Described as groove driven funky earth soul blues meets psychedelic jams, Sydney’s genre fluid 4 piece Bones Atlas have just put out their second album. Tomatrax caught up with Jimmy, the band’s guitarist and lead singer, to talk about the band’s music!
You’ve just released your second album, what’s it like to have it out?
We are stoked to finally have this record out in the world! After a few lineup changes post first album release, Sammy and our current drummer Barker were jamming on new tunes and trying to figure out the new sound and direction of the band. The songs took shape quite quickly and we wanted to document them while they were still fresh and we had an excitement about playing them. Initially we did the demos in 2014 and worked out a way to track them all in our studio. Having all the time in the world in your own studio space is both a blessing and a curse. We took a solid few months on tracking and overdubbing, then it was sent off to our good friends at Pyroelectric records to mix the album. They took a lot of time and care crafting the sound into something they thought would emulate a good representation of the band. The legendary Don Bartley from Benchmark mastering completed the album masters. Then we had our mate Tristan Wyber from Studio 6 produce the artwork and by mid 2015 we finally had a product to put out. It was a long road, but well worth the journey, so we are extremely excited for people to listen to the whole album and continue playing our live shows.
You recorded the album in a home built studio, was it hard to build the studio?
Yes! Absolutely it is hard to build a studio. We have made a simple space we can rehearse and record in. It is really important to us as a band to have that space to be able to be creative and document ideas when inspiration hits. I (Jimmy) am a sound engineer by day. We had a great little rehearsal space underneath Sammy’s house which we decided to fit out into a space we could record in. We begged and borrowed as many microphones, cables, and studio bits and pieces we could. We then spent all our money on laptops, recording interface, headphone splits etc until we had enough to start creating music. It is a very simple space and nothing like a professional studio with acoustically treated floors, walls and ceilings – what it does have is a good vibe and enough equipment to create music whenever we need.
What was it like to play in your own studio?
It is incredibly liberating and not as intimidating as a professional recording studio. For that reason I think we are all able to relax and play as we normally would and represent ourselves musically. Also you can take as much time as you like and not have the pressure of studio time and dollars hanging over your head. We are in there a few nights a week, creating, jamming, rehearsing for gigs and documenting new ideas that might form the seeds of the next album!
You had the aim of replicating your live sound in the album, how did you go about doing this?
That was definitely one of the main aims of this record, to keep it raw, honest and try to emulate the sound and energy that the band brings to every live show. We tracked the songs all playing live, no click tracks and isolated the drums (without an isolation room) After a number of trials and errors I finally managed to work out a way to un-plug all the speakers on the guitar amps and run a mix straight out of amp heads into a headphone mix. We were able to all be in the same room in close proximity and record the drums clean. This was the biggest challenge and the challenge of most studio recordings – trying to get a really good drum sound. We only had reasonably cheap, basic microphones but managed to get a nice overall sound on which our mixers had to work. The layering of guitars and vocals on top of the drums was done in a way to try and replicate the tones and energy of our live show. I recorded close and room mics on all the amps and gave our mixers all the files to work with. Our mates at Pyroelectric records – Ben short, Andy Short and Tom Hayward did an amazing job putting together all our recordings and shaping it into a huge wall of sound. Even leaving in squeaky pedals, footsteps and other things you can sometimes hear in the background. I like that it is kinda raw in the editing and gives it a really human vibe.
What made you pick Sex (on their minds) as the single?
It is a song we felt was a real driving force for this record – catchy and tight, it has punch and a swing about it. It is the natural opener for the album and a lot of our shows. It hopefully hits you straight away and gives a good representation of what this band might sound like or look like on stage. We really hope it is the launching point for people to discover more of our tunes and delve into the other longer, more complex tunes on our records.
What made you pick Little Earthling as the title track?
Little Earthling is one of our favourite tracks to play live. We really get to open up the jam sections and let loose with some rock n roll self-indulgent guitar solos. Coming in at 7 minutes this track is almost certainly not suitable for radio but trying to stay true to the live performance vibe of this album we had to do a long studio version of this track as it really gets to build to a crescendo with blazing guitar solos.
What was the inspiration behind the album’s cover?
We asked our friend and designer Tristan Wyber from Studio 6 to do the design – he worked on a really complex idea for months and as we got closer to the finish it eventually got scrapped and simplified. The final idea is that stripped down we (humans) are all simply bones – Little Earthling is supposed to illustrate how we as humans are all connected and not really all that different on a base level. The image is of a skeletal depiction of a small human, pure and floating in some kind of tribal ocean.
You have some shows planned in support of your album, what can fans expect from these shows?
Bones Atlas is always excited to play a live show. We really thrive off audiences’ reactions and try and play our set to suit the room. We will usually be coming out of the blocks with some big rock tunes being thrown down with epic guitar solos and blazing drums and bass. We will wind it back and play a few of our more mellow tunes, but usually have the crowd up and jumping by the end of the show. Throw a few crazy covers in the mix and who knows what will happen?
Where did the name Bones Atlas come from?
We liked the idea of an Atlas – a collection of maps or minds coming together. Bones came from humans all being made up of the same material. Bones Atlas seemed to fit and we found out about the Atlas Bone – one of two bones that connect the spine and the skull of a human – we liked this idea of connection between body and mind. Also, it sounded better as Bones Atlas.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Yes, occasionally we will listen back to our record and think oh! I could have played that better! Haha! We are all really proud of both the records we have put out and when I listen back to them I am actually stoked to have that music documented from that time. We are currently listening back to old songs we demo’d a few years ago trying to see if there is anything worth retrieving for the next album!
What other music do you listen to?
We all listen to a huge amount of music from a wide range of styles. Heavy rock, metal, folk, blues, reggae, jazz its all pretty much on the table for us. I try and find inspiring music all the time and harness ideas from other great musicians. I’ve got a nice 40 minute drive from my place to our studio and it is pretty much the perfect amount of time to listen to a full album of music – I try and listen to new albums coming out in 2015 and there is a huge amount of talent both Australian and abroad.
What do you plan on doing after your upcoming shows?
Try and book more shows! We are hoping to travel and play a bit more through 2015 and get to some other states. We love meeting new people and seeing other bands, musicians and sharing good times with them and audiences. In the mean time we are working on writing and arranging songs that we will start recording for the next album! But because we are impatient some of these will start to get dropped at our live shows!
Check out Bones Atlas’s Facebook page to find out more!