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"Desert Hearts: Colourfide"

The Northern Territory is perhaps known all too unkindly for its ‘blow ins’.. People who travel from ‘somewhere else’ – usually for work reasons – to stay in the Territory for a while, make their money then leave. Remote towns and regional centres are renowned for this kind of culture – the Territory’s no exception – with at any one time twenty percent of the NT’s population classified as ‘transient’.

While many card-carrying Territorians might frown upon the ‘parasitic’ nature of those who ‘come, conquer n’ go’, others find a space where a beneficial cultural exchange can take place between ‘locals’ and ‘foreigners’. One in which this most often happens is the the NT’s arts + music community.

On their way.. Colourfide. Pic: Facebook
Colourfide are a great example of a recent ‘cultural exchange’ in the NT, that went very right. Hailing from the Gold Coast, this die-hard group of dedicated young reggae musicians journeyed eagerly west, settling in Tennant Creek for six months, to work hard and play hard – in the musical sense of the word.

There was a definite method to their madness as they went about making the most of their time Territory-side, winning lots of new fans along the way. They gigged heaps – in a corridor that stretched from Darwin to Alice – wrote new material, refined their sound, collaborated with local bands and made stacks of new friends and allies – much needed if you’re going to succeed in the music biz.

Colourfide were also front and centre at BOTH iNTune Music Conferences in Darwin and Alice Springs, performing killer sets at both, and making their presence felt to industry speakers and delegates alike.

Sadly Colourfide’s time is up in the Territory – for now anyway. A band full of enthusiastic and talented frontmen, Zac Fahey is one of them. He says of their Territory time, “we love the NT if we haven’t already expressed that enough! Moving to Tennant was the best thing that could have happened to the band, and for some of us the best adventure of our lives! Everyone has been so accepting especially in the music scene! We will be back – there’s no doubt!”

They’re incredibly professional for a band whose average age is 23 and have really only just started out… With musicianship and songwriting skills well beyond their years, they’ve also recorded an impressive debut EP that sincerely shows off their skill and musical wares.

No doubt they have a big future ahead of them. On the eve of their departure back to the Gold Coast – and a big announcement due on October 25 – drummer James Winwood and the band spoke to Music NT. Here’s your chance to meet Colourfide, one of the Territory’s own, for a little while at least…

Music NT: First please; Colourfide roll call: name, age and instrument(s) played…

Colourfide: Zac Fahey, 23, vocals, guitar, percussion; Hoani Barker, 23, bass, vocals; Matt Spaninks, 23, guitar, keys, vocals; Zak Barker, 19, guitar, and James Winwood, 28, drums

MuNT: You almost seem to be a band of front men – you take turns singing lead, you all swap instruments and places during the gigs.. How did you all get so goddamn talented? And does this cause problems or is it a natural thing – to be this versatile in one band?

JW: Well talent is in the eye of the beholder… I think our greatest talent is that we’re able to work as such a cohesive unit. We aren’t all looking for our own personal success within the band and we assume positions which we believe will most benefit the band as a whole and once ego is taken out of the equation, everything runs smoothly. We’re all just ecstatic to be on stage making music together and it’s a good thing because people watching the show don’t see us as individuals, they see us as a group of friends enjoying ourselves and this is where our strength as performers lies. We all have our time to shine and without that ego driving us, it puts all the attention on Colourfide as a whole. Colourfide is what shines.

MuNT: How did you end up in Tennant Creek?

JW: It was quite a random bunch of events that coincided at the right time, an idea so crazy we figured it couldn’t fail!

Basically I (James) was out here for 2 weeks with Griffith University in 2009 helping out at Winanjiikari Music Centre. After having a grand adventure, I mentioned to the oher guys that there was a pretty cool and unique music scene out here and we some all agreed it would be a wise idea to drop everything, jump in a 4WD and make our way out into the unknown to check it all out.

On the road again: Colourfide. Pic: MySpace
MuNT: What attracted you to living there? And making music there as well? Was it all part of some ‘grand plan’, moving from the Gold Coast to the desert?

JW: One aspect that attracted us was the isolation, the space and time we would have to really knuckle down and focus on writing and rehearsing our material – something that was becoming a bit of a challenge in our home town of the Gold Coast with all the constant distractions of work, families, friends, socialising etc.

But we also knew that there was an existing music scene here and that if we came to Tennant with an open mind, showed respect and offered something back to the community that perhaps we’d have an opportunity to learn from and share with some of the musicians and bands that are out here.

