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Shuffle: Colorvine Brings Back '80s Sound

photo of Colorvine
Colorvine is Larry Saltis (lead singer, guitar), his brother Heath (drums) and bassist/vocalist Kurt Reed. Their album release -- and first show -- is July 26 at Musica.

An Akron band who were seasoned professionals -- while still in their teens -- has reunited to make a new album, and to tour, for the first time in over a decade.

Heath Saltis lays down the groove behind his brother, Larry – and they play with the same intensity as when they were going to high school in Bath in the 1980s.

“By the time Heath and I were – I would be 17 or 18-years-old at the time [and] Heath would be three years younger -- we would be playing every week, at a dance, in a high school. I don’t want to brag or anything, but we were making $500 a week.”

photo of Tower City band
The Saltis brothers formed Tower City in the 1990s before heading back to Akron to raise their families.

“All the schools – we were integrated with the Firestones, Copleys, the Hudson, the Cleveland Schools. We were different at the time because we were being booked to play covers, but we also had a full, original repertoire.”

A Monkees detour
The teens were good enough to attract the attention of Atlantic Records back then, and for Larry to land a part in The New Monkees – a brief revival of the 1960s TV series. Larry even co-wrote a song on their album, which today has a cult following.

After the short-lived New Monkees project, Heath joined his brother in Los Angeles and they started a new band called Tower City. They gained some success in Europe, but eventually returned to their hometown – and largely gave up music to raise their families.

Starting over
“We were doing life. But the dream – you had that churning [and] burning in your gut. Like, what are we on this Earth to do?” Heath had played drums and piano from time-to-time during their hiatus, but his brother, Larry, hardly ever touched the guitar.

“I kept telling him, "you deny this, you’re going to die an unhappy man.’”

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it," Larry said. "There was something about. There was a syringe, and I knew that if I stuck it in my vein, I wasn’t going to be able to get it out this time.”

The Saltis’ first started playing together again about four years ago. They were commissioned to write a few songs for some old friends in Europe, but Heath recalls the conversation when the process hit a snag.

“He literally looked at me and says, ‘why are we doing this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. Why are we doing this?’ He said, ‘should we write these songs and give them to these guys? How are we going to record this and do this?’ We didn’t have the technology if we were going to record them, to actually digitally send them to them. So then it became, ‘let’s just record an album. Ourselves.’ And we pulled out an old Tascam 2488 [analog tape] machine. And that’s where it progressed to, ‘we’re not even going to send these [songs] to these guys.’”

The new album
“We wanted to do a nostalgic, analog-sounding album. With warmth and layers. That’s probably what’s different about this album. It’s got a sound.”

“No copies, and no pasting!”

“One track – you get it right -- that’s what took us so long to record this. It’s a true warmth hearkening back to that '80s sound. And we put some real time and effort into it. And I think it turned out good.”

“Because we’re crazy.”

“We are. We’re goofballs. Kurt’s probably like, ‘oh, I’m glad I wasn’t here for this.’”

Kurt is Kurt Reed, bassist for Colorvine, who joined after the recording process. He owns the Fairlawn and

photo of Wake Up
Colorvine will hold the launch party for its new album, 'Wake Up,' on July 26 at Musica in Akron.

Hudson Schools of Music, which gave him a unique connection to the Saltis brothers.

“Larry has a son and a daughter that both take lessons at the school. Larry sent me a note that said, ‘hey, we’re looking for a bass player. Do you have any suggestions? Could you spread the word?’ So I listened to the music [and] immediately thought, ‘well, I wonder if it’s okay if I put my name. Is that too selfish?’ So we were talking about this the other week: Larry and Heath are still not convinced I sent those leads to anyone else.”

Reed completed Colorvine and they’ve been preparing ever since for the launch of their new album, “Wake Up.” And just as their European connection led to the rebirth of their songwriting partnership, the band’s music business connections from the 1980s have landed them a spot touring with Foreigner for a few shows this summer. Those dates – including one in southern Ohio -- are sold out. But before the tour, they’re playing their first show ever as Colorvine at Musicain Akron on July 26.

“I think it’s time in this industry that something like this comes out. Not for our sake, but for everyone else’s. Find something in it. If you listen to the lyrics, hopefully it has something to do with you and your life at some point. Hopefully you’ll find yourself with the headphones on saying, ‘wow, that feeling we grew up with in the ‘80s about music itself – covering all the bases,’ that’s what I hope this record can do.”


Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.