Michael Soltys of The Colour Code (Melbourne) talks band’s history, upcoming EP and more

From Melbourne, Australia, pop-rock legends of The Colour Code have many sound influences that can be heard through their music. To sound different, especially in the local market is tough but when you take a listen to tracks such as “Alibi” and “It’s Up To Me”, there’s no denying that this band has clear-cut chemistry. In this interview, vocalist of the band Michael Soltys tells all… From the band’s history, to his work with Tom Larkin, as well as how he maintains his all-consuming passion for music…

So the band has an interesting name. Where did it come from?

The Colour Code is a very, very basic name and it came out from a lot of overthinking. Our guitarist, Ryan [Lapthorne]– that’s his baby.

How did the formation of the band come about?

Basically a very old friend of mine, Scott [Stone] who is our bassist – we’ve been playing together since Year 8 and Ryan is our other guitarist too and we met almost eight years ago; we’ve been best pals since then. Scotty and I have been playing together in other bands for a long time. Along the way, we saw David [Hyman] put up an ad online and he sent us a quick video of himself on YouTube and then The Colour Code happened.

Did you and Scotty keep in contact after high school?

Yeah, we were friends right through from Year 8 to VCE and we played in a lot of bands during high school. Scotty moved to London for two years because he wanted to work further on electro/house music; he also DJs on the side as well. Scotty then returned to Melbourne and I didn’t even know that he was back. Along the way, we kinda just caught up down the track and from there, I’d send him a bunch of demos. One day, I said, “Dude, do you want to pick up your bass again?” and he agreed and we’ve been playing ever since.

So how did you approach songwriting for both “Alibi” and “It’s Up To Me”?

“It’s Up To Me” was a solo project that I started and I actually released it under the same project two years ago; it was a little electro thing which was kind of the base of the song. “Alibi” was a new song; it was in its skeleton phase when we approached Tom Larkin with it. He’s the drummer of Shihad and he also produced the three songs we recorded with him and he’s the kind of guy that says,”If this [music] jumps out of me, this is gonna jump out on other people. We had another song called “I’m Back to Your Bones”, which we ended up ripping the chords out of and became the chords of “Alibi” which, was awesome. He [Larkin] tore it apart and then put it back together which made the song pretty killer.

As a producer, do you think he made you go in the right direction for your music?

Basically we’ve been falling and falling for years and we were all trying to grab onto something and it just wasn’t happening. He solidified our music while saying, “This is the song; this is the sound; this is the way we’re gonna record this.” Looking back at his past work, he used three microphones and a drum kit. He wouldn’t let our drummer do any drum fills; he wouldn’t let our drummer get any crash cymbals. He was kind of like keeping the songs groovy and solid. Predominantly, we had been writing alt-rock music like Motor AceBirds of Tokyo and Silverchair style. Afterwards, I then just based things on my solo electro project, which was a very hip-hop and RnB influence. He somehow found that middle ground for our music.

Following up on that, how did you guys agree on a particular sound seeing as you all have different musical influences from one another?

I kind of grew up listening to MetallicaRage Against The Machine and Blink-182 but slowly expanded on what I liked. I’d go through periods of what I find interesting; one day it might be hip-hop, alternative, indie – whatever sounds good really; as the lead [singer], you kind of need that. Scotty loves House music and he writes dance music. When I met Ryan, he was into Foo Fighters, Silverchair and Jeff Buckley. Believe it or not, when we found Dave, he was pretty much into hardcore and screamo bands. The cover he actually linked to us was of a Paramore track and it was just solid. You can kinda tell when you watch us live; we’re playing keyboards, we’re using a Mac on stage, a live kit, amps and it just totally works for us.

It’s really interesting because there’s so much chemistry in your songs. Even though you haven’t released that many tracks, they’re really solid in terms of the sound dynamics.

It’s a really good foundation and when we’re in the rehearsal rooms, we’re writing and collaborating different aspects and influences out of those Tom Larkin sessions. If we’re overthinking a song and we’re trying to do too much, we always try to bring ourselves back down and ask, “What would Larkin do?” It’s kind of the new mantra for the band.

Are you guys currently working on an EP or LP at the moment?

We’re writing on a few songs. We’ve got some songs that we like and then there’s times where we write new songs and ditch the old ones. By the time we commit to this EP, you might find that the four songs that we have now, might be completely different. With up and coming artists, I find that the LP thing is far too ambitious.

Yeah ’cause you guys are a local band and obviously you wanna grow an audience first before you actually release an album. You kinda need that foundation for your music.

Absolutely. We need to grow an audience and keep things exciting.

Not only are you the vocalist of the band but you also play the keyboard and the guitar. What initially inspired you to play music?

Honestly, when I think back at the time, I was in my parents’ family room and we were listening to a Joe Cocker record and the song that was playing was called “Feelin’ Alright.” I found a key on the piano and I started hitting it in time [with the music] and it sounded surprisingly good and I began to wonder how I was doing it. I was only a kid back then and from there, I just got into piano and I really liked Blues music at the time too. I think all youngsters listen to their folks’ music and they just find it so cool. Once you grow up, you decide what you like.

