By SARAH STEVENS
Usually when a group sounds as polished and professional as Our Favorite Colors did last weekend at Jack’s Roadhouse, they are a nationally acclaimed act requiring a $30 ticket and hours of fighting through crowds to be able to witness live.
But San Marcos is lucky enough to claim these musicians as its own.
Ashleigh Stone is the lead vocalist and songwriter, and she also plays all of the accompanying piano and keyboard music that makes up the backbone of so many of the band’s songs. Her voice calls to mind contemporary and classical female vocalists like Sarah McLachlan and Beth Gibbons, whose soaring and expressive vocals make up as much of the song as any of the instruments do. In the words of drummer Jason Wilkinson, she’s “the secret love child of James Brown and Bjork.”
Sunday afternoon would seem like an awkward time slot for a band that usually appears on the night-time lineups at the venues around town, but it wasn’t just an excuse to play their music.
“This is the Jack’s Roadhouse Kids Foundation,” explained Wilkinson. “I booked this gig – my friends Erin and Sammy, the Henry Sisters, they played earlier. One of them works here and through the grapevine I heard that they’ve [Jack’s Roadhouse] been doing benefits for four different abused children centers, or shelters, around San Marcos. They usually have a group called the Good Vibes Country Brunch Bunch that plays on Sunday afternoons to help raise money for this. Today, they had three hours to fill so they needed some more bands.”
Everyone has their favorite places around town for live music, and Jack’s Roadhouse is often one of them. The band’s David Whitbeck mentioned another of the standards that inevitably comes up in those conversations.
“I really like the Triple Crown,” he said. “The vibe there is really cool and it’s now the primary venue in San Marcos, and the owners are very cool.”
Our Favorite Colors has been performing, as such, for about a year.
“I moved to San Marcos, and hooked up with Felipe [Portela], and we had a little ‘seasonal’ band,” said Stone. “We didn’t really pursue it. I met a friend, named Greg, and he was our guitarist for a little while. I knew Jason through Tantra. We all knew each other through Tantra. I knew David [Whitbeck] through school. We just added Felipe officially about a week and a half ago. Basically there are just a bunch of musicians in San Marcos that are linked to varying degrees.”
Added Portela, “Every once in a while a small group of them will play a few times, and all of a sudden they’re a band.”
Stone said her influences stared in classical music before she realized she didn’t want to be a classical pianist. But she still enjoys all kinds of music, and especially likes the collaborative aspects of a band.
Each band member brings a distinctive personal style to the group, that, when put together, creates an elegant and lyrical sound. Whitbeck listed some of his musical influences as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Glassjaw.
“I don’t feel like I’m completely set in stone as a musician,” said Portela. “Someday, probably after I’m dead, other people will be able to look at what I’ve done with music and they’ll be able to tell what influenced me.”
One of the group’s favorite songs to perform is Palaces, according to Whitbeck.
“That’s the one that’s about aliens,” said Stone. “The lyrics are, ‘looking up; a palace of pearls,’ which is referencing the stars. It basically just talks about how I believe in extraterrestrials.”
Ashleigh Stone gets a lot of positive reactions to her music from people who would, at first glance, not seem like the kind of people who would enjoy Our Favorite Colors. Some songs stand out more than others.
“‘Lovely’, people love that song,” Stone said. “It’s just easy to identify with. It’s for the British people because I was working with a lot of British people at South by Southwest and they kept saying ‘lovely.’ By the end of the week, I couldn’t hear that word any more times, so I wrote a song that says that word 16 times.”
As to how the group took on its particular moniker, Stone said, “I was talking with my friend about how I hate having to pick a favorite color. I don’t hate it, I just don’t like being forced to pick. I love them all. Favorite Colors was good but we had to have something to go in front of it and we didn’t want to put ‘my’ or ‘his’, we put ‘our’ because it encompasses the people that you’re talking to and yourself, and that’s what it’s all about; being inclusive.”
Said Whitbeck, “Once we get some really good recordings, there is no telling what we could do. I have a studio at my house called ‘The Green Room,’ and it’s really big. We just try to make records as good as possible regardless of what music it is. We want to help out the San Marcos scene by supplying everyone with really good-sounding recordings.”
For more information on upcoming dates or to listen to some of their music, go to www.myspace.com/ourfavoritecolors.