If anything the grand plan was that we knew it would either make us or break us… If we could survive six months living together out here and make the experience work for us we figured we’d be able to do anything. Now that we’ve established some really strong relationships here we feel like we’re committed to coming back and building on some of the work we’ve started.

MuNT: How have you found the contrast between the 2 places?

JW: Like chalk and cheese! Gold Coast is obviously stereotypically full of high-rises, fast cars and even faster women. Coming to Tennant the pace is a lot more relaxed; there is a lot more space and you can breathe and sleep in in the knowledge that you can be out of bed and at work in five minutes if need be.

Contrary to the bad rap Tennant seems to get, I’ve never felt safer or more secure anywhere else. We’ve spent six months without even locking our doors! Also, both cities have this weird contrast to their landscapes; while Tennant is a hot, dry and pretty unforgiving land the people are absolutely awesome in that they are friendly, welcoming and everyone you meet has an interesting story to tell. The Gold Coast is the opposite; the climate is great, the beaches are beautiful and there are lush forests etc. – yet the average stranger you’d meet wouldn’t have the same friendly, welcoming attitude.

MuNT: One word from each band member to describe Tennant Creek?

Zac: “UBX” – James: “Adventure” – Hoani: “Generous” – Zak: “Enchanting” – Matt: “Ham”…

MuNT: and how would you describe your music?

JW: Music listeners – us included – have this overwhelming need to pigeon hole bands into one-word genres… We get by describing ourselves as a roots/rock/reggae outfit because its the closest description to our sound that most people can understand.

We feel that the sound we’ve established and are currently working to further refine, has its own sound which has been cultivated from many different genres across the board. At the very base level however, our music is about coming together, leaving any inhibitions at the door and having a great time lost in a groove with the people standing next to you.

MuNT: And have you had any particular mentors or support networks who have helped you a lot so far on your musical ‘journey/trip’?

JW: Certainly one of the biggest plusses for us on this trip has been the support we have received from right across the Territory. It has really blown us away how helpful everyone has been – I think if we had moved anywhere on the east coast – like Melbourne or Sydney – we would be much likely to encounter a community that’s not as willing to accept or support newcomers. The Territory has been the exact opposite and we can’t thank you guys enough for that. Music NT has been awesome in their promotion and support of our music here and the iNTune Conferences we attended in Darwin and Alice have been definite highlights for us.

And Barkly Arts and Winanjjikari Music Centre are doing an amazing job in the Barkly region and supported our work a lot. Some of the music acts we have met out here – in particular Tennant legends The Tableland Drifters and UBX (Unbroken Expanse) – have really made this trip worthwhile for us. We have had some great experiences playing with these guys both locally in Tennant and also Darwin and Alice.

MuNT: Can you give us a snapshot into a cople of the best gigs you’ve played so far, and also recording the CD you have made? Who was involved and how did you all work together on that?

JW: The two best gigs we have played here happened to be a week apart and the contrast between the two really illustrates why we love the Territory. Firstly, being given an opportunity by Red Hot Arts to play the main Anzac Oval stage at opening of the Alice Desert Festival was simply awesome, a big stage, massive sound system and a great atmosphere meant it was one of the biggest and best feeling shows we have ever put on. The next week we were in Epenarra a remote community south of Tennant Creek, putting on a show on the basketball court of the school with a bunch of students with whom we had spent a couple days writing and rehearsing songs. A ‘grass roots show’ but such a highlight, bringing music back to what it really is about; making noise, having fun and dancing the night away.

Colourfide drummer James Winwood, Annie's Place. Pic: Megan Spencer

MuNT: And reggae not rock – a bunch of young blokes attracted to reggae.. How did that evolution come about? What do you love about the style of music you play?

JW: I think the reggae influence has something to do with the music we listened to growing up, living on the coast and not being in too much of a rush. Something about the beach and reggae goes hand in hand, but having said that some of the desert reggae we’ve been hearing out here is epic!

MuNT: What do you love about making music?

JW: We all have our different reasons for our love of creating music. It’s a chance to express ourselves, escape or get a message across but mainly its just a creative outlet. However the best thing about making music is seeing how people react to it whether they’re playing a CD or watching it live and seeing the message they decide to take from the song that you’ve created. If we try to convey a particular emotion through a song and a listener can connect with that emotion in the way we’ve intended, we’ve done our job and that makes everything worth it.

