It's been a while since T.J. Fennell has lived in Pittsburgh — he followed his now-wife to the Boston area about three years ago — but he hasn't pulled up his roots. As a member of bands like The Copyrights and Two Sexy Beasts, Fennell was something of a staple in the local music scene. And this week, he's returning with a new record, which he spent the last few years making with local guitarist Mike Layton, under the band name Full Color Illustrations.
Full Color Illustrations was originally Fennell's solo project, consisting of him and a drum machine. After playing a few shows, he recalls, "It was like, this isn't exactly what I'd like to do." He put together a full band (just called "Full Color"), and Layton joined near the end of that phase of the project. The two began writing songs together, and when Fennell moved, they continued collaborating remotely.
They finished the self-titled record in December, but Saturday's show will be their first time playing the songs live; when they get together, it's usually to work on new material. "I'm coming into town three or four days before the show," says Fennell, "and we're going to be having some marathon practices."
Joining Full Color Illustrations are fellow Pittsburgh ex-pats More Humans, elegant indie-rockers whose years-long history with Fennell extends beyond having played dozens of shows together. The Full Color Illustrations album is, in fact, being released on Enamel Records, a label Fennell founded with More Humans frontman Clinton Doggett back in the early 2000s.
Given the complex recording process, Full Color Illustrations — a solid collection of fuzzy, sinister and frequently huge-sounding '90s-esque rock — seems almost surprisingly cohesive. But, as Fennell says, "Mike and I have been playing together in one capacity or another since 2000. I've never known anyone else where we can get together and put songs together without even having to talk about the actual music too much. It's really amazing. There's almost the sense of someone reading your mind."