The Color Truth -- a band that got together while its members worked at a local music shop -- is still young, but it's got a mature alternative rock / pop sound that encompasses its diverse influences.
One of those influences was the now-departed, fellow Milwaukee band Northern Room. Like that quartet, The Color Truth plays melodic, at times anthemic pop-laced rock. And like Northern Room, TCT recorded its debut disc, the six-song "Proof of Life" EP, at Burst Collective in Wauwatosa with Daniel Holter.
One of those songs, "Counting Sheep," will appear on the upcoming third OMC_D compilation of Milwaukee bands released by OnMilwaukee.com.
We talked to singer and guitarist Zach Steinbach about how the band got to where it is today.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us a bit about the history of the band; how you guys met, got together, etc.
Zach Steinbach: Co-worker Frank Babeck and I first started getting together back in October 2006 after his previous pop / rock band, Thomas Lane, went on hiatus. It was just the two of us at first, Frank adding drums and percussion to a few songs I had written on acoustic guitar.
A few months later, in early '07, old high school friend of mine, Dave Streese joined the band with his electric guitar. And finally, after trying out a few bassists and playing our first show with a hired bassist, we at last added permanent fourth member, Dana Nielsen -- also a co-worker of Frank and I -- on bass guitar in September 2007. It took almost a year to put the four of us together.
OMC: What's the significance of the band's name?
ZS: Frank, Dave, and I brainstormed names for quite some time before I came up with "The Color Truth." For starters, I wanted a name that wasn't a joke or meaningless, because that really wouldn't line up with what the band is based on or stands for. It had to be something with some depth.
"Truth" represents the honesty and straightforward-ness of each song's lyrical message. "Color" represents the life and alive-ness, if you will, of the entire package. The music that puts the words in motion. The Color Truth.
OMC: Who are some of the bands that have provided inspiration both musical and otherwise?
ZS: John Mayer is a huge inspiration of mine; his music / intelligent lyrics and his story. Though our music really doesn't resemble his a whole lot, and I think that's a good sign. Dave is a fan of his as well, and an even bigger one of Stevie Ray Vaughan. We're still not blues rock though. Ha.
Okay, practical inspirations for us include bands Jimmy Eat World, Death Cab for Cutie, Brett Dennen, Counting Crows, The Damnwells, Radiohead, Coldplay, Matt Nathanson, a handful of Christian artists...
Really the list could go on and on. We all listen to a lot of different music. None we really zero in on to be similar to. Just what comes out is our thing. Alternative rock pop.
OMC: Is it true your first show was at Summerfest? How did that happen?
ZS: It is true. I'd love to have some glorious story about how we played for some high-falutin' big wig and he liked us so much he put us on the Miller Oasis and paid us thousands of dollars.
Really we were selected by Cascio Music to play on their stage, because that's where Frank, Dana and I all worked at the time.
OMC: How did you meet Dan Holter and come to record the EP there?
ZS: I first got wind of Daniel through the Northern Room -- another big influence of ours -- "Only Seconds" EP. I was amazed by the production and recording quality and got excited when I saw it was done in Milwaukee. We knew upon first listen we had to work with Daniel. I looked up the Burst Web site, visited the studio, and the rest is history.
OMC: What was it like working at Burst?
ZS: Fantastic! It was an awesome feeling to know you're working with no one but the best and will walk out with a product to match. Kudos to engineer, Justin Perkins, for his hard work, as well. We all had to work pretty hard. Pre-production with Daniel, before tracking even began, was probably the most difficult. We had to be beaten-down to be brought back up. But that's exactly what happened, and the end result was well worth the time and hard work ... and momentary anger and frustration!
The actual in-studio experience itself, it was incredible. Just walk into Burst and you'll know it's a place meant to capture music. I love just having an excuse to go back and visit.
OMC: Speaking of which is there a full-length in the band's future?
ZS: Most definitely. We have the material. It's just a matter of exhausting our push behind the "Proof of Life" EP before it'd be prudent for us to fund an LP. We still have plenty of work to do.
OMC: What is the band working on now -- gigging, writing, recording?
ZS: All of them. Performing is the biggest priority right now. Trying hard to find the best venues to spotlight our Proof of Life campaign and keep reaching new ears and hearts. We're always working on new material. Some times are more productive than others, but in general, writing is something we never close the door on. And hand-in-hand with writing, recording live basement tracks always help flesh out new song ideas.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.