MuNT: What kind of music influences and inspires you? Your musical heroes?

JW: Again, it differs from member to member. In terms of the band, there are obvious stylistic influences which shine through our music.

The reggae aspect is the foundation from which we build upon. The fusion-reggae-pop style of The Police is a big influence on us but we have taken a different tangent in our music writing as you can hear.

We’re excited to be working in times where the typical genre boundaries are blurred which gives us freedom to worth with everything we can. Each member has their own entirely different style of music, from hip hop through to indie, electro through to hard rock, and of course reggae… All these different influences blend together to create the dynamic we’ve managed to pin-point and expand upon. This makes us confident that we’re only at the beggining of defining the sound which we hope to achieve.

MuNT: Who so far are your favorite NT artists and bands?

JW: Without a doubt the highlights for us are our brothers from other mothers; Tableland Drifters and UBX. Two bands that we love watching, listening to and hanging out with. We have been really priveliged to meet these guys and are thankful they were good enough to accept and welcome us into Tennant Creek. There’s never been any territorial agro from anyone, it’s all love in Tennant and that’s why we’re coming back! The Bush Bands Bash was another big highlight for us – Iwantja Band are just ridiculous, some of the talent in that band blew our minds.

MuNT: Can you describe your songwriting process? For example, do you each write songs separately or in pairs, and bring them to the band to work on – or do they evolve out of jams?

JW: Four of five members are avid songwriters which leaves a huge playing field for our creative collaboration. Usually one person will write a song which he will either bring to jam with the band or refine with another member before doing so. Once the band has its grimy mits on the song we jam it over, add our respective parts and build on it from there.

With so many songs coming in from so many different places we have a grueling culling process. Basically we jam songs that we enjoy and endeavor to finish and write several at once, not purposely but we work like this because we can’t get enough of writing. As we jam the songs, some stand out more, then others. We want to play and work on those ones more while the others sort of drift into the background. The songs and jams which live long enough to become full tracks are generally the ones we keep. A downside to this unfortunately is that we have lost a lot of good songs along the way, but we have such a steady stream coming in that we only really have time to move forward.

8 miles high: Zac Fahey on stage in Alice Springs. Pic: Oliver Eclipse
MuNT: The set you played at Annie’s Place in Alice was quite a different set to the one you played at the Desert Festival.. Was that deliberate? And if so, do you consciously tailor your style and sound depending on where you play?

JW: Well, Annie’s is a backpacker bar and Alice Festival was on a big stage, so straight off the bat the performances will be different. We have a huge stockpile of songs which we can choose from so going into a gig where you’re in close quarters, packed into a little bar with the closest dancer slinging sweat in your face, you can develop a different connection with the crowd than when you’re standing above them on a stage.

We usually have a set list written out but we’re learning to identify where the flow of the crowd, performance and night is going and adjusting our set accordingly to cater for the particular moment.

MuNT: Colourfide is a big band – as in a fair few members – how do you keep it all harmonious?

JW: Good question! What I think helps is that we all share the same common goal and are actually managing to have the time of our lives whilst chasing it!

We have been living together, working together, eating and cooking together for the last six months so you’d think we would have cracked by now. The three singers have been extremely close friends since school so the bond between them is sort of the glue. The rest of us have manage to integrate into this with ease due to our mutual love and respect of music and we’ve all managed to form a very strong bond. If there’s a disagreement between members we talk about it objectively and its usually over within a short time.

MuNT: How did the name for the band come about?

JW: The name Colourfide has evolved as we have. In the beginning the name was really just a name. All bands need a name. We called ourselves The Colour but its impossible to hold a strong internet presence with a name like that so we uneasily moved over to Colourfide which had no meaning at the time. Since then, we’ve grown as a band with Colourfide as our banner and with each step we take, Colourfide takes on new meaning for us. Like anything, if it has time to grow it will and Colourfide has grown into not just a band name but a definition of who we are and what we do.

MuNT: How far do you want to go as a band? And what do you hope to learn over the next couple of years, as you continue to develop your music and the rest of your skills?

JW: The ideal outcome is that Colourfide becomes a sustainable venture. Our goal isn’t particularly to reach the pinnacle of ‘rockstardom’ but obviously that would be nice! As long as we have fans who love our music and want to listen to it, we’ll be around to give it to them.

