by Alex Teitz
Air Traffic Controller has been flying high. They’ve been on Billboard’s Hot 100 Fest Performers, and on NPR’s Hot 100 List for SXSW in 2015. They’ve released 3 full length albums and recently released a new EP called Echo Papa.
The core of Air Traffic Controller is Dave Munro, who started the band on his own when he returned to Boston after serving in the Navy, and Casey Sullivan joined after their debut album was released. ATC is a 5 piece band from Boston that has been on FEMMUSIC’s radar. We are pleased to interview Sullivan prior to the First Chair Festival. For info visit http://www.airtrafficcontrollermusic.com/ & http://firstchairfestival.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How has it changed over time?
CS: My songwriting technique has changed a lot over time. I think it has become much more collaborative than it used to be. A lot of my first songs I just wrote on an acoustic guitar by myself in my bedroom. So over the years, writing more with the band has made me more comfortable sharing ideas with people and it’s almost made me rely on their feedback at this point.
FEMMUSIC: You released 3 full length albums before the Echo Papa EP. Why did you want to release an EP as opposed to another full length album? What benefits were there for it?
CS: I think it was really about how excited we were to get the songs out into the world. We wrote and recorded the EP in a pretty short amount of time and felt like it had a very cohesive sound. So rather than forcing an album, I think we just all kind of easily decided “This is done. We want to show it to people now.”
FEMMSUIC: What was the biggest challenge making Echo Papa?
CS: I think part of our biggest challenge was knowing when to stop. The writing and recording process can go on forever if you allow yourself to go down rabbit holes, and so deciding when a song was done and also deciding the it was just going to be an EP was a bit of a challenge
FEMMUSIC: What song (by another artist) has had the biggest impact on you and why?
CS: I go through phases with songs and styles and artists, so it’s hard for me to choose a “favorite” or “most important” song to me because it always changes. I guess within the past week I’ve been really drawn to the song “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell. I’ve always loved her vocal phrasing and of course her lyrics. This song has kind of a sad hopefulness and innocence to it that is really hitting me hard right now.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
CS: Yes, but I don’t think that it’s something that’s unique to the music industry. I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt in danger and alone and almost forced into working with people that frightened me. As a young woman, it was a really difficult world to navigate, but I’ve learned that it’s important to do what you love and most importantly surround yourself with people that lift you up and don’t make you feel “less than” just because the industry can be a boy’s club. It’s also important to a have a community of people that can be honest with you and warn you to steer clear of certain people.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to tour with, or collaborate with and why?
CS: I’m a big fan of Miya Folick’s songwriting. I discovered her music when I first moved to LA and she’s super talented. If you haven’t listened yet, go check her out.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
CS: I think the music industry is going through a strange transition right now. I think since people are not really paying for music anymore, musicians are having difficulty making money. It creates this odd atmosphere for creation, where you have to look for other outlets for making money, which tends to be commercials and writing music for television and movie. I think it’s strange for me that it seems to dictate certain music trends, and I guess if I could change something, I would love if that didn’t have an effect on musicians’ creative process. If people could just write whatever they found interesting, I think we would be hearing more boundaries being pushed. That’s just something I find really fun in music.