a simple colony is a collaboration between singer/lyricist Michael Dodson (Portland Gay Men's Chorus) and guitarist/composer Lara Michell (the Stolen Sweets, Dirty Martini). They make quirky, moody pop rock songs with lush and layered vocals. Big influences include Lara's classical piano and guitar background, Michael's formative years as a jazz and choral singer, and a mutual love of hooky, harmony-laden pop songs. Longtime friends who met in college, their unique musical chemistry has been intriguing audiences in the Portland area since 2010.
make it start is their new album. Ambient keyboard sounds and electronic beats swirl into the existing musical environment of delicate guitar and rich vocal arrangements. The result is a dark, catchy musical journey: part acoustic, part electronic, counter-balanced by the occasional straight-ahead rock band approach of guitars/bass/drums, and bolstered by the strikingly angular offerings “No King for a Crown” and “The Hand You Hold”.
With a lyrical approach that is alternately direct and abstract, they write about love and the struggle to keep it alive. And they write about loss and the struggle to heal from it. Songs like “Thread in the Needle” and “Pincushion Heart” come alive through vivid collages of descriptive images, while the more frank “On Your Side” and “Blood On Your Hands” are straight from the heart. “No King for a Crown” is the soundtrack to a revolution, and “The Fury Inside the Sound” probes the experiences of an autistic person. Dodson's golden tenor is the multi-tracked ribbon tying it all together.
Their collaboration began a few years ago when Lara emailed Michael several unfinished pieces of original instrumental music. Michael is a veteran singer but had not previously done any songwriting, so they were both amazed when the lyrics, melodies and harmonies started pouring out – often fully formed and arranged – from Michael's creative center. His unexpected, often dissonant harmonic choices which are rooted in his jazz and choral background had found an unexpected home alongside Lara's intricate guitar style.
a simple colony performs as an acoustic duo or as a full-band quintet, with the additions of Nancy Hess (bass, vocals), Rebecca Sanborn (keys) and Ned Failing (drums).