ONELIFE INTERVIEW: October 2014:
by Chris Jordan
With the September 2014 release of their debut EP, Winnipeg based band Onelife has emerged from the home studio of Colin Graves (vocals/keyboards) armed with a 5-song collection of melodic alternative rock tunes. The self-produced debut EP fuses the melodic Edge-esque sounds of guitarist Tyrone Wollmann with Graves’ 80’s influenced synths, set over syncopated rhythms created by drummer Jason Johnson and guest bass player Micah Bell. Vocalist Laura Graves brings an added dimension to the sound, blending her rich alto to her husband’s lead vocal.
Mixed and mastered in Los Angeles by producer/engineer Adrian Bradford (Mat Kearney, Amanda Falk) and mastering engineer Reuben Cohen (Foo Fighters, Ingrid Michaelson) Onelife strives for an epic if not anthemic sound. Lyrically, themes such as commitment and self-doubt are evident, but the common thread is the hope that can be found in the midst of struggle. In the month’s leading up to the release of the EP, multi-instrumentalist Donovan Wollmann, also the younger brother of Tyrone, joined Onelife as their permanent bass player. Future recordings will feature Donovan on the bass guitar. (source: onelifemusic.ca).
Chris: How did the group Onelife come to be?
Colin: That’s a question that has a very long answer, but to sum it up, Jason, Laura and I go way back as friends, and playing together, that kind of thing – probably about 14-15 years or so. Tyrone and I met and started writing music and playing together about 9 years ago. The four of us have been playing music and song writing in the studio for several years. About three or four years ago, we talked about doing some original material. We got serious about it, built a recording studio and started writing in earnest and rehearsing more. It’s built momentum since then, mostly through the recording process. We’ve always lacked having a bass player, and when Donovan recently came on board, he filled that missing piece for us.
Chris: How did your self-titled album project come about?
Colin: We’ve been working on an album for the past few years. Mostly writing and developing several ideas…songs and parts of songs. Rather than tackle a full length release, we narrowed it down to five songs that we felt fit well together, for the EP. We’ve spent the last year and a half tracking them and getting them mixed and mastered and here it is.
Chris: What does the name Onelife signify?
Colin: (smiling) It’s nothing profound; it was inspired by the lyrics from a Switchfoot song, off their Oh! Gravity album. The song is called Faust, Midas and Myself, the song says, “You’ve got one life, one life, one life left to lead…” It serves as a reminder that we have exactly that and it’s important that we’re living it with purpose, trying to make it count. That’s something we’re all striving to do, sometimes we succeed, many times we fail, but it’s a message that I hope comes through in our lyrics.
Chris: What are some of your personal musical influences? Who do you like to listen to?
Jason: Besides Sandi Patti? (laughs). I guess I’d have to say big influences include Peter Gabriel, Genesis, a lot of 80’s kind of pop stuff. For me personally as a drummer, a lot of references from hip-hop, like I’m talking the early stuff. That and some contemporary stuff like Collective Soul, a number of us love Switchfoot. My music tastes are pretty eclectic. I’ve played in many different bands with different styles.
Tyrone: I grew up listening to and playing metal – European metal. A lot of my influences are bands like In Flames. And there’s also a lot of 80’s influence.
Jason: Cause that’s when you were born?
Tyrone: Yes, that’s right. And U2. The Edge comes out in my playing apparently.
Chris: That’s one of the things that I felt when I first listened to the album was a definite U2 influence on the music.
Laura: I grew up listening to a lot of different styles of music, like the older style 70’s and stuff. Right now, there are certain artists I really like, like Amanda Cook. My favourite band right now is The Bros. Landreth. So I love the bluesy rock kind of stuff and bluegrass, but a wide range including celtic music.
Donovan: I grew up listening to and playing bluegrass, believe it or not – a long ways away from what we’re playing now. I’ve always listened to anything and everything. I don’t really have a specific artist.
Colin: For myself, early influences are a lot of synth pop/new wave from the 80’s – Tears for Fears, Michael W. Smith, Genesis, Phil Collins, all that kind of stuff. I love lots of different styles of music. That comes through a lot in my song writing.
Chris: You have five different tracks on the album. Would you be willing to share the story behind one or some of them?
Colin: Lyrically and musically, the way the songs came together? It was interesting how My Heart is Yours came to be. You (Chris Jordan) had given me a copy of an outline for a (youth fantasy) book you’re working on (The Voyagers: Mutiny on the Fellowship), and I was interested to read it. And I was reading through this outline, and it inspired me. The cool thing about the song is that I wrote the entire melody and the whole basic arrangement for it on my iPad. I even recorded the original keyboard and drum part on there, which was a different approach. That was the first time I had done that. From there we transitioned the song to the full band, and it took on a whole new life. I was inspired by the outline of your book and the ideas and themes in there, and that’s present in the lyrics. None of the songs on the EP I would say are autobiographical necessarily, except Let The Beauty Begin, to a degree. Tyrone and I wrote the first song Lonely Side, that one took a long time to write.
