Dumfries electro-rock trio North Atlas know which direction they're travelling as Belladrum Seedlings Stage headliners gear up for headline show of their own at the Tooth and Claw, Inverness
Dumfries electro-rock trio North Atlas travel north this weekend with their sights set on the Tooth and Claw, after the release of new single South only last week. Kyle Walker caught up with drummer and band co-founder Cam Hunter to talk about the band, their recent Bella Seedlings headline slot, and that snaking new single
Q Hi there, thanks for answering these! Whereabouts are you reading these from?
A Hey Kyle! I'm sitting in my little studio at home where we write North Atlas' songs and do our soundtrack work (bit of a side hustle of ours). It's the night before the new single is out so I'm a little bit nervous to see what people think of it, but at the end of the day relieved to get some new music out there as it's been a little bit.
Q You’re back up in Inverness for a headline show at the Tooth and Claw next Friday – you’re getting in the habit of Highland headline slots! How are you feeling about the concert? Looking forward to it?
A Tell you what we love coming up to Inverness and it always has treated us well. We're often up and about during XpoNorth and have made quite a few Invernesian (is that a word?) pals up there. Inverness also reminds me of our hometown in Dumfries and Galloway a little bit too. It's got a similar atmosphere but just much, much more scenic! We're really looking forward to the gig. It's a chance to play our new tracks live, when we play them they feel so much more potent to us than before.
Q You’ve also had a headline slot on one of this year’s Belladrum stages – headlining the Seedlings stage on Thursday night! How did it feel for you guys to have that opportunity? And how did the gig go for you all?
A Honestly we were really nervous about the gig. We found out that we were due to be playing at the same time as the Mainstage headliners that night, Elbow. I'm sure most folk in bands know that feeling- we were worried no one would show up! But as we started sound-checking and playing our first couple of songs, the tent filled up until it was rammed and people seemed to have a great time, us included. Because we played last too, we didn't have to rush offstage with our equipment or anything so meant we could hang about and chat with people who enjoyed the gig, that always means a lot. Also we got tokens for a free burger, thanks Bella!
Q So let’s go back to the start – what brought North Atlas together at first? What were your influences starting the band? And how have things changed for the band over the years?
A So a few years ago my brother Leon and I started writing demos for a new project which we called 'project novo'. We hadn't really decided much about it yet, just started writing. Once we had written a bunch and had a hard drive full of demos we linked up with a guy we'd known for a while called Mark Freegard, he's a producer based in Glasgow who did work with Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson, among others. Mark was very clued up on 90s electronic style production and after a few conversations with him we started to work together to mix our tracks. Spending time with him was really inspiring and helped give us the electronic angle we have to all our music today. Right from the start we've always loved the anthemic quality of bands like Linkin Park, but the raw intensity of Nine Inch Nails, we have always felt like our music was a balance between the two. After the two of us had a good set of tracks together we hooked up with another two guys and started playing shows as North Atlas.
Q When you last spoke to us back in March 2017 you were a four-piece, but lineup changes have seen you become a three-piece. Do you feel there has been any significant change to how you make your music since the change?
A The process of writing and recording hasn't changed an awful lot, but I think our attitudes have. Rusty (Liam Russell), our new guitarist is a very old family friend. We have known him our entire lives as he grew up right next to us in Dumfries and Galloway. This makes everything within the band feel very open, and we can be honest with each other about ideas and direction. We can basically bring any strange ideas we have to the table - trust me there are loads- and just throw them into the ring but we can easily veto each others awful ideas without any hard feelings. It genuinely does feel like a band of brothers in that way. Weirdly Rusty looks much more like my brother Leon than I do, so everyone always thinks those two are the brothers instead of me.
Q You’ve got a new song out, South. Tell me about it – how did it come together for you guys? What does the song mean for you all – and how are you feeling about it being out in the world?
A I think it's a much more honest song, subject and sound-wise than we've ever made before. We worked on it with Dan Weller again, who's been instrumental in the sound of some of our favourite bands like Enter Shikari and Young Guns. That's been an absolute privilege and we have learned so much.
I know the lyrics of this song are very personal to Leon and mean a great deal. We reached a difficult point with music around a year ago where we had to give ourselves a tough choice- either stop altogether or finally make the honest music and message we actually want to make. I think you can particularly hear this in the lyrics of this song. I know he won't mind me saying this; they're the most honest Leon has ever been discussing his past struggles with depression.
To lighten the tone a little bit we also filmed a very fun music video on the seabed of the Solway Firth. At certain times in the tide cycles you are able to walk miles out to sea at low tide. We basically pretended to be Nine Inch Nails at Woodstock for the day and got covered in mud. The coordinates which are on the single cover are the location where the video was taken, put them into google maps!
Q After the weekend gigs you’ve got coming up in Inverness and Edinburgh, what’s next for you guys? What plans have you got in the pipeline in 2019 and beyond?
A After this mini tour we've got plans to head down the country for a few gigs in England as well as release some more new music. Playing in places you've never been before always feels like breaking new ground and it's a good feeling. We were lucky enough to have our first ever show in London and in mainland Europe this summer, that was an absolute privilege for some lads from the middle of nowhere.
North Atlas come to the Tooth and Claw, Inverness on Friday night. Doors open 8pm and tickets cost £6.