The independence of indie rock is largely understood to mean independence from the music industry. Free from the pressures of major record labels, artists who buck the system create their sound as they please, without any push toward commercial expectations. This, the thinking goes, results in an untarnished execution of the artistic vision, uncorrupted by impure, outside motivations.
Colin and the Shots is a band that is independent in a different way: independent in substance and style, independent from audience expectations, and independent, perhaps, even from itself.
Put another way, the band is simply stranger than most. Six musicians fill out a standard rock lineup and then some. The extra manpower affords some eclectic instrumentation — several keyboards, violin, trumpet, accordion, flugelhorn, and male or female vocals as needed — but also enables the group to work as an ensemble and create a surprising but still coherent output of musical personalities.
The namedropping that proceeds herewith was not born from a critic’s overactive memory, nor did it result from some microscopic analysis of form. No, Arcade Fire, Pixies, The Monks, The Clash, The Strokes, and Bob Dylan are merely the players observed to be taking part in a tableau orchestrated by Colin and the Shots as they played at The Nerve over the weekend. Those bands are the ones that emerge unmistakably from Colin and the Shots’ original music and beckon the audience to listen more. There are scenes to be heard: the Mexican funeral dirge, the inebriated waltz, the hellish ho-down, the beach party, the Guns of Brixton.
The personalities and attendant scenes are not distinct for entire songs at a time, but for parts of songs, woven together like a Broadway medley (except in this case, dotted with loose yelling into three microphones, overactive syncopated drumming, psychedelic swells, and mixed meters — The Theatre of the Garage). The evolution of a song through many parts in a short period of time is what a jam band with incredible restraint might imagine. Indeed, the band members formed a loose semi-circle and intimated secret in-song communications from behind the sparkly blue eyeshadow and eagle feathers that made their way around the stage.
To date, Colin and the Shots have been an infrequent and undocumented presence in Pittsburgh. But catch a show and be assured this band of players will feel no compunction about begging, borrowing, or stealing the grist for their show, whatever it may resemble in the end. For this band is independent in the truest and completest sense of the word.