Portland Musicians Corner With DJ Sonic Szilvi & Complimentary Colors

Complimentary Colors is an acoustic folk duo based in Portland, Oregon. They sing songs about childhood, love, life too. Even if their themes are a bit darker, their goal is to turn the darkness around, brighten a little corner of the world, and make people smile. In addition to singing, Camille Rose and Ashley Elizabeth play the ukulele and guitar as well as some other fun, unexpected instruments. Camille and Ashley don’t just share the stage but share love and life (they are engaged), which makes their songs even more heartfelt.

Sonic Sz: I saw in the bio on your website, that you two met and from day one you started making music. Can you take me back to that day? How did all this happen? How, where, when? Curious minds need to know! 🙂

A – We met through Tinder actually! We both experienced a rough year before meeting each other. We were both just about to give up on romance but decided to give it one last shot. December 1st, 2016 we met at my place and walked over to Maui’s in North Portland for a beer to test the waters…….turns out that the waters were just fine! Camille sparked a fire back in my heart that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. After a beer we went back to my place for some dinner and she taught me how to play my first song on the ukulele; my first song ever on an instrument, actually. If that didn’t already put this lady on my Super Neat list, the kiss she gave me as she left sure did. Fireworks.

C – I was terrified of Tinder. I had heard horror stories from some friends and, preferring to meet people organically, felt wary of the concept of internet dating. We had chatted extensively though, and I knew I just had to meet this woman. I was struck by how absolutely gorgeous she was from the moment I saw her. I had my ukulele with me for some reason, bringing it in after I realized Ashley had one of her own. I had no idea she had never played an instrument! The night was so fun. I think we spent a total of 5 hours together the first time we met, knowing for certain that there was much more to come.

Sonic Sz: You both have amazing voices. Were you trained in singing?

A – I haven’t had much professional training in the vocal department. I only ever sang in church choir in my early teens but that didn’t last very long. The music director and her daughter were not very pleasant to work with on top of me being too shy to perform at the time so I quit after a few months. My mom attempted to get me to take vocal coaching but once again, I was too shy to step beyond practicing so I begged my mom to not make me do it anymore. Between then and last year it was all singing in the shower, in my car, and in my own home. Camille makes me brave and now I get to be apart of this magical music world.

C – I began vocal training when I was 8 in combination with some basic piano after discovering my passion for musical theater in the first show I was cast in (“Annie”).

Not captivated by piano, I stepped away from lessons. At 12 I tried again with guitar, to similar effect. I really became serious about my vocal training after moving to Big Timber, MT. My incredible choral teacher, Jim Bratvold, helped to make sure that I received as many classical training opportunities and experiences as possible throughout middle and high school. During college, I trained in choirs and private lessons a little bit, but not much…until I started performing in bands. While I will be forever thankful for the incredible training I received in the classical realm, finding my own unique voice through my own music has been a wonderful gift.

Now I just need a coach to help me clean it up!

Sonic Sz: How many instruments do you play and what is your absolute favorite?

A – I love this question. In total we have thirteen instruments, I think, that we call our Little Family and each instrument has their own name. We have a lot of crossover with same instruments but I play a 3/4 guitar that we modified and tuned like a ukulele (Sweet P), a typewriter as percussion (Ruth), spoons (Bert and Ernie) kazoo (Amelia), egg shakers (Hey Hey and What What), a tambourine (Esmerelda), a banjolele, and I like to add in a good whistle here and there. I’m currently learning the Jaw Harp and Cajon. I want to learn the wash board next! I think Sweet P is my favorite the majority of the time but I really get excited to play percussion too. I am discovering that percussion feels like a raw energy to me so I am pursuing that further.

C – Fourteen! You forgot the piano! I play my concert ukulele (Celeste), singing bowl (Pan), kazoo (Badelia), banjolele (Ingrid), and toy piano (Clara), mostly. I’m learning more piano, accordion, and I love playing all sorts of strange instruments (and can play most in our collection) but my current favorite is the toy piano.

Sonic Sz: You both are from other states, Camille you are from Montana, and Ashley you are from Indiana. What brought you to Portland Oregon? Why Portland?

