The music of Colony House—an indie rock band made up of brothers Will and Caleb Chapman, as well as Scott Mills and Parke Cottrell—is playfully self-described as “landlocked surf rock.” Their personal genre designation is as much inspired by their hometown of Franklin, Tenn. as their new album The Cannonballers, released on 2/3/23, is: “In short, Tennessee was the inspiration for this project,” frontman Caleb Chapman says. “We got to see the seasons change and experience our home again for the first time in a long time. I think I was falling back in love with Tennessee, and I started revisiting some old memories and old relationships in my head that pertained to certain geographical locations as well as just emotional places I had spent my most formative years.”
The Cannonballers marks the band’s fourth full-length release: their three previous studio collections take listeners on a journey through stories of loss, grief, and heartbreak while welcoming them into the hope that comes on the other side. The band has performed their songs for worldwide audiences with two appearances on both Late Night with Seth Meyers and CONAN, as well as The Today Show, VH1’s “Morning Buzz,” and MTV Live. They have also been part of several festival lineups including Shaky Knees, Austin City Limits, Firefly, WonderBus, and Lollapalooza. In June of 2023, Colony House will add Bonnaroo to that list, after a national tour that kicks off on February 11 at their hometown’s Ryman Auditorium.
Colony House’s music is built on pillars of honesty, accessibility and family, and much of The Cannonballers is too: within 11 tracks, the band delves into where they come from and how a place, and its memories, have made them. To the band, The Cannonballers signifies the carefree times of childhood past, with its beautiful naivete, while simultaneously encapsulating their alter ego—a character speeding down the open road, racing the clock in his rear view. The band is often caught in the duality between the “Cannonballer” and the kid on the album cover. Beneath the baptismal a juxtaposition is revealed – the “Cannonballer” is two sides of the same coin – the reckless and the innocent.
It’s an exploration of a pendulum swinging between the two—songs like “Would Ya Could Ya” and “Man on the Run” seem simply meant for rolling the windows down or lacing up a pair of running shoes and contemplating what life’s had in store recently—or perhaps forgetting it altogether. “I’m trying to talk less these days and listen more,” Caleb says of the latter.
Kicking things off with the ever-fascinating premise of “Landlocked Surf Rock,” the album begins with an energetic love letter to Tennessee. “Nashville always felt like a small quiet city… in a way, it felt like it was just trying to keep up with the big cities, and I think that’s kind of how our band has felt for all these years,” they say.
“I wanted to try to encapsulate the emotion that this town is a place that keeps us dreaming,” Caleb notes. “Though it has changed and grown into something totally different than it was growing up—it will always keep us coming back.”
The album’s title track, “Cannonballers” is imbued with a bit of folklore, inspired in part by the story of the Wabash Cannonball, a cursed train that transported hoboes to the afterlife—and the local roller coaster at the now-defunct Opryland USA that was named after it. “In short, it’s a look at how we are all afraid of the inevitable and would do anything to live forever, even though we live our lives in contradiction to this: we get frustrated behind cars that go the speed limit, we spend money we don’t have, we don’t like slowing down, we are always on the run—either running away or trying to play catch up.”
The Cannonballers is an apt addition to the band’s catalog, staying true to what Colony House does best, and expanding on what their fans have gravitated to for the past decade: hope and light in the midst of it all. No frills, no gimmicks. Just heart-level rock and roll music. A centerpiece of the album, “Trying to Survive,” written with singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs and producer Chad Copelin, may sum it up best: “It’s a weary soul’s anthem,” Caleb notes. “One of the most fundamentally human conditions is that we are all just trying to survive. In a weird way I feel like that connects us all somehow. Obviously, everyone has their own story…But we always have said that we sing these songs to feel a little less alone in the world. The hope is that when people hear them and make them their own they feel the same.”
Colony House’s 2014 debut, When I Was Younger, included the single “Silhouettes,” which became the #1 most played track on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation for four months straight. Only The Lonely, whose title and demeanor pay tribute to the vintage sounds of Roy Orbison and the Beach Boys, followed in 2017. The surf-rock hit, “You Know It,” went viral on Tik Tok, and has amassed 100 million streams across all platforms to date, after being featured as the soundtrack to Samsung Mobile’s nationwide ad campaign. Leave What’s Lost Behind was released in January of 2020; the band managed to play half of their 40 city headline tour before being forced to pause alongside the rest of the world. Like many touring artists, they found different ways to continue to create, producing and directing a full-length feature film, “Everybody’s Looking For Some Light,” which was an official selection at the Nashville and Knoxville Film Festivals. The movie debuted at a two-day drive-in event produced by the band at Greystone Quarry in Franklin, TN. Over 2,000 people (in over 600 cars) showed up to watch the film and see Colony House perform.