Colston, RBTS WIN and The Build release new albums

WINTER WARMERS: Clockwise from top left, Colston, RBTS WIN and The Build provide respite from the cold weather with fresh tunes. Photo of Colston by Jules and Conrad Photography; photo of RBTS WIN by J. Mart; photo of The Build by Tony Willingham

As with many musicians, the pandemic continues to change the way local hip-hop artist Bryan “Colston” Godleski approaches his music. But on top of readjusting to the ongoing health crisis, Godleski has also spent the last seven months familiarizing himself with his latest role as a new dad.

“That has really changed my outlook on life and ways I think about myself and fatherhood,” Godleski says. “I want to be the best father I can be, and sometimes imposter syndrome flares up to trick me into believing that’s not possible. I combat these feelings with positive self-talk and affirmations from my wife and family reminding me we are all in this together.”

Godleski works through these emotions and more on his new solo album, fittingly titled Imposter Syndrome. While he says self-doubt and second-guessing affect his ability to follow through with what he knows is a great song or project, the consistent quality across the record’s 14 tracks puts to rest any question regarding his artistic talent. Regardless, the combination of deep introspection and his commitment to work safely with others throughout the pandemic turned the album into the most difficult musical undertaking of his career.

“The past two years have certainly impacted my music-making abilities, mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t meet with most of my collaborators in person,” Godleski says. “There’s a unique energy in the studio with someone bringing that energy versus having them lay the verse down on their own.”

Despite this distance, Imposter Syndrome features a number of collaborations from the local music scene. C. Shreve the Professor, MiKE L!VE, Po’Folk, Philo, Cactus, Kilo Fresh, Hunter Bennett and Ave each laid down memorable verses with beats by Spaceman Jones, TRIP, CrazyHorse and other producers. And while the bulk of guests are fellow hip-hop artists, Godleski also brought in rocker Ashley Heath to contribute her smooth vocals to the song “Kid on a Mission.”

“I like to look at an album as a time capsule. People can look back on this and see who’s making moves in this city,” Godleski says. “I also just want to showcase the people that I’m a fan of. Everyone on the album is very active and trying to level up in their own musical careers. My goal is to shed more light on these artists and push them a little farther.”

The unquestioned star, however, is Godleski himself — particularly when he gets deeply personal on songs such as “It’s All Good” and “Nobody Home.” Such numbers address issues including substance abuse and recovery, broken relationships and his musical partnership with Max “CrazyHorse” Hupertz.

“It was important for me to highlight the lowlights in my life because I want people who can relate to feel seen. For those that can’t relate, I want to paint a picture of what it was like to go through what I went through,” Godleski says. “It sometimes brings up emotions that I haven’t felt in a long time, and other times I get a sense of relief hearing these songs, knowing I made it through some very rough times. Overall, it’s been very helpful for me to get over some unresolved feelings about myself or others.”

Android magic

RBTS WIN, formerly known as ROBOTS, is back with its latest album, happy_sad.jpg. 

The Asheville-based, genre-defying, electro-soul duo formed in 2008 after Javier Bolea and Cliff B. Worsham were introduced to each other at a local bar. Soon thereafter, the pair dropped their first EP, WIN.

“I think we had that EP done within a couple weeks of meeting each other,” remembers Worsham. “We didn’t really set boundaries for each other in the studio. We just did what we felt, and it worked. I think that’s what kept us going all these years — that freedom we always allowed for the ideas to flow out in the studio.”

Bolea concurs: “We’ve been so lucky to get to do this throughout the different phases of our lives. Reflecting back on all we’ve accomplished and the art we’ve created has been a trip. I feel like we’re still getting better at it, and we have so much more to do.”

That chemistry remains strong on happy_sad.jpg. During the initial months of the 2020 lockdown, Worsham’s creativity flourished, resulting in approximately 50 new songs. Of those, seven were selected for the latest release.

Lyrically, Worsham explains, the time spent in lockdown forced him to reflect on a number of issues explored in happy_sad.jpg. “It made for a really personal album,” he says. “But it was all a very healthy way of working through those feelings.”

Within these introspective numbers, he continues, a theme of driving emerged. For Bolea, this unplanned motif is a fitting symbol of the times. Cars, he notes, represent both freedom as well as a desire for escape. “I think we all want to do that right now,” he says.

The duo has likewise felt a sense of liberation in returning to area stages after a long, pandemic-induced hiatus. Though creating music in the studio brings them significant joy, Worsham stresses that it’s nothing like performing live, which “connects you directly to the people who support you,” allowing the artists “to see their reaction in real time.”

One-man band

“I think this is going to be the last time I record an album like this,” says Tony Willingham. “It was a really great experience, and I’m truly happy with the end result, but it was a lot of work.”

The multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter is referring to Chaos Magick, his debut album under the solo moniker The Build. Willingham describes the project as “a concept album about life, death, love and our place in the universe.” And, with the exception of one sweeping guitar solo by fellow local artist Chris Young, Willingham performed and recorded every instrument on the album over the course of roughly 18 pandemic months.

“A well-rehearsed band can go into the studio and knock out several songs in one session. But when you’re doing everything yourself, you kind of start with a click track and just keep adding layers until all the instruments are there, which is obviously pretty time-consuming,” Willingham says. “Most of the songs were fully written, but sometimes you’ll have an idea and you go to record it and you listen back to it and you think to yourself, ‘Whoa! Wouldn’t it be cool if this happened here?’ So you end up doing a lot of songwriting during the recording process itself.”

While the sonic complexity and cohesiveness of Chaos Magick are impressive, Willingham’s lyrics are just as impactful. Though the musician says he didn’t set out to write a concept album, he notes that the recurring subjects he explores helped put his own personal problems into perspective. And such a mindset proved beneficial when, roughly halfway through the recording process, he learned that a friend had taken his own life.

“That kind of changed everything for a lot of us. I kept finding myself in less-than-ideal situations, and songs just started putting themselves together,” Willingham says. “I decided to just take my hands off the wheel there for a second. I figured that the universe would work its magic, and, lo and behold, it did.”

With the album now complete, Willingham is in the process of working up the songs for live settings with Felix Rodriguez (drums), Hannah Simpson (bass/cello/theremin) and Hazel Brindley (keys/trumpet).

“I want all of them to feel like this is as much their band as it is mine, so I’m really letting them put their own flair on everything,” Willingham says. “I don’t think it’s important that the live band sound identical to the album. There’s really no way that I’m going to be able to get three other people into the exact same headspace that I was when I recorded it. Hell, I’m not even in the same headspace anymore.”


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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