Keeping faithful to their colours

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The guide caught up with Sunderland four-piece, The Colourist Project, on the eve of the release of their self-titled debut album.

EIGHTIES band The Faithful Colours meets 90s act Colourise for today’s musical offering The Colourist Project.

The band’s name may have changed over the decades, but their passion for pop remains the same.

Brothers Dean and Pete Robertson, along with Mart Barnes and Mark “Smudge” Robertson, have been together since the 80s.

The Faithful Colours were formed in 1985 and plied their trade mark jingly jangly pop to sell out crowds in long gone Sunderland haunts such as Marlowes and Ku Club.

“There didn’t seem to be a lot of bands around in those days” says Pete, “after playing only a handful of gigs we ended up with a huge following. I can distinctly remember playing a gig in Greensleeves (now Fitzgeralds) and being concerned that there were too many people in and worrying what would happen if there’d been a fire.”

As the 80s gave way to the 90s the band changed direction and changed its name to Colourise.

“I think that, as The Faithful Colours, we became a big fish in a small pond. We could attract really large crowds in the North East but we didn’t make any impact outside of our own locale,” reflects Dean.

“As Colourise we spread our wings a little playing gigs further a field. We started to pick up contacts within the business down south.”

The band released two EPs on its own Blue Submarine Records and eventually members found themselves being courted by Demon Records, home to, among other people, Martin Stephenson and Elvis Costello.

The band was packed off to record at Costello’s rural East Sussex recording studio to begin work on an album for the label with Dodgy/Manic Street Preachers producer Robin Evans.

The sessions were going well when disaster struck.

“Demon records was a big indie label with a fantastic back catalogue, which made it a target for the bigger mainstream record companies” says Pete. “Half way through recording the album the label was bought out. The new owners were only interested in milking its back catalogue, in effect it ceased to exist as a working label and all new projects were scrapped.

“We were gutted. We went on to complete the album but without record company support it was difficult. It felt like a case of so near yet so far”.

After this setback, the band entered what it now refers to as “the wilderness years”. Members withdrew from live work and began another album recording at various local studios.

“We started work on a new album but we were a little directionless” says Mart. “It became our lost album but its recording sowed the seeds of The Colourist Project”.

With a second album complete but unreleased, the band took a conscious decision to invest in some recording equipment and to set up its own studio.

From there work began on a new project.

“It was as if the shackles had been removed,” reflects Pete. “We began writing and recording for ourselves. We weren’t trying to impress record companies we weren’t interested in being pop stars, it was all about the songs. Most importantly of all we were really enjoying ourselves.”

Evidence of this can be heard on the album, which the band says takes the listener on a rewarding journey through well crafted, well produced songs.

When asked what links the band’s three incarnations Dean is quick to reply.

“Song craft, I think we’ve never lost our pop sensibilities in our writing, our original influences: The Beatles, The Who, Nick Drake, Prefab Sprout, The Smiths, Friends Again, and The Pale Fountains, to name but a few, can still be heard in our music. You can’t take them out, we wouldn’t want to, but I also think we have our own sound. We’re progressive, always looking ahead, that’s the key.”