A great fantasy writer once said the secret to genre fiction is remembering one thing: There is room for things to mean more than they actually mean.
Another great writer, science-fiction TV writer and producer Chris Carter, said something else: The truth is out there.
Louisville-based The Colours of Kings combines those two ideas on their new album, “The Truth is in Me,” a deeply personal set of inner reflections that just happen to be focused on old episodes of “The X-Files.”
In a somewhat sci-fi-ish turn of events, The Colours of Kings is not a scrappy foursome of young indie rockers but an avatar for punk and New Wave. Songwriter Nick Peay created the band in 2013 to explore a new sound based around synth and New Wave.
The Louisville native picked up a guitar for the first time in eight grade, growing up in a house full of music. So musical that his dad has more than once showed up with an electric guitar for a guest appearance at one of Peay’s shows.
“I wrote my first song at like 15, which is hidden away and no one will ever hear it again,” says Peay.
He started gigging around town with his first band, A Few Good Men, and honed his skills. He subsequently self-released several solo albums while attending Middle Tennessee State University, where he studied music production before earning a degree in music business.
Lyrically he tackled heartbreak, problem drinking and his love of The Beatles.
After college, Peay created his first concept band, OK Zombie, whose song “Zombies Don’t Dance” got airplay WFPK, as did “Listen to the Anchorman.” The band was also fixture of the Louisville Zombie Walk for several years.
“I was listening to Gorillaz and Thievery Corporation and other electronic-type stuff, and I really enjoyed it,” he says. “That’s what sparked OK Zombie. Well, that and the first couple of George Romero movies.”
After his interest in that sound ran its course, Peay returned to solo work. But he never stopped experimenting sonically.
“I found a synth pack on one of my digital workstations, and it had a sound sort of like ’80s synth sounds. But it was really cool to me, not sounds I had done anything with before,” he explains.
While he was playing with these new sounds, lyrically Peay began to shift away from zombies and heartbreak, which unsurprisingly coincided with his marriage in 2016.
“I can’t write broken-hearted songs. I don’t feel broken-hearted,” he says.
After finding “The X-Files” on Amazon Prime, the newlyweds engaged in a binge watch. No mean feat, considering “The X-Files” classic nine seasons had 202 44-minute episodes.
“It was, like, all we watched,” he says. “We would do sometimes two or three episodes a night.”
While following the continued adventures of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), a believer in all things strange, and his partner, the skeptical Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), Peay started to feel a kinship with the fictional duo.
“There were episodes that correlated directly with things we were dealing with in life … That’s where the idea to do an album about that stuff came from,” he says.
The nine-song album explores a variety of episodes and phenomenon such as the “monster of the week” trope.
“There was one episode we watched while we were house hunting,” recalls Peay. “We had just talked to our real estate agent, who found a house we like. And there was a homeowners’ association.”
Superfans are already remembering “Arcadia,” the episode that featured a trash monster golem, summoned by stickler neighbors who didn’t like it when their fellow suburbanites didn’t keep their domicile up to code.
The Peays subsequently decided to buy a house in a neighborhood without a homeowners’ association.
“The Truth is in Me” also features songs that address difficult times.
“There’s another episode I’m using, ‘Memento Mori,’ which translates to ‘remember death,’ and it’s the episode where it’s pretty apparent that Scully is going to die,” says Peay.
That episode — in fact, the entire story arc detailing Scully’s cancer — hit very close to home. Peay’s mother died in 2017 after battling cancer for several years.
“There are times when I have to write to deal with some emotion in some way. That was a song I knew I needed to write, but I think writing that song on its own, about that loss and dealing with that, I don’t know I would have been able to do that,” he says. “I’m thankful I had ‘The X-Files’ to use as my crutch.”
While that song addresses Peay’s loss, others examine what death means for anyone.
“The song about the Clyde Buckman episode, that episode focuses on when you will die, or Clyde Buckman knowing when someone will die,” says Peay. “So how do you deal with that? When it’s over, are you going to be happy with what you left behind? Is it something you will be proud of?”
For Peay and The Colours of Kings, being happy with what’s left behind will always include leaving old experiments behind and finding new ones.
“I don’t want to write the same record, no matter what I’m doing,” he says. “I always wanted to evolve and sound different and try different things. And it pushes me as a songwriter to try new things and grow and learn.”
To check out The Colours of Kings, you can pick up the record on their Bandcamp page before it vanishes like one of Mulder’s aliens.