Michael Mendez plans to take along his Starbucks employee ID when his band hits the road full-time this summer.
“I’m looking forward to still getting cheap coffee everywhere,” said Mendez, bassist in The Lost Colors.
Mendez is one of two baristas in The Lost Colors, which won’t come as a surprise to anybody who’s seen one of the Wichita band’s shows or videos. Only youth and/or a strong dose of caffeine can produce that much jumping, gyrating and fresh-faced musical energy.
The Lost Colors play Saturday at The Scene-Ary in what’s being billed as the kickoff to a tour of 17 Christian music festivals and a recording session in Nashville.
Mendez and brothers Michael and Matt Cunningham of Towanda started the band about four years ago after going to a Christian music festival in Kansas City and figuring they had the makings for a group themselves. Mendez had taken piano lessons from the Cunninghams’ mother, Diane. In the band, Michael Cunningham handles keyboards, and his brother plays drums. The group went through a couple personnel changes before settling into its current lineup, which includes Kristyn Chapman on guitar and Amanda Blackmon on vocals.
The Lost Colors played local gigs in everything including churches and bars — and coffeehouses, naturally — before winning a contest for a 10-minute spot on the stage at the Sonshine Christian music festival in Minnesota last summer. They won that competition, which earned them gigs at Christian music festivals around the country this summer. Stops include Spirit West Coast in Del Mar, Calif.; the Big Ticket Festival in Ionia, Mich.; and Atlanta Fest.
“The Sonshine festival last year was kind of a big slap in the face for us, in the best possible way, because it was just a shock to us that people would actually enjoy our music so much,” said Chapman, the band’s other barista. “We sold a lot of merch, and it was just a really good time for us. It’s going to be great to be able to do that 17 more times.”
Adds Blackmon: “We were just another ho-hum garage band, and now we get to share the stage with some of the biggest bands out there, travel the country and make new friends.”
The band also won a recording session for three songs in a Chicago studio. However, they plan to save that for later and first finish recording a CD at a Nashville studio where they’ve already done some recording.
Although the band members all identify themselves as Christians, they don’t consider themselves a “Christian band” in the usual sense of the word. Instead, they say what the want to convey is a positive message.
“God is definitely an influence in our music, but He’s not the only thing that comes out,” Chapman said.
In fact, Mendez says the band stays away from any overt references to religion.
“We’ve talked to Christian band management companies and to Christian labels and decided we want to stay away from that,” he said. “I can be listening to a band and, if they have like a preachy testimonial time during their set, me as a musician, I get really turned off. I know a lot people are the same way. They want to hear good music.”
They label the music as a cross between mainstream pop rock and indie dance. Michael Cunningham’s keyboards and Chapman’s lead guitar lines drive many of the songs, bringing Coldplay to mind, but with the charismatic Blackmon on vocals, the most common comparison the band draws is to the similarly female-led Paramore.
“Some people think we have too many similarities with that band,” Blackmon said. “I tend to think we don’t.”
Added Mendez: “I like to think we have a unique thing going for us.”
The band also has shown a talent for making videos, shooting one in Old Town with about 50 of their closest friends for a song called “Pair of Jacks.” It can be viewed on YouTube, while several more of their songs are available on their reverbnation.com site.
Chapman is the band’s youngest member at 19. None are older than 22. Members say they’d love it if this summer’s tour turns into something bigger, like a full-time career in music.
“It’s kind of a million-to-one shot,” Mendez said. “But also, if we limit ourselves, it’ll never happen.”