It took traveling halfway around the world for indie rock band Colin Phils, which performs at Rivermont Pizza this Friday, to come together.
“The three of us all taught English within the same program [with Korea Nazarene University] about one hour south of Seoul,” Ben Tiner, the band’s singer/guitarist, wrote in an email last week.
While there, the group started playing together and writing original music that called upon everything from more traditional indie and post-rock to math rock, a subgenre known for such elements as atypical rhythm structures, abstract time signatures and a syncopated beat.
They called themselves Colin Phils, a play on the name of English musician Phil Collins — though ironically, Tiner noted, the group is not a Phil Collins cover band.
“The trio creates some seriously complex songs with all of the typical prog-rock characteristics, but they always leave room for layers of blissfully melodic vocal harmonies that sweeten the challenging song structures,” Vincent Harris wrote for Charleston City Paper in 2017.
“The vocals create an almost hypnotic shimmer over the top of the tangled, propulsive rhythms.”
Colin Phils played in Korea for two years and released a debut album before moving to China in 2015 “after hearing about the [country’s] legit underground rock scene,” Tiner said.
Then, in 2016, the trio — which includes husband and wife Ben and Karyn Mauch on drums and vocals/synth, respectively — moved to Richmond.
Since returning to the U.S., Colin Phils has released its third album, a joint effort with fellow Richmond band Houdan the Mystic titled “Star Charts.”
The album, which features six Colin Phils songs, and the band’s 2016 release "e,r,som,sa…” dropped together as a special edition in Japan last week, Tiner wrote.
Before the show at Rivermont Pizza, Colin Phils talked via email about the complexities in its sound, playing in Asia and future travel plans.
How would you describe the music you play?
Tiner: “It's a hodge-podge of a lot of progressive rock genres, but we get a lot of support from the math rock and post rock groups. All in all we are an indie rock band, but oftentimes telling someone you are an ‘independent rock band’ doesn’t really say too much.”
Karyn Mauch: "We want to make technical music approachable through our harmonies and voices, bridging the gap between progressive instrumental music and vocal-based indie rock.”
In listening to your music, it feels like you take a different approach to tempo, time signatures and layering. What about these elements appeal to you so much?
Ben Mauch: “Complexity makes me think harder and challenge myself to be a better musician.”
What is it like playing music in South Korea and China?
Karyn Mauch: “They are so completely different from each other. I think we played a lot of shows for fun in Korea, but in China, the underground scene is so fresh there. We really joined a community of musicians who were actively trying to grow live music in China and that was incredibly exciting.”
In what way are the music cultures different in Asia and the U.S.?
Ben Mauch: “People are generally more interested to hear our music in Asia, because there are less bands there. The music scene is far less saturated than in America, where everywhere you look someone you know is in a band.”
How did Colin Phils evolve when it moved from South Korea to China and how has it evolved since moving to the U.S.?
Tiner: “In Korea we played mostly folk rock. Our set even included a few cover songs. When we moved to China we wanted to head in a heavier direction and focus on our own music that we were working on. When we moved to America, we started playing as [a] three-piece for the first time extensively and this basically forced all the songs to build off of loops. Without having a regular bass player, I loop bass tones through my guitar with octave pedals.”
Would you say the atmosphere of South Korea and China and the U.S. has worked its way into your music? If so, in what way has it done so?
Karyn Mauch: “I think the idea of itchy feet and not always feeling content where you’re at makes its way into our music. We’re a band of wanderers and that comes through.”
Do you plan to stay in Richmond long term or move abroad again?
Tiner: “Traveling is so much fun, and we are young and having this music to share is an amazing way to do it. I’m not sure about long term, but I know we all enjoy the movement.”
Karyn Mauch: “I think we always think we’re going to stick around somewhere for a while, but who can say? The open road is always calling.”
Tiner: “… We’re planning a 2019 Japan tour. So, we are kind of jazzed up on those prospects at the moment.”