One thing we’ve found through being out here though is that Colourfide isn’t paying off in the conventional manner. We aren’t rolling around in big money, nor do we have millions of adoring fans. What we do have is the opportunity to see things and meet people in a way which most people don’t get the chance. We’re able to travel and make just enough income along the way to sustain ourselves. We’ve all had such an amazing opportunity to grow and learn individually and as a band and we’re having the time of our lives sharing this with the people we meet along the way. We each have 4 people whom we know we can rely on which means that the sky really is the limit for where we can confidently go and what we can do. It’s almost like we have this protective bubble surrounding us as we go from place to place and it comes from what we’re passionate about so we acknowledge that we’re extremely lucky to have this.

On the road in the Territory.. Colourfide. Pic: Facebook
We don’t have some grand plan for the next 10 years, we’re just going to continue doing what we’re doing and taking the opportunities which are presented to us. Tennant Creek was just one of these opportunities and it has opened so many windows for us. We’re all quietly confident that if we can simply keep doing what we’re doing and stay in the game, the pieces will all eventually fall into place…

MuNT: And do you have any tours or more recording coming up?

JW: Our next step is to get back to the Gold Coast. We’re touring across to Cairns before we head south along the coast until we’re home. We have steady plans up until mid-January when we’ll be recording a new EP before we hit the road again to promote it. We’ll plan our next grand adventure from there and go wherever the wind takes us. We also have an announcement to make on the 25th of October which we’re fairly excited about and we’re hitting the road on the 13th of Oct.

MuNT: What did you get out of attending the iNTune Conferences – eg. any interest from unterstate industry?

JW: We made some great contacts and have had some really encouraging interest come out of it. A couple of our tracks have been played on JJJ as a result of meeting some presenters there.

One of the best aspects of a conference like iNTune is the ability to get on the industry’s radar. There are a whole lot of significant music industry people out there who at least know our name and our story now, and as soon as we record some of our new material hopefully that will be enough to ensure we can get them to listen to it and head from there.

Colourfide in silhouette. Pic: Facebook
MuNT: Please finish this sentence: “In 5 years’ time Colourfide will be…”

JW: “…Preparing for their biggest gig yet!” A new Earth has been discovered just past the 7th moon of Jupiter and Colourfide has been booked to play the opening ceremony of the new planet..!!

- Music NT

"Colourfide Bringing The Heat - a sign of big things to come."

“The infectious Colourfide sound and upbeat party vibe spread like wildfire throughout the venue uniting the swelling audience in a sweat soaked celebration of sound. Even the most sedate and shy punters failed to make it through the set without eventually giving in to the smooth grooves and dancing their inhibitions away..” - Review of EP Launch by Jackson Farett - Gold Coast Media


Self Title Debut EP - Released March 2010.



“..the infectious Colourfide sound and upbeat party vibe spreads like wildfire throughout the venue uniting the swelling audience in a sweat soaked celebration of sound. Even the most sedate and shy punters fail to make it through the set without eventually giving in to the smooth grooves and dancing their inhibitions away..” – Colourfide EP Launch - Hard Rock Cafe, Surfers Paradise.

Colourfide are an independent funky roots collective harvested from the smooth sands of the Gold Coast and fashioned in a dusty warehouse in the Northern Territory. An instrument swapping ball of creative energy and complete with 3 lead singers, their live show is renowned as a dynamic journey for the senses.

Colourfide’s blend of creamy harmonies and bright catchy choruses over a funky bed of fat flavoured drums and badass basslines has begun to create a stir right around the country.

Rapidly gaining attention from the industry has provided the band with opportunities to showcase their upbeat blend of reggae, rock, funk and world music throughout Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Recent highlights include JJJ airplay, a sold out EP Launch at Hard Rock Café, Surfers Paradise, being selected to showcase at iNtune Northern Territory Music Conference as well as earning rave reviews for their headline performance on opening night of Alice Springs Desert Festival and their co-headline of Tennant Creek Desert Harmony Festival.

Spurred by a sense of adventure and a commitment to fulfilling their potential as a musical outfit; in May 2010 the band relocated from the Gold Coast, QLD to Tennant Creek, NT, for a period of six months. Living as one in one of the most remote communities in Australia the band found the space, time and inspiration to concoct a potent broth of explosive music now ready to be unleashed upon the general public in coming months.

An unquenchable thirst for the road promises to see the band touring extensively over coming months and building a nationwide audience from the ground up, one town at a time.