Colorstore Re-Ignites With Afire…

Colorstore is the reason I do what I do. It was just over four years ago that then music editor, William Reed suggested that after a year of writing for JAVA, I should turn my talents and attention to the local music scene. Honestly, I was less than thrilled—I had written about the local beat in three different cities, and for my first year with JAVA I had a chance to let loose and write about whatever I wanted. I sent an email to the band with all the generic questions you can ask a band without hearing the album, still completely nonplussed in the endeavor. Lead singer Mark Erickson showed up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours to hand me a copy of Bonefish: The Legend of Mahogany Cass. I accepted it, smiled, nodded and thanked him. It was a Saturday afternoon and I had absolutely nothing to do—I figured, “what the hell, why not give it a spin.” I sat there completely stunned, and realized my vision of what local music might be was completely wrong. This was brilliant. I immediately wrote a new email, with my real questions about the real music that just blew my mind. It was at that moment I began investing my time and energy into our local music scene, and I’ve never turned back. If it wasn’t for Colorstore, I can’t imagine all I might have missed over the last four years.

Fast-forward to 2012, present day—Colorstore has returned with their third and, dare I say, greatest album to date, Afire. It combines all the elements of their debut When We Float The River and Bonefish, it achieves some sort of balance between the two and yet sounds like neither—in fact Afire seems as much a step beyond Bonefish as that album seemed to be beyond their debut. When the band sent me a preview copy I was beyond excited, I had been nagging some band members for a year or two about when we could expect the follow up, I had been eagerly anticipating this release long before it was even recorded—so when I got the preview, I had to set aside a day alone to spend with it. I played it once and it got me deliriously high, there’s no other way to describe it, so much so that I sat glued to my laptop and listened to it three times over.

The band on the album consists of Mark Erickson, Jeremy Randall on guitar, Jef Wright on  drums, Robin Vining on guitars and so many other things, Mike Devine on bass, and Aaron Burke. However, to limit these fine fellows to their primary instruments is like limiting them to one band. Erickson is involved with ROAR and Gospel Claws, Vining has Sweetbleeders, Minibosses, Fatigo and a host of many other local bands on his resume, Wright drums for the studio efforts of Project, Burke is a founder of Minibosses, and while Devine has departed the valley, Christopher Kennedy has stepped in with a heavy recommendation from his part in Letdownright and Kingfathand. Like it or not, Colorstore has somehow become or has always been a Phoenix super-group. This album proves the merit of their resume, their recent live shows simply seal the deal. What’s the secret to the combination? “We all just love playing music and music making,” Wright wryly commented.

Photo By Evan Short

The album opens in a dreamy, psychedelic pastiche that sounds like more of an invocation, an invitation to the rest of the  album—“Afire” will draw you in with its refrain “Nothing can change me”.   As it builds, the music will alter the composition of your bloodstream, change your brain chemistry, until Erickson’s scream shatters your soul and you begin to drown into the album as a whole, the music swirling around you, the guitars whipping at you like a fierce wind, the drums pounding in rhythm with your expectant heart. This is just the beginning and it asks, “Is everybody in?” beautifully. “Idiots In Bloom” explodes in a piano led, beautiful pop confectionary across the known universe, lovely harmonies, amazing keyboard pieces that float through your mind, breathy vocals and a loping drum bit that is undeniably brilliant. “It’s an observation of all  my friends and family getting older,” Erickson explained. At this point you are floating downstream, you’ve committed to their sound and the surrealist lyricism because you have to experience where this river ride leads next.

Next, happens to be “My Life As A Beaver” and it’s one of the hardest rocking numbers that Colorstore has ever offered. One thing becomes clear: however Colorstore applies themselves to music, they come out on top—perhaps because they have assembled some of the greatest local talents in this endeavor, but maybe because they had a clear vision of the territory they wanted to confirm in this albums journey. Oddly, for the most chaotic rocking number it is derived from something altogether different “I always thought that it would be the most peaceful life, just chomping and building things,” Erickson said. From the searing guitar that sets this song aflame from the start to the punk delivery of vocals and percussion, it’s simply stunning on record and even more so live. As quickly as it arrives the speeding rock returns to more harmonious territory and into “Everything Is Sunshine,” a number that swirls in hypnogogic rhythms, vocal loops and  a mesmerizing soundtrack that by now has affected your entire central nervous system brilliantly. Personally, this almost recalls the way Mercury Rev albums would affect listeners in the 1990s, regardless of drug use, this music will dilate your pupils and send you stunningly into a new light of understanding. “That is my personal favorite,” Wright added. “I’m getting away from the drums and doing the marimbas.”

