Interview: Atom Tree

Atom Tree - Photo by Rebecca Redmond

Atom Tree – Photo by Rebecca Redmond

Glasgow has long been a hotbed of music, but well before it was designated as a UNESCO City of Music, the area had already achieved fame for producing bands like Belle and Sebastian, Orange Juice, Mogwai, Primal Scream, and The Vaselines, to name just a few.

These days, on the ever-growing list of musicians to pay attention to is the band Atom Tree, a Soundcloud project-turned-band that began in the summer of 2012.

Producer Shaun Canning, who is the focal point of the project, began by posting music online, in hopes of attracting the attention of someone, which it did.

“I guess not only have I worked hard at writing and producing, but from day one, I decided to put the same amount of effort in getting the music out there as I did at making it. I just didn’t see the point in making music if I wasn’t going to really work hard to get it out there,” he said. “I had been fortunate enough to be discovered by my current manager on Soundcloud and I would say that was a turning point, in having someone who knew the industry and could guide me in how to go about getting to where I want to be, which is playing all over the world.”

Within less than a year, Canning expanded Atom Tree to become a two-piece, taking on Michael Robertson as a live drummer in April of this year. Additionally, local musician Fergus Cook has collaborated with Canning on writing some songs, which means that, depending on how you frame it, Atom Tree can be a solo, duo, or trio.

“It’s a solo project in terms of the actual music. I produce it alone and it’s only recently I have collaborated on a track with [Cook] after we met at a gig. He liked a track I played and offered to sing on it and it blossomed from there. We just actually finished another for this gig in Berlin,” Canning explained. “However in terms of the live sense, it comes together as a band. I guess it makes sense in terms of putting on a bigger show and creating a greater sense of atmosphere. The live drums from [Robertson] really add a greater energy.”

And as to his reasoning for bringing in other members, Canning wanted to eschew the traditional setup of a producer alone on stage with his equipment.

“Over the course of the year I had mostly concentrated on producing music and building up to having a strong set, which I believed people would enjoy hearing in a live setting,” he shared. “I decided that a live drummer would make it a bit more unique than going up and playing myself with the laptop.”

Last month, Atom Tree released its debut EP, Tide of Thorns, on Hot Gem Records, and thus far, Canning noted that he has received mostly positive reviews.

“It was a nervous time waiting on reviews coming back, as it was my first release and I really only started doing electronic music over a year ago,” he said. “I’d hoped they would be good, and so far people seem to be enjoying it, which is great.”

But even though the four-track EP is Atom Tree’s “newest” music, Canning has already started writing for the future.

“I’m constantly writing. Even when I was doing the final mixes on the EP, I was stopping to start new ideas,” he said. “I have plans for a full-length EP maybe late next year and a few [songs], which I’ll play on Saturday, will be on that for sure. I’d like to have at least double the amount of songs I have just now, so when it comes to releasing an album I can really narrow it down to the strongest tracks.”

Along with new music, the writing process has also changed, as now Canning has to think not only about how it sounds recorded but how it will come across in the live environment.

“Sometimes when I write a beat, I’m thinking about how the live drums could play or compliment it. With the track I [did] with [Cook], the music was already there and he would take them away and think up vocal melodies. We would then thread the vocal through the track and then maybe alter the structure slightly to fit it in better,” he explained. “[That said], the most challenging part has been in playing the tracks live as a band, and working out how to do this.”

As to where he looks for musical inspiration, Canning divulged that it’s musicians who are “trying to do something different” who catch his attention.

“Producers like Baths, for instance, is something I’d been listening to recently. I just love listening to unique sounds mixed with great melodies,” he said. “I [have also] been listening to [Gold Panda‘s] first album non-stop and a lot of the sounds on that have inspired some new stuff I’ve been doing.”

And as a matter of fact, Atom Tree shared the stage with Gold Panda earlier this month, one of the many high points for Canning.

“The most rewarding part is in playing the music to a crowd of people and…seeing people enjoy it,” he shared. “And also getting to do shows with people who have inspired me.”

Atom Tree plays tonight at Cookies in Berlin. The show begins at 23.00.

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