Madison Quartet Rides Grooves Hard, Fast, and Tight
by Dan Vierck
May 2013

If Colorphase is a bandwagon, it’s a party bus. If you’re the kind of person who dreams of wandering into a bar and hearing a good, loud, irresistible rock band, you’re dreaming of the Madison-based rock/funk/pop quartet, Colorphase.

It’s taken the band a couple years and a couple lineups to find the right mix of people and the right balance of sounds, but they’ve found it with Lexi Steinweg-Woods on bass, James J. on guitar, Vanessa Anderson on vocals, and – the most recent addition – Austin Ash on drums.

All four members have spent their lives in music. Lexi grew up on the cello, moving to the bass as a teen. Austin grew up with a musician father, who substituted jamming for the more conventional afternoons of catch. This is Vanessa’s first band, but coming from a family long-entrenched in local music, she’s taken to it quicker than a fish to water. And though James (JJ) waited until his early teens to pick up a guitar, he did so with a single-minded determination that is still the proverbial coal in his proverbial furnace, today.

Talking to the band, like watching them, there is no hesitation. Entering into a conversation with them about music, one senses that it is an ongoing conversation between them with lots of ‘like I was saying the other day,’ or ‘do you remember?’ It’s clear that music, minute to hour, day to week, is the primary concern. And there’s as much determination as there is obsession. These four individuals are clearly not interested in half-assing any part of their rock and roll adventure.

The allure of Colorphase is not just that they’re talented practitioners, they are practiced – they are honed. Austin’s drums swell, crest, and break with the tow and/or ferocity of a great lake or rapids. His patterns are clearly human, never too much the same, but he plays with marksman accuracy.

It’s clear from Lexi’s digit-agility that she could’ve gone a million places with any run of notes, but she knew enough to choose the best. The bass is usually dead-locked with the drums, as if the instrument is sometimes a more tuneful percussion, but other times the notes thud, whap, and bing with a rapidity that rivals most six-string players.

The guitar does a fair amount of out-fronting, taking advantage of the uncommonly solid rhythm to explore the different verbs a guitar can enjoy: Swoop, tear, wash, burn, pummel, flurry, and so on. JJ’s leads shift between fogging around the melody with soft blurs of notes and hammering chord to notes to chord to notes, blunt and clear as you please.

Vanessa’s vocals are a tease. She has a tricky dynamic, lulling you in with something like a coo one minute, then singing you into an edge-of-your-seat, hair-raised frenzy the next. Her stage presence is that of a lioness, pacing, and for the time content with what she’s doing, but later, who knows? She, and the band, as a matter of fact, both give the impression that if they weren’t so busy playing music they could, as a four person riot, do some serious damage.

Most bands you’ll walk in on, if you’re lucky, have on player that stands out. Or they’ll play at roughly the same level, chugging along at some moderate pace, whatever. Colorphase only moderates themselves because the audience might need a break. They are four practiced and confident musicians who are determined to use their abilities to engage you. Vanessa will make long eye contact with you, beckoning flinches. JJ will solo behind his head, emanating excitement so contagious you’ll double-tip your bartender. Austin and Lexi, their powers combined, are a guaranteed, inescapable groove-lasso, leaving the most jaded hipster no choice but to admit that, ‘Yeah, they’re good.’

Colorphase is as at home in a basement as they are a festival. They’ll bring it, faces electric and music to the nines for a few friends, or a thousand fanny-packed afternoon squinters. The intention is always the same: Everyone present is a part of what’s happening. Colorphase does not want the audience to bear witness, they want the audience to be as excited about the music and the room and the scene as they are.

The band is releasing their first full-length, Phase II, May 10 at The Frequency. They’re dropping down to Chicago in April, and playing MAYBASH in Madison at the end of May, as well. You can find them on all your favorite social media sites, or at I suggest you hop on the party bus sooner than later, and catch their show before it’s nosebleed seats or nothing, for real.

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