Since 2015, Denver soul-folk band The Copper Children has used music to put love into the world. The act's unusual combination of slightly unpredictable rhythms, soulful harmonies, exuberant live performances and elements of groove and psychedelia make for a pure Colorado music experience.
Ahead of the band's album-release show for its third record, Speaking in Spirits, singer Zea Stallings spoke to Westword about the new album, finding balance in life during the highs and lows, being thankful for his support system, and finally getting around to doing his taxes.
Westword: How do you feel like the new record demonstrates the band's development? How have things progressed by album number three?
Zea Stallings: I think that sonically we’re more conscious of space, and energetically and spiritually, being conscious of one another while growing our own parts and just learning our own lanes to cultivate this new kind of sound.
If you listen to [debut album] What We Are, it’s got no less of the heart and soul, but I think with this album, it’s like we went in and did what we came to do and did it really consciously. With What We Are, we were just forming as a group, and it was just kind of like we needed to make a record together.
With this album, we just spent a lot of time trying to get the sounds we wanted. After being together and touring for a while, we were able to really get an idea of the sound we wanted to cultivate moving forward. We’re kind of doing this fusion-soul-groove-folk-Americana kind of thing and paying homage to where we’re all from and also the place we live, Denver. It’s cool to see that.
Is that evolution in sound a pretty natural progression for you?
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Yeah, it is. It’s the outcome of a lot of trials and tribulations and a lot of shared experiences. You watch any great band — like Phish, I’ll use them for an example — and when you see them, you’re not just seeing great musicians, you’re seeing people who have really stuck it out together.
I think the album definitely reflects that. Some of the best advice we ever got was to just stay together. No matter what you do, just stay together; you can figure it out. You’ll get better at your instruments if you just stay together.
I think it also kind of reflects a love, something like we’re not going to quit on one another, even when things get hard — which they do inevitably at times. When you stick it out and stick through, it pays off, and I think this album's definitely a testament to us continuing to stick through the trials and tribulations of being human and also being in a band.
It’s fun to see the community in Denver rally around us, too. I think the microcosm of our relationship and us being able to stay together and work things out is a beautiful example of what I think we all want to see: the world working together better, too.
If we can work together in those small circumstances, we actually stand a chance. But if we can’t do that, how’s the world going to be a better place, you know?
Speaking in Spirits has been framed as the soundtrack to the band's life over the last few years. I'm curious to know more about what that means.
We want to be as objective as possible, in a sense, in that we’re doing our best to be honest about what we’re all going through, and being an honest reflection of the current climate of life and our perspective on it. With Speaking in Spirits, it’s like the album is something that we’ve put in the work to allow that to come through. We understand that the kind of energy we want to tap into with our music is far beyond any one person or individual songwriter.
We always talk about communication. The best music is the deepest level of communication you can imagine. I think it’s like in making this album, we’ve also been learning how to communicate to each other and learning to let go of attachment to certain things.
I think this album is a reflection of consciously moving in the direction of being channels. When you sit and you watch television and play scales over and over again, it’s so that when you are in that moment, you don’t have to think; you can just let spirits speak. I think we’re constantly trying to move in that direction.
What was the most challenging part of channeling that idea?
The most challenging parts are us — me [laughs]. It’s when I’m bummed out and convinced that the whole world is messed up because I’m having a hard time, or I’m just riding the waves of excitement. We’ll be on tour and going, going, going, or we’ll be recording this album, and then all of a sudden, there comes a time when things slow down a bit, and honestly, dealing with that is quite challenging sometimes. You go from 100 to zero sometimes.
I think the most challenging parts have been personal-life things. Also, I don’t think we’ve put out a song that we haven’t lived. That’s kind of against our code.
Not like “living” in the sense that it’s an exact replica of our stories, but “living” in the sense of feeling these things we sing about, you know? We’re very conscious and aware of, okay, if we put this out, if we put out this heavier thing, we’re prepared to face that.
But the music itself remains a salvation. Recording that album was one of the greatest periods of my life, personally, and there were, of course, challenging parts. But, you know, in terms of purely recording and making the album, it was really exactly what I want to do. It was very natural, very flowing. But I think the buildup and aftermath are a lot of times the challenges.
What were some things you personally did to keep yourself balanced during the high and low times?
I think what I’ve done really is pray, make sure I stretch in the morning, and just be conscious of things. While on the road, you can drink every night. It’s about trying to keep some of those things in check, you know what I’m saying?
Also, balancing out the business with the creative side and trying to merge them. Like, okay, now we need to do taxes. It’s an art unto itself, learning how to merge these different things. Like, oh, I want to go on tour, I want to play live, but I don’t want to do taxes, you know? But if you don’t do taxes, things get bad, and often, bands break up because of something like that.
Honestly, learning how to cover those ends has helped a lot, too. Some of those things that you don’t want to do, but you know that they’re important. If something’s bothering you, you have to eventually face it. I think a big thing is learning to be able to face things: Fail fast, and don’t be too attached to any particular self, because we change all the time.
Also, just keep your people close. Be really good to the people that are good to you and even be good to people that aren’t. Keep your circle tight, and really value the relationships that remind you always, “Oh, this is who I am.”
Even though there’s people out here that are going to see me as a million different things, I listen more to the people that know me, and it’s important to learn to keep that tight, especially as you put things out into the ether, and it’s up for opinion of the masses.
People can be cruel to creative people, [laughs]. It’s about just finding the people that support you and keeping them close. Anything that keeps you in a place of love and thankfulness, as opposed to the opposite.
What was the most rewarding part of the third record experience?
Oh, I love that, man. This is great. The most rewarding part has been the journey of a third record, and recognizing how I look down on this vinyl that we have, and I see all the art; a friend of ours, Franki Zinke, she did the artwork for Speaking in Spirits.
But the journey, and then seeing the final product and hearing how much love and passion and heart went into every little drop of the album. I’m feeling really thankful to being able to have a third album.
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I just turned 25 the other day, you know, so it feels pretty good to be moving on to the fourth studio album. I feel pretty thankful for that. But the journey, the laughter, the smiles, and hearing the songs come to life and take on their own lives, it’s like bearing a child, in a way.
And also, just getting it out and moving on to the next one. Because we’re not thinking about this album, we’re like, where’s that next album, man? It’s how we are. I feel really good about where this album ended up, but at the same time, what we hear is, "Oh, we could have done this, we could have done that," and we hear excitement for all these little lessons.
But also, we’re really grateful to capture this moment in time with this record.