A – I initially came to Portland with an ex, (They Who Must Not Be Named) for a career opportunity. I arrived in December of 2015 after getting out of the military. I was a free bird, ready to explore a new part of the country and hadn’t been the the PNW yet. I fell in love immediately. The “Portland Weird” that everyone hears about is my kind of weird. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves but that is the main reason I decided to stay, it felt like home. Then I met this amazing human being that I get to call My Love, now she is my forever home.

C – Montana is a wonderful place to be from, but tough if you want to be a working creative. I came here after my life at the time fell apart around me: relationship, job, home, everything. I had been in love with Portland for years and trying to move out here, so it was clear to me what the Universe was trying to tell me with all of those doors closing… on to open windows!

Portland was an obvious choice due to its creative community, particularly with regard to theater and film. However, even as my focus has shifted, the community holds tight to my heart.

Sonic Sz: Music is obviously a big passion for both of you. Are there any other passions and interests besides music? What are the important things in Camille’s and Ashley’s lives?

A – That’s my problem, I have so many! I wish I had access to a Tardis and could add all of the time I needed in a single day. My heart is the happiest when I get to explore, create, and discover. Anything outdoors from camping, to gardening, to fishing, to hiking, you name it and I’m there with a smile on my face and back-up snacks. Yeah, I’m that person. I also love little projects that I can hyper focus on. Something that reels in my ADD mind and gives it a chance to focus on one thing at a time. For example, adult coloring books are my jam, painting, and jigsaw puzzles. And lets not forget pinball, of course. As for what’s important, lately I have been focusing on learning and understanding more about my true self, as well as, what’s important in this little time that we get on this Earth. Chosen family and my sweetheart are my main priorities.

C- I feel like she scooped up most of my answers, since I love all of those things too! However, I also have a huge focus on education, especially as it pertains to folks on the autism spectrum. I also LOVE to read.

Right now, the most important thing in my life outside of music and my sweet Ashley is planning our wedding! It’s amazing how much work goes in to all of it!

Sonic Sz: If you could choose a super power what would it be and why?

A – Oh, this is a good one. I often have dreams that I can fly but it never lasts long though. I either can’t keep up the altitude or I wake up to soon. But, if I had to choose one, it would be to be as strong and powerful as the Hulk. “Ashley, SMASH!” Better to protect those close to me that I call family and those that can’t stand up for themselves. I’ve been in that position before and know what it feels like, not great. I remember wishing that someone, anyone, could come to my rescue, when I couldn’t, before I knew how to stand up for myself.

C – Well, I used to say “flying” or “healing self and others”. After seeing a post on this subject the other day, my answer is now one I’d never thought of before: I would want the power to change the odds of ANY situation at will. 100% odds of recovery or success sound pretty great to me!

Sonic Sz: And as a final question, what are you working on at the moment? Any new songs and upcoming shows? Are you working towards any bigger goals?

A – At the moment we are moving at lightning speed and burning the midnight oil. Our EP, “Complimentary Colors, Live in Stereo,” is in the works. Every month we perform at the Queer Open Mic Night at Local Lounge, which Camille co-hosts. We are also getting all of our merch created (including a mascot) so that folks can represent their favorite queer folk band! As for goals, we are always looking for the next opportunity to share our story and our music. My current biggest challenge is performance anxiety. I let it get to me sometimes which affects my performance but through Camille’s coaching and encouragement I have navigated my way through the rough spots and am getting more and more comfortable each time we play. Ashley, SMASH!

C – The EP is on its way, we’re working on video content, there are big shows this weekend (including a house show… look for more of those this summer!), and we have a great gig out at Whelan’s Pub on June 30th.

We’re also SUPER excited to join the lineups of both The Backyard Party, 3.0 (July 21) and the Side Alley Sundays Festival (August 4), local mini-festivals hoping to bring a bunch of us together!

On a larger scale, we are working toward a full album and getting out on the road in the next year. We will soon be starting a Patreon and allowing our fans to take the journey with us. Really, we just want to get our music out to the world however we can!

Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I am very happy I can spread the word and let readers know about your musical journey!

 For more information, pictures, videos and show schedules visit the band’s website or check out their FB page. 

DJ Sonic Szilvi, a European native, joined the Portland music scene a few years ago, currently playing bass for two active bands and one on hiatus. She recently joined the Freeform Portland family as a DJ. Sonic Szilvi hosts the weekly show Dark Noise Radio