I think it’s really interesting that bands sort of grasp that classic rock era period, especially when you’re growing up and you’re exposed to all this music. When I grew up, my dad listened to Queen and Journey and I sorta liked that. And then I found all these other bands that were influences to those bands. It’s cool that you can get a solid sound foundation in terms of the music you listen to.

Yeah absolutely. Queen was another band that my dad listened to, he has their “Best of”. He has also has Creedence’s “Best of” as well. Back then – that’s where all that kind of music peaked. Fortunately, society’s music in terms of pop, rock and whatever is – I think that now, everybody’s trying to rehash and combine all these elements together. It’s cool to fall back on different genres – like Scott, who has always been into House music. He told me just recently that he discovered Gold 104.3 [Victorian Radio Station] while he was doing some labour work in a factory. He’s always like, “Have you heard this Hall & Oates track? Have you heard this Creedence track?” and I’m like, “Yeah, man. I’ve been listening to them for 15 years.” It’s kinda cool to know that a 28-year old can still find that fresh.

When it comes to being in a band, obviously there’s problems that will arise. How have you dealt with the challenges that you’ve come across so far in your music journey?

I think trying to keep all the conversations that you have and all the important decision-making be done in-person. You can say a lot in a Facebook message and things can get heated and a bit harsh and spiteful in those digital conversations. When you get into a room together, it’s convenient that you can find that happy medium with everyone.

In music terms, when it comes to decision-making, do you guys agree on things most of the time? How do you all work through a disagreement?

I’ve always been quite stubborn and if I’m certain that something is going to sound great, I’ll go to no end and pull through with it. Essentially, I’m the Dave Grohl, I’m the singer and the lead guy. At times, I can get defensive and tend to write-off people’s ideas. Now, this comes down to the Larkin thing – the best thing I got out of that was that; he literally threw any kind of attitude I had and that was refreshing and it did good for me.

So basically Larkin tamed you guys for the attitude that you had towards your music.

Yeah, absolutely. Larkin put me in my place. He definitely does it in a less diplomatic way than I would.

I think everything that he’s done for you guys had good intentions behind it for the benefit of the band’s music direction. I guess he just wanted to push you further towards your dreams.

Yeah, absolutely. I think that everyone in the music business has something to gain. Whether as a producer, sound engineer, musician or a writer – there’s always a greater good. It’s one of those things where he wanted to help us but he also wanted to produce something that was top-notch for himself. For Sam Sproull, he was the sound engineer and he was absolutely amazing. I guess it’s good to have three perspectives as opposed to my own or from the band.

Not enough credit goes to Sam by the way – this guy’s fucking crazy. Working with different people is hugely beneficial and I recommend for band’s starting off, if you’ve got the commitment and a heightened sense of budget, find a producer. You can argue with the rest of the band for three days but when it comes to a producer, they can knock it down in a second.

As a musician, what has being in the music industry taught you so far?

You need to be optimistic and confident but also at the same time expect the worse and be a little bit of a realist in terms of who you’re up against and how much competition you have in the world. You hear people like Dave Grohl say, “If you work hard at it – you can do anything” and I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think it’s a matter of right time, right place, right vibe and you gotta have the right song that appeals to a specific demographic as well; it’s like all the planets have to align. Unfortunately, you can’t really make them do that but if you don’t bust your ass, then it’s just not gonna happen.

Would you say that failure motivates you to continue with the whole dynamics of being in a band? Because I know most bands that start off, they burn out very quickly. I just wanna know what inspires you continuously.

I think that a lot of people you see who play in bands and then break up, do other jobs like installing air conditioners and whatever – for me, it wouldn’t even be an option and I would find it difficult to even consider it. I’ll be writing music or producing music or be a songwriter for other people forever; I can’t picture anything else. It’s important to have a day job, especially when you’re living in Melbourne at our age and that’s gonna be my extracurricular thing. I think there was a rough period where I was down in the dumps about a release that we had and the kind of crowds that we were drawing and I told my girlfriend I was going to sell all my [music] equipment. Four hours later, I was looking back and snickering at what I said.

I guess all the little things do add up at the end of the day.

You can’t forget why you did it. I think people grow up listening to certain bands and you need to remember how your passion for music started. When I listen to the same songs, it just reminds me of the tattoos I have on my left arm and the initials of songwriters that I’ve grown up with who have inspired me. One of them is Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and I find it disappointing that the band have grown apart. I actually really liked their last EP and album and I couldn’t believe how timeless it still sounded; it was like their old stuff but newer and better. I understand people want to make a life out of it but you can’t ever look at it like that. It’s gotta be fun, honest and genuine as well.


Check out the band’s latest music video for their single, “It’s Up To Me”!

For more updates on the band, follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thecolourcodemusic


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