Tyrone: I came to you with the verse, pre-chorus and chorus first, the first of three versions…
Colin: And the chorus and the melodies changed. So some songs come together very quickly, and some take a long time to write. Lonely Side – one of my favourite tracks that we’ve written – took a long time to come together – a couple of years. And then another song like Let the Beauty Begin, I wrote that one probably within half an hour, virtually the whole thing. Not all of the lyrics, but all of the music, the chord progression and melody came together in half an hour sitting down at the piano at my parent’s place.
Chris: Do any of the rest of the band have a particular track on the album that’s a favourite, and what is it about the song that appeals to you personally?
Jason: I really like When We Were One because it’s a got a great message for anybody who is either married or has been in a relationship. It’s talking about fighting for a relationship. So the message of the song to me is really powerful. I love that one because I think playing live, that one will translate really well, and a lot of people will feel some sort of cool kind of emotive thing in the audience. I don’t want that to sound weird, but I think that really has a cool atmosphere to it, and I think people will really connect with that.
Chris: I’d have to agree with you. I think that a message that encourages couples or a married couple in the world we’re living in today where there are so many relationship struggles will definitely bring encouragement and hope. That’s good.
Tyrone: It would be between When We Were One and Lonely Side because they will be fun to play live, and they will bring a lot of energy.
Chris: How has your Christian faith influenced the music on this album?
Colin: Lyrically speaking, I never sit down and write lyrics and say, “This is going to be a Christian song” or that kind of thing. I just sit down to write lyrics about something I feel strongly about, or some emotions that are close to me at the time. So we don’t write ‘Christian music’, but our faith is going to come through in the lyrics because that’s who we are and that’s what’s in our hearts. We don’t consider ourselves a Christian band, genre-wise. We don’t strive to be a ‘Christian’ rock band. We are Christians by faith, but we want our music to appeal to a broad audience and demographic. Certainly our faith is evident in our words.
Jason: But I’d also hope that there’s a depth to the lyrics and purpose with hope and encouragement, whether we’re talking about a real topic or tough issue relationally, people go through that, whether they know God personally or not. So just the reality of different situations, to come at it with a message of hope and being real, trying not to fluff anything, but to just be honest in integrity with what it’s like to breath in and breath out as a human here, and hopefully we can bring encouragement to people through our music.
Chris: This is one question I’m looking forward to hearing an answer to: Do you have any plans in regards to touring or promoting the album yet?
Jason: Yes. (Everyone laughs).
Chris: Can I quote you on that? “The drummer said yes.” Anything concrete or specific? Any sort of time frame?
Jason: Time frame? Yes, we’re working on rehearsing not only the songs, just to be tighter as a band, but also rehearsing with a show in mind, to put something together so that we’re as prepared as possible. As far as a time frame, no one knows the day or hour just yet, but mid to late November is a hope. I guess we just wait to see what would be the right fit for a gig to really launch some things. I think after that, building momentum and building relationship with other local bands and making friends and connections, I think things will really grow from that. We definitely want to be pro-active in talking to different venues and events to see if it’s something that we could be a part of, if it would be a good fit.
Chris: Sounds good, I’m looking forward to that first live show.
Chris: What can people expect in regards to a live show when they see you perform?
Colin: A lot of lights, a lot of pyro and bungee cables. (laughing). We’re still kind of feeling that out. We like to turn things up.
Tyrone: Yeah, it’s going to be loud.
Jason: It’s not your grandmother’s rock music.
Laura: It’s not going to be a coffee shop.
Colin: We like the energy of some good hard-hitting music, but hopefully as much diversity as possible from some real high energy tunes, straight-ahead, rock-sounding tunes, to more laid back groove-based tracks. We’re working through the dynamics of that. Some of the songs will sound a bit different than they do on the CD which is cool because it allows us to be continuously creative, by reinventing some of the arrangements for a live audience.
Chris: What plans and goals do you have for onelife for the future?
Laura: I’d like to do a European tour.
Donovan: Bermuda. (laughs).
Colin: It’s hard to say. We’re open to anything. We are in a different situation than a lot of bands in that we are all married, most of us have kids, committed jobs and careers, and so we’re not going to be just taking off for three months to pull up in different places on tour. But we really want to see where it takes us, and look for opportunities. We’ll focus locally first of all and try to build some momentum there. We’re open to lots of different experiences. We’ll see what fits us as a group.
Chris: Any closing remarks you would like to add? Anything else that you want listeners, fans, or potential fans to know about Onelife?
Tyrone: We rock.
Jason: We sure do. (laughs).
Laura: We want people to relate to the songs. They speak to the struggles, the battle’s we all face, it’s real life. But there’s that element of hope present, and I hope that resonates as well.
Chris: If people who are listening to your music want to get a hold of you to give you some feedback, how can they do that online?
Colin: We have a pretty strong social media presence. We have our website http://www.onelifemusic.ca, and from there you can link to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube channels. We are very active on social media,we love to interact with people who are listening to our music. That’s something we do on a daily basis, and we love to hear feedback from people.