Photo By Evan Short


“Days Of A Daydream” continues from a seamless transition (though that’s Robin Vining at the Bikini Lounge on a megaphone in the intro) into almost calliope music that haunts the soul slightly, before once more the buoyant, beyond belief feelings of luminosity expand within you, and it’s not until two and half minutes in that the whole thing will blow your mind, before once more returning to a surreal circus anthem of summer simmering head time madness. The song ends the first side of the record and if played on vinyl, it will remain ringing in your head until you can raise yourself from the stupendous stupor the first side has induced to step over to the turntable and have another side of Afire.

The opening of side two is no less intoxicating, “Butchers Bed” pounds with Wright’s drums and the bands ringing guitars before the swirling vocals encapsulate your mind. With a running time of 4:20 it occurs to me that maybe this side start up was meant to be just as consuming as it was meant to be consumed. It’s difficult not to get lost in the warm, loving mess of it all. Brilliantly embracing your ears, there is so much going on that it becomes clear in the back of your mind that there are recurring musical themes here, and that there will be no let up of the hold they have on you until the album’s end. “Impossible Things” is a sweet, seductive song that comes across as a low key lullaby that will wait out the first minute until the Phil Spector Wall-Of-Sound homage explodes in your mind (and your headphones if listening properly) to blow your soul to bits of bliss. There is also a wonderful juxtaposition in the lyricism between down-to-earth realizations (“I want big dreams with falling leaves, dogs that don’t bite, all these impossible things”) and surrealist absurdities (“These cosmic fish, these cosmic fish, saved my life from drowning, please take me home with you”). According to both Wright and Erickson it was the first to be written and apparently, it led to some most amazing  things that were completely possible. There is no describing it otherwise—Colorstore has created a lovely, languid landscape here, that illuminates everything that has been missing from what you’ve been listening to lately.

The startling instrument-by-instrument start up of “Skies Blue” will blow my mind every time, with its carefully sketched shadow forms amassing into three dimensions as each sound is added.  It’s difficult not to identify its genius at 93 seconds in, when it all  explodes into near lush orchestral brutality. It is a ballad of sorts, as ballads come to Colorstore, and musically, it is almost a folk song, which comes across more in their live shows than on record, but here, here it is pressed into something beyond all that. It is an ecclesiastic, manic expression of beauty and art, all the pieces that fit to it and all that do not, it is an expression of the album itself. “Afire (Gallo’s Revenge)” is the reprise of the album opener (ala Sgt. Pepper) that sounds like the conclusion, but is not, brilliant in just over a minute, beautiful and it tricks you perfectly. According to Erickson and Wright, it was by design, following the Sgt. Pepper map, and in truth does so perfectly, it is the perfect musical preparation for the encore.

“Ladies and Gentlemen” is the true finale with more mentions of sunshine and falling, a song that in truth is so strong that it leads you to simply want to listen to the album again, in its entirety, over and over as Afire loops back on itself, lovingly, enchantingly. This is an album that while it may leave you wanting more, wants you to listen to it again and again, not only because it’s that good, but because it deserves to be, because every time you listen to it, you are going to hear something new, something unheard before, something you didn’t pick up the first or second or third or fourth time. This is what my favorite albums are all about and this is what Afire is all about.

Afire by  Colorstore is available now on iTunes,, Stinkweeds and 

The Official Home Page For Colorstore

Hear The Album Here and Dowload It Now!

(Note: This article appeared in slightly edited form in the May 2012 issue of JAVA Magazine)
(Editor’s Note: I thought it appropriate that the band that set me on the course of writing about local music for the last four years in Phoenix should be the first to get a full length reprint of their recent feature in JAVA for the relaunched Though Colorstore is now on something of a hiatus, I can’t thank these guys enough for what they’ve done for me.)