Cole Wil­son

Call of the Colony

Pasatiempo - - Young Artists -

“I learned not to fall asleep in a horse cos­tume.” That wasn’t the re­sponse I ex­pected when I asked 24-year-old mu­si­cian ColeWil­son what lessons he had learned while tour­ing with his en­sem­ble, The Ap­ple Miner Colony.

The Ap­ple Miner Colony was spawned from the Col­lege of Santa Fe’s tight-knit com­mu­nity of mu­si­cians, artists, and bud­ding com­posers from the Con­tem­po­rary Mu­sic Pro­gram. Wil­son, who ar­rived at CSF as a de­sign ma­jor with an in­ter­est in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and vis­ual art, was al­ready a sea­soned per­former. Walk­ing around the cam­pus while pon­der­ing the for­ma­tion of his own band, he ap­proached mu­sic stu­dents while they played their clas­si­cal in­stru­ments. “Then it all kind of had a snow­ball ef­fect,” Wil­son said, ex­plain­ing how the AMC swelled to more than 20 play­ers be­fore the band’s de­but gig.

Com­pris­ing mu­si­cians with back­grounds in high-school march­ing bands and led by the enig­mat­icWil­son, the group set about de­vel­op­ing an un­com­mon style. Mar­ry­ing the sweet plucks and strums of con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can folk mu­sic (think Suf­jan Stevens or Fleet Foxes) and the com­po­si­tional fla­vor of a mod­est sym­phony or­ches­tra and cho­rus, AMC wasn’t ex­actly striv­ing to win the af­fec­tions of head­bangers or the emo crowd.

Wil­son and the group fi­nally un­leashed their well-re­hearsed sound in 2006 at CSF’s O’Shaugh­nessy Per­for­mance Space. For their de­but, Wil­son and com­pany were “dressed to the nines,” he re­called, “with a huge vo­cal cho­rus, two clar­inets, Dave Keel­ing on keys, an upright bass… and we gave out ap­ples; about 200 of them.”

Dur­ing one show at CSF, Wil­son ap­peared on the stage with an arm­ful of red yarn and handed out pieces of it to the crowd. “The lyrics to the song dur­ing this part of the show were lit­er­ally in­struc­tions on me giv­ing my heart away,” he re­called. On one oc­ca­sion, AMC’s on­stage fi­nale in­volved a vin­tage ap­ple truck bor­rowed from a lo­cal car deal­er­ship, a moun­tain of bal­loons, fire­works, and a per­fectly co­in­cid­ing rain­storm. In other words, the band went big or it stayed home.

Wil­son said that dur­ing the record­ing of the band’s de­but al­bum, 2008’s The Heat Haunted Fever, “I didn’t want any­one to play a note that I didn’t write.” Play­ers were get­ting bored, but they weren’t voic­ing it. “A lot of peo­ple got used to wait­ing 54 mea­sures” be­fore be­ing able to chime in. By the time AMC’s fol­low-up al­bum was recorded (2009’s When the Morn­ing Comes Home), Wil­son’s ap­proach to song­writ­ing be­came less sin­gle-minded: “My abil­ity peaked at a cer­tain point, and my ar­range­ments were prob­a­bly a lit­tle too heavy on the fifth notes.” Wil­son be­gan writ­ing more for spe­cific in­stru­ments and en­listed more help in ar­rang­ing from band mate Keel­ing.

Wil­son and Keel­ing at­tribute a lot of their early breaks to for­mer CSF dean of stu­dents Joseph Fitz­patrick. “I ap­proached Joseph with the at­ti­tude of, ‘ There’s no way we’re go­ing to fail,’ ” Wil­son said. With Fitz­patrick’s help, AMC’s first al­bum was pri­mar­ily funded through the col­lege.

At the end of the 2009 school year, Wil­son, Ap­ple Miner Colony, and a doc­u­men­tary film crew (which in­cluded CSF stu­dents Tris­tan Love, James Long­mire, and Michael Everett) went on a five-week, 6,000-mile

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