Despite being an incredibly successful band full of accomplished musicians, Illinois-bred, The Color Morale, is a group of brothers that remain down to earth while lyrically shedding light on taking the necessary steps toward recovery from personal pain and hurt. The Color Morale is celebrating the success of their most personal work yet over their fifth studio album, ‘Desolate Divine’, and I had the pleasure of catching up with lead vocalist, Garret Rapp, to chat about their upcoming ten year anniversary as a band, the ‘Face To Face’ tour, family, tattoos and more.
You guys are on the brink of wrapping up your ‘Face To Face’ tour. If you recollect back to your days of being a fan in the crowd, what are your thoughts on the tour from a musical standpoint?
It’s pretty awesome. There have been nine sold-out shows on this tour, and it is cool that all of the bands involved with the tour (Our Last Night, Hands Like Houses, Out Came The Wolves) have been around for awhile. It’s interesting from that perspective as for how the career thing goes; you gain popularity, you might fall away for an album, but it’s pretty cool to still be growing while going into your sixth album.
I perceive that there is a potent maturation in your songwriting from ‘Hold on The Pain Ends’ to ‘Desolate Divine’. What approach did you guys take when curating the written work for ‘Desolate Divine’?
It’s kind of what was influencing us at that time. We just were getting off of tour with Nothing More, and I’d say that that band was a pretty heavy influence on us. Personally, my favorite bands are Jimmy Eat World and Third Eye Blind. I’m really desensitized to me saying anything stereotypically aggressive. I don’t want to play it. I don’t want to scream. I am really into melody and I’m really taking a different approach to songwriting. That’s kind of where we are at right now, ya know, just having an open mind and really honing in on what we want to leave behind as a band creatively. For me, it’s just making authentic rock songs.
Desolate and Divine are two words that are on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to meaning. What is your intention to create an album that showcased the battle between dark and light? What is the meaning behind the title, ‘Desolate Divine’?
When we were in the studio making the record, I actually had a night where I kind of went off by myself and went out and had a long night of drinking. I came back and there was a refrigerator in the studio that had all of those little magnets, you know, those little letters that you can piece together where people usually put something together super vulgar. I sat there and just wasn’t in the right frame of mind and was just spelling things. I feel asleep on the floor, woke up, went and made breakfast and I formed a sentence that said “horribly unhappy here” and it kind of just struck a nerve with me. I think that that phrase kinda gave off a negative demeanor. I brought it to the table and everybody put in their two cents and collectively we came up with ‘Desolate Divine’. That’s where I was at in that moment emotionally. It’s void of being vulnerable or being close to anyone or anything. It’s in this grey area. It’s an extremely proper thesis for the record; it’s where I was at. Void of any vulnerability.
I noticed that you guys have built a reputation for vulnerably shedding light on topics such as relationships and mental illness throughout your music. Does that stem from any of your personal experiences?
Yeah. Everything that we write about lyrically is organic. I love the creative writing process and the songwriting process. And for me, the best reward that I have ever received in my entire life is being honest about shortcomings and seeing somebody grow and learn and gain inspiration from them. At that point, you have a reason for the things that you have gone through. You have a new goal to push through for somebody else. That is what I try to do daily while on tour. You know, our band does not have merch people anymore. I spend a lot of time just being accessible. Fans come to our shows and they never have to pay for a meet and greet. They don’t have to track us down; I’m there. For me, it keeps me focused and it keeps me appreciative of what I have.
Absolutely. I perceive that that helps maintain the humanness within the relationships you have with your fans.
Yeah. And it quickly rids of the “star struck” feeling. No, man, we’re just normal dudes. So many kids are so talented and creative and they just don’t know it.
Or they haven’t been raised to acknowledge that they are worthy and can create the same opportunities that individuals such as you have.
Oh yeah. Some of the richest people I have ever met in my entire life don’t have enough money and some of the poorest people I have ever met are rich. Showgoers are young. It’s not a fan or a kid thing, it’s more of this is my experience that came about in my life and now I ask myself what can I do or create that influences them.
Looking back at the span of success that The Color Morale has encountered as a band, what would you tell yourself back in the day when you first started?
That’s funny. Somebody asked me something the other day and I talked to them on stage, it was kind of our inspiration at that point of our set. They asked me when did I know that I wanted to do this. Or when did I know I wanted to be a “rockstar”. I never wanted to be in a band. Half the time I still don’t want to be in a band. And then he asked me when did I know that I wanted to be a singer. And I was like, “Dude, I’m still not a singer; I can’t sing.” Half the time I can’t stand being a “rockstar” in a band. The attitude and the stereotypes that come with some bands are pretty true.
From what I perceive, it comes with a lot of weight in your personal life as well. And if you’re attempting to start a family and create a healthy foundation, it does leak into and interfere with that aspect as well.
Oh yeah. I ended up in a band by accident. I just kind of got here by accident. I have always been creative. I’ve always wanted to draw or doodle or write. When people in high school were into football, I was into writing poetry. I was that weird oddball that was into “right brain” life.
I’m sure you didn’t maintain too many high school relationships then, I assume…
No. I have one friend from high school that is my best friend to this day and she is kind of that mediator of every friend group. I grew up in a small country town that was very clicky and looking back, nobody ever really tried to reach out or go out of their way to befriend me, which was fine because I was naturally introverted. Now when you look at my life in comparison, a lot of people are just stuck going through the motions and I am out here really creating something every day. It’s like going to a major music and feeling sad when you get home when it’s over, but I get to do it again tomorrow. But that’s the lifestyle that comes with being in a band.
Right. And I assume that they are observing from afar and are questioning what changes they can make in their own lives to live a life that they dream of living whether it’s similar to yours or using it as inspiration to figure out what invigorates them….
Yeah. My lifestyle is not for everybody. I enjoy getting to meet new people. I have so many people giving me new artwork and people that come to the merch table with tattoos that read our lyrics, and for me, that’s more of a reward than any kind of capital income that I can make being a musician. I make enough money to get by, and I think that is pretty good for now.
On that note, let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite fan pieces that you have encountered.
Oh man. I mean, daily. Even just last night I saw a girl that had the whole album cover of ‘Hold On Pain Ends’ tattooed on her bicep. It was absolutely stunning. I tweeted it today on my Twitter. It’s incredible. It’s rewarding for me because every piece of album artwork that we create has a backline story. I had a friend that I met through a band in Australia by the name of Trainwreck who we commissioned for the artwork for ‘Hold On Pain Ends’, and it was his first paying gig and he actually is an amazing tattoo artist now. The cover is a portrait of our friend Jesse who is just an amazing human and great representation of the face of what that album should be. So, we got all of these people involved who created that and now to see it on kids t-shirts or on kids arms is crazy. It all comes back around. It is so cool.
Wow. The cyclic nature. It goes to show the opportunities that you are creating for others because as you mentioned, that was his first commissioned project; imagine how that made him feel.
Yeah. It’s kind of your responsibility of being in a band. You know, it’s easy to overlook what you do have. Coming from a band that was a local band for four or five years before we got signed, I remember having to sell tickets to play shows for no money. Every time we play with local bands, we make it a point to thank them and appreciate that they know us.
Absolutely. And those are the bands that are giving it their all every single night from their heart no matter how they feel.
Oh yeah. They are still in the learning and growing stages. If that is not humbling to you, and if that doesn’t put more of an appreciation of why you do what you do into your brain, then you probably should stop doing it and make room for somebody else to do that.
Man, you don’t come across that perspective often.
I know that you spoke throughout of your appreciation, but do you have any closing messages for your fans?
Yeah. There are so many different ways to just say thank you. I am going to try to do as many things creatively that I can over the next year to say thank you and to keep us going. It’s a monster. Being in the music industry right now is a weird place to be. And I think that things like taking the time to sell your band’s own merch and hand it to a fan, those little things are important to us and will stay important to us. We will keep touring. We will keep creating music. We will keep creating art. Not just in t-shirts and in merchandise, but we start doing a lot of little exclusive things like handmade necklaces that I made, or posters that you can take home from a show that is a part of you. You know, I have those too. I have my posters that are framed on my wall, they’re pieces of me.
And they bring back that nostalgic feeling that’s priceless.
They take you back to a moment. It is my job to create moments. What better of a gift to be given? To be in the hands of creating moments for somebody else? That’s the focus for the next year.