COLUMBIA (clockwise, from top left): Craig Lewis (vocals/rhythm guitar), Ben Rowlands (lead guitar), Chris Webber (drums), Amir Maleki (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
At the beginning of this year, Cardiff four-piece Columbia unveiled their debut single, ‘Fall Into The Sun‘, which got an overwhelmingly positive response, with many noting its upbeat, energetic rock n’ roll sound, and also favorably comparing the fledgling outfit to the likes of Oasis and The Verve.
Having brought out another track, ‘Glory People‘, since then, and with a keen determination to one day become a powerhouse of the British rock scene, the band’s vocalist/rhythm guitarist, Craig Lewis, spoke to me recently about all of this and much more.
How did the band first get together?
Me and Ben were at school together, and started playing music and writing songs whilst we were in sixth form. We then formed a band called Morning Star that went through a few band member changes until we acquired the services of Chris, after seeing him play with another local band on a bill we were playing on. We saw him play, and were like, “Wow! We’re having him!“, and even after being warned off by the singer of that band, a few weeks later, he was practising with us! Then we found Amir on some musician site, and that was that.
We played a few gigs as this new line-up, but then Chris joined the army, and was away for about six years. During that time, Ben and I tried to keep things going, but it was difficult and things ground to a halt, then Chris and I got back in touch, he told me he was leaving the army, and since the day he got home, we’ve been back in the recording rooms, and things seem to be finally moving in the right direction.
How did the name Columbia come about?
I’m a massive Oasis fan, and have been since I was about 12. I suppose as homage to them, I wanted our new band name to represent my biggest influence, so we took the name from the Oasis song ‘Columbia‘, off their debut album, ‘Definitely, Maybe‘. Also, it’s a cool-sounding name.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
As in the previous question, as songwriter, my biggest influence has always been Oasis. I’ve always loved their music and its energy. The majority of their songs are upbeat rock n’ roll, and that’s what we try and recreate in our own songs.
I also think the melodies and lyrics of The Verve and Richard Ashcroft have had a big influence on me, and I would also say the beats and sound of Kasabian. Really anything that’s upbeat and gets our feet tapping.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Usually, I just sit with my acoustic guitar, play around, and see what comes out. Most of the time, I get the chords and melody, and the lyrics seem to come pretty quickly after that. Most of the songs are written pretty quickly, and if they take too long to write, then I usually end up leaving them, as I’m quite impatient.
Once the song is written, I then take it to practice with the rest of the band, and that’s when you can really tell if it’s a good song. We’ll play the song through a few times, and then spend time working on the structure and sound. A lot of the time, once Ben has put his lead guitar over Amir‘s driving bass and Chris‘s pounding drums, it changes the song, and hopefully what you’re left with is a good rock n’ roll song that will sound great live.
What inspires the band lyrically?
It’s difficult to say what most of the songs are about. When I’m writing a song, most of the time, I don’t really think about what I’m writing, as long as it sounds good and feels good to sing. When the songs are finished is when I’ll actually read the lyrics and analyse them a bit. Most of the time, I’d say the songs are about love, life, and hope, or at least that’s how I interpret them.
Earlier this year, you unveiled your debut single, ‘Fall Into The Sun’. How was the initial response to it?
The reaction to ‘Fall Into The Sun‘ was really positive. Lots of people said that it reminded them of early Oasis, which for a massive Oasis fan like myself, was amazing to hear.
Also, we wanted our first release to be a fast-paced, in-your-face rock n’ roll record, and we believe that’s what the song is. It’s currently the opener to our live set, and it sets the rest of the gig up perfectly. It lets people know what we’re all about.
Also, the band have just brought out a new track, ‘Glory People’. How was the recording process for that?
As with ‘Fall Into The Sun‘, we recorded ‘Glory People‘ ourselves in a practice room at Pirate Studios in Cardiff. Amir is also a sound engineer, and so has all of the equipment and software needed to make a decent-sounding recording, so we just got in the room and recorded it as best as we could. I love that it’s not overly produced and feels quite raw, which was definitely what we wanted to capture, and I think we’ve done that.
And the single has been taken from your upcoming first EP, ‘Embrace The Chaos’. When are you currently thinking of getting it released by?
Well, we had planned to get into the studio during March to record the next two songs (‘Waiting For You To Believe‘ and ‘Something More‘ for the EP, and were aiming to release it around June.
However, due to the craziness of the coronavirus outbreak, that’s obviously been put on the back burner, so I’m now not really sure when that release date will be, but hopefully, it will be before the end of this year, though.
How is the experience – for the band – of performing live?
We absolutely love it! I think the energy and directness of our songs is something that makes people take notice. There’s a lot to be said for playing rock n’ roll as it’s supposed to be: raw and loud, and that’s what we do. It’s the best feeling in the world.
In your opinion, how will the current global coronavirus outbreak affect the UK music industry?
Personally, I believe that this is a time when everyone needs music more than ever. Music has the ability to transport you to somewhere different, whether that be reminding you of past memories, people, or just giving you a few minutes when you forget about everything else. As Richard Ashcroft said, “Music is power“.
And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?
If we don’t believe in ourselves, then why should we expect anyone else to? I truly believe that our songs are good enough to take us to the top, and that’s where we intend on going. I’ve been to many gigs recently and watched so many bands, and I always walk away thinking, “we’re better than those, yet they’re on the stage front of thousands of people“. We just need that chance, and once we get it, we’ll be on our way. I’m certain of it.
‘GLORY PEOPLE’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM COLUMBIA – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: