Denver band Mr. Atomic is a wild ride of alt rock with a hint of 80’s retro. Their songs have social meaning such as their single “Made For TV”
The band recently released their full length album Spectator Sport.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Spectator Sport?
BA: The biggest challenge we faced in making Spectator Sport was time. The whole process took over a year, and we recorded everything in three separate sessions. I think this led to the songs sounding like they could have each individually been a part of three separate albums.
FEMMUSIC: What was your vision for the album?
BA: Our vision for this album was to touch on the topics that we saw people argue over all the time — shitty friends, discrimination, fighting “The Man”, etc. To be honest, the idea behind Spectator Sport really stems from Facebook and Twitter comments. I spend a lot of time, more than I care to admit, on social media. One common theme that struck me during my browsing was that many of the individuals who would make these comments always seemed to stop replying when rebuffed on their negative stances in relation to topics like these. My thought was, “Maybe if we actually question these people more, they’ll stop talking!” The whole album is a response to that idea.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about Mr. Atomic. How did you find your bandmates? Where did the name come from?
BA: Believe it or not, we actually all met on Craigslist. I put out an ad looking for people to play with, and Matt answered. It turned out we both went to the same university and had some mutual friends, so we bonded over that as well. After that, Mitch came along and we spent quite a few weeks as a three-piece working on stuff I had written years ago in order to get a feel for how we all worked with each other. These songs ended up basically becoming our demo, save one song that Matt wrote (“Heading Out”). After a rotation of drummers, we added Mike into the band and recorded our first EP, Avert the Skies, with our friend Nick Schmidt. Mike left for Japan later that year and we found Ryan!
A month or so before we played our first show, we realized we had enough material to open for another band and things actually became serious. One night on the way to practice, we all came up with a list of band names that we thought would work well with our sound and style. Mr. Atomic was added to the list because of our collective love for comic books (Captain Atom) and my personal love of the band Blondie (stemming from their 1979 single “Atomic”). We sent out the list to some of our friends and “Mr. Atomic” was the name that was most consistently on everyone’s list, so we chose it!
FEMMUSIC: You’re currently an independent band. Would you ever sign to a label? What criteria would you have to sign to one?
BA: I think remaining independent so far has allowed us to have more freedom with experimentation, something that I think at this stage is very helpful to us. I do believe that if the cards were right and it made sense, we would be open to signing to a label. As far as criteria go, I think the biggest point would be not signing to a label that we would feel like 1 in 1 million in. I personally would prefer if we signed to an independent label because I think the idea of getting lost in a corporation is less likely with those types of labels. Additionally, many of the labels that run off of values that we hold important are independent. Signing on to a label that has the same vision and ethics as we do is extremely important, as I think it should be for any musician.
FEMMUSIC: Besides running your own band, you’re also co-owner of At Night Group Artist Management. How did At Night Group start?
BA: When At Night Group started back in 2014, it was just my friend Bryan’s idea of a company to house his EDM project, Hyperion, and eventually add more artists too. He and I worked together throwing shows at CU and I asked to be the manager of his project Hyperion. He said yes. Not long after, our friend Nyall joined on to help us brainstorm ways to create ANG into a more solid business and push it past just an “idea”. The company itself formed in fall of 2016 with three artists — Hyperion, Jerney, and Mr. Atomic.
FEMMUSIC: What is the biggest challenge managing bands in At Night Group?
BA: The biggest challenge is scheduling. My calendar right now is pretty hectic and some days I find myself with no social time. I think Google Calendar can probably be credited with saving my life and keeping me sane because I don’t know how I’d keep everything straight without color coding and such.
Something that can be a challenge for us, partially due to our scheduling being so crazy, is keeping up our social media presence. We try to do as much as we can for our artists on the backend and sometimes Nyall and I forget that people also need to know about these cool things our artists are doing. We are definitely working this fall to find someone who can dedicate their time to our brand and put our artists out there.
FEMMUSIC: What are your criteria at At Night Group for signing a new band? What do you look for?
BA: We look for bands that have a sense of direction and vision. I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to work with individuals who have that insight and just need some help accomplishing it. It really sets the tone for the relationship and also helps keep us on task. Additionally, we love good music with some sort of focus. I’m huge on “concept projects” and I think it is cool to see the headspace that an artist is in with projects like that.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
BA: I usually start with a riff in my head and work in a chord structure to go with it. It’s kind of crazy but most times as I’m thinking of the chord structure the melody comes automatically. I typically write the lyrics for the first verse and chorus next and then take a break for a day or two two let it sink in. I’ve found that sometimes if I write a song in one sitting it can turn out sounding very repetitive so I need that space from it to rethink what still works aka if I still like what I wrote. I usually have a bass line in mind and a drum beat that could work with it. Once it’s brought to practice, we usually play through it as is and then the guys add their own flourishes and parts to it! It ends up being a cool way to workshop the song and has worked for us so far. I’m not above writing in a different fashion though and sometimes I like to challenge myself by doing things outside of my comfort zone.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
BA: This is a very hard question to answer! I tend to have many different influences during my stages of writing. Most recently it has been Paramore’s most recent album After Laughter. I love the idea of an 80s-esque dance beat with some rock. That’s a feel our band as a whole has always loved.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
BA: I feel like I could give you the same generic answer that any female has to this question, which would be yes. I think it’s something that won’t change until people realize the worth of femme artists. I was listing to the radio station the other day and noticed that in a single two hours session of me having it on in the background, not a single female artist was played. I hate that. I go to a venue and have individuals chat with our band about the music and are always surprised that I write the songs or play an instrument. I had someone who I told about my band ask me if we played “chick rock”. What is that?
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
BA: I would love to go on tour with Speedy Ortiz. They are one of my favorite bands and I had the pleasure of meeting Sadie Dupuis a few times when they toured through Denver and San Francisco. I really like the off-kilter with hints of pop vibe that they have and their most recent album is amazing. They are also incredible humans and seem like they have a lot of fun with each other!
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
BA: I think the biggest thing for me would be to change the idea in people’s heads about how women should be represented in music. I love the idea of making the music industry an equal sum game when it come to gender representation and it seems like for some individuals it sounds like too tall of a task for anyone to ask them to do. My answer to that is to think outside of the box! I think we should give as much respect to women for their talent and ability as we seem to give to their outfits or to men. We aren’t all just here for the show.