zappa or like, Slayer. People pointed out that the song stood out a bit on the record, but so did Nick in the band. It’s a super sludgy song, very grunge-rock. It’s got an Icky Thump meets Another Brick in The Wall kind of vibe. But the lyrics are, I think, really phenomenal. Nick was an English major, and I think some of the lines he wrote outshine anything I’ve done. When we’d play the hole-in-the-wall kind of punk venues, Outlier always gave us just enough street cred to not get run out of town.
Bella: Our newest single Noises and Neurosis means so much to me.
Bella: The lyrics talk about struggling with finding peace in life when everything going on just feels like a whirlwind. "All these noises and neurosis, they will try to bring you down." The key word for me in this song is 'Try'. Life gets crazy and sometimes lately, especially for me, it just doesn't seem to slow down. If you let them, the noises and neurosis will bring you down but the important message to me from this song is to just not let them!
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Brandon: The one time we got to do an encore at a show, Silent Movie Star was what the crowd shouted for.
Bella: Yeah, Silent Movie Star is my favorite to play from our first album. It just makes me feel so powerful and badass when I'm singing it. It hits all of the sweet spots in my vocal range and lets me really tap into my inner rocker chick.
Brandon: I’m really excited to play our latest song Noises and Neurosis, we’ve run it a few times in rehearsal and there’s always such a great energy after that one. Any song where Will and I stop looking at our instruments and start making eye contact are the funniest ones to play.
Will: Outlier and Hypersomnia are probably the most fun to play. The bass parts are very satisfying.
Brandon: We’re catching glances in those two, for sure.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
Will: My creative process is a lot of listening followed by a lot of trial and error, followed by listening.
Bella: I keep a note in my phone of lines that I've heard people around me say or that I hear in other songs, books, etc. and I squirrel them away to look at for inspiration when I sit down to write. Most of the time when I'm writing it happens by accident or out of nowhere. A song just hits me and I have to sit down and work it out at that moment. I have written a few songs lately that may or may not be included on our upcoming album that hit me first thing when I woke up in the morning and I had to sit down and play with immediately and it always feels good to hear my heart and my thoughts turning into something beautiful. Most of the things I write are a way for me to turn something that might have been really painful for me into something beautiful, kind of a coping mechanism. I haven't quite mastered writing happy songs, that's something I hope to figure out one day.
Brandon: As a film composer I’m usually noodling on something for some project. Some riffs or melodies pop up and seem like they would be better as a Color Failure song than part of a soundtrack. I keep a notes tab on my phone open for lyric ideas. Most of my songs will start with a line or word or phrase. Once I have a structure and particular word or phrase for a song married, the rest of the writing kind of develops itself.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Brandon: I wouldn’t say I ever have any strong messages, like, an ulterior motive, or agenda to communicate. I think they're just open venting about said topic, event or person. Some of my songs are really just… personal diary entries.
Bella: Right, I think a message when I’m writing is “no one is alone”. I’m writing songs about things I've been through, the heartbreaks I've experienced. things that, when you're in the thick of them, can make you feel isolated and lonely. Creating music about these things, hopefully, helps someone see that other people have felt what they are feeling.
Brandon: Exactly. I don’t set out to talk about this or that. I’m indiscriminate with what inspires a song. Noises and Neurosis is an open letter to hating my own neuroticism and anxiousness. Hypersomnia is about letting people down when you’re depressed. A lot of people know these feelings. But some of them are way less dimensional. I Fell Into the Sea was just about the time I fell into a lake acting like a jackass while trying to impress a girl I was on a date with. Speak with the Sparks is about nicotine withdrawal when I was trying to quit smoking. Silent Movie Star is about manufacturing grandiosity to get the attention of someone who’s ignoring you. You know, not things every single person has gone through, but I certainly went through.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Brandon: I don’t think so, but then again I’m often the carnival barker for the group, so maybe it’s not fair for me to comment?
Bella: I honestly can't think of a time I've experienced anything like that.
Brandon: Thank God!
Bella: I think that's one of the best things about making music with your friends that do music for a living: almost every time there is an opportunity to give feedback, it is constructive and well received because we know it is coming from a place of love and there is knowledge behind it to back it up.
Will: Yeah. Sometimes there's disagreements, that's part of collaboration. But open communication and compromise is part of the deal.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Brandon: While we were starting to get our bearings earlier this year, and figure out our plans post-COVID, writing and rehearsing and all that… I got diagnosed with leukemia. That was a pretty big buzzkill. So at the moment: beating cancer. But it’s been a small bump in a large road, really. I’ve been laser focused on finishing and releasing Noises and Neurosis, and getting back to the stage as soon as possible. I got really into reading rock retrospectives while I was doing outpatient chemotherapy, Dan Ozzi’s Sellout, Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography Tranny, Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. That really kept the fire alive in me to move past this and keep playing. Right now Noises is scheduled for Halloween of this year. We’ll be doing some final tracking and mixing while I’m getting a bone marrow transplant. We’ll tour the album next year when I’m safe to be around crowds.
Bella: Brandon has already mentioned that he has been writing for a third album?
Brandon: I mean, we all have! I’ve done a lot of the songwriting up until now. But Will and Bella have both grown so much as composers and lyricists themselves. What we do going forward, I want to be a lot more like, say, Queen. Freddie wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, John Deacon wrote Another One Bites the Dust, and Brian May wrote We Will Rock You. Can you imagine any of those not being in Queen’s catalogue? I mean, we’re no Queen. But our strength in performing has always been eclecticism, and I’m excited for it to be our strength in the studio too.
Bella: So, following Brandon's recovery from his transplant this September, I look forward to getting back on stage with my friends again. We are super excited about releasing Noises and Neurosis.
Will: Exactly. Keep making music I enjoy with my friends. Everything else is just a pleasant bonus.
Song links referenced in:
New Single - Noises and Neurosis: