|An interview with the four members of the Atlantic Thrills: Dan Tanner, Eric Aguiar, Kelly Riley, and Josh Towers.|
You guys seem like a pretty motley crew. How did you all meet?
Eric: Dan and I have been playing together for a long time. We’ve been doing music since 2005, probably.
Kelly: Eric and I were at RISD together a long time ago. ’96?
E: I started in 95, graduated in ’99.
Josh: I’ve been playing in bands around Providence for the last twelve years. When their drummer was going through some stuff, they asked me to fill in. And then they asked me to stay on.
K: Ref, our former drummer, caught narcolepsy. It was really fucked up. It was like, “Time for practice!” And he’d fall asleep.
E: We have photos to prove it.
K: You couldn’t even be mad at him because it wasn’t like he wasn’t trying. He was actually asleep.
Are you all originally from Providence?
Dan: No, I don’t think any of us are.
J: I’m from Washington State.
D: I’m from Florida. Lived in Massachusetts for a long time. Then I came here. Stayed for some reason.
I ask because Foo Fest is all about local artists. What about Providence drew you here?
K: Oh no, well we’re all from Providence.
D: And I think we’ve all been here – at least I’ve been here longer than I haven’t been here.
J: Yeah, I’ve lived in Providence for fourteen years now.
D: I’ve been here about ten, thirteen years maybe?
What made you guys stay here after RISD?
K: Really cheap warehouse space. And work from my professors was helping out. It was kind of a natural network. And then I had friends who stayed around, in Boston and New York. They were bringing film work, collaborating. It was just natural. And I kept this place as a base when I traveled. I came back from India a couple years ago and they told me to get in the band.
And what about you, Eric?
E: Pretty much the same. After I graduated I had a network here, I had a lot of friends. I was already in a band I had started at the end of school. People I was playing with were from around. So I just took it from there and started this venture.
Dan, I read that you were in a car accident back in 2009. How did that impact your career as a musician?
D: I’ve always played guitar. They told me, “You’ll never do it again.” But I’m more stubborn than that; I forced myself to do it. It was hard work to really motivate myself–it’s a lot of pain to go through, to do something you know how to do and then you just can’t do it anymore. And I still have nerve damage today. My hand goes numb half the time. You just get over it. You deal with it. But I’m back, so here we go! And, scene.
You guys describe yourselves as “psychedelic garage rock.” What draws you to that genre?
D: It’s fun.
E: That’s the number one thing. It’s fun.
J: You get to be really messy with it. It can be a little rough. And I mean, I think our show is more about the energy than about technical accuracy. We don’t do insane fifteen-minute solos. We just stomp.
D: People like to dance, and have a good time.
E: It’s not overly technical.
D: I like all kinds of music, but when I go to a show, I want it to be fun and crazy, with people jumping around, rather than people standing there, critiquing it, saying, “That was lovely”. That’s kind of boring. I like to make it energetic, get people moving.
Have you guys played other genres of music?
J: I played punk and metal mostly. During the 10 years before this it was just all like fast and as hard as you can go. I like this because it’s simpler, but I get to put more into it. It’s more fun for me than just a constant workout. I can actually have fun with everyone else.
E: I had two hip hop projects I did before this. One was called Birthwrite, one was called Exile & Lokey. Those were both born and bred here in Providence as well.
D: I’ve pretty much been a DJ here forever. And I do the hip hop thing with them.
E: Yeah, he was part of the Exile & Lokey project as well.
D: And I still DJ around town from time to time.
K: I was in a punk band when I was in high school.
D: Yeah me too. I think we were all in punk bands when we were in high school actually.
K: I was in the number one country western band in New Delhi. Also, the only one.
What are your influences and inspirations?
D: It comes from all over really. We’ve got Beach Boys harmonies; we have GG Allin guitar parts sometimes. It’s kind of a mashup of everything. I think we even go outside of the psych garage thing. It doesn’t cover everything that we do.
E: We touch upon some 50’s doo-wop sometimes.
J: Yeah, and then some surf, some punk. Even some heavy metal guitar tones.
E: Even hip hop sometimes. I listen to hip hop for inspiration.
Which hip hop artists inspire you?
E: Jeez…anything on Stone’s Throw. Madlib. MF Doom. OutKast, old OutKast.
D: Any of the classics. Wu-Tang.
J: Yeah, we usually have some ridiculous hip hop blasting on the way to a show.
E: And we just covered some Beastie Boys at the last show we did. We like to mix it up a lot.
What about these different artists or genres inspire your writing?
E: I think it’s the energy. That threaded together, that wild energy, having a good time, and leaving your work day behind and letting loose. That’s what we try to bring to it.
D: I definitely think that’s the most important part. Just making it energetic enough for people to want to move and not just stand there.
J: Devolving into chaos. Madness.
K: It’s debaucherous mostly. Malformed, occasionally. It’s doing simple stuff. If you’re just singing backups, it might just be 2 notes but just singing it, you have to put something into it that you care about, that means something to you, and even if you’re out of control doing it, it’s better than doing it perfectly. That’s what we tell ourselves.
How would you phrase your mission statement as a band?
J: Would it be too frat boy if I said, “Get drunk and party”?
D: We already wrote it man, it’s on the website, whatever it is. No, just to have a good time and play music that gets people moving. We just try to have as much fun as possible.
E: ‘Mission statement’ is too definitive. We like to keep it loose.
D: We work really hard though. We get together three to four times a week, practice five or six hours at a time–until someone gets mad. Or something gets broken. However debaucherous it appears, we try really hard to make it. It’s not like we do everything perfectly, we’re doing it because the songs are constantly getting rewritten, trying to figure out where they should be.
J: You have to really know your material if you’re going to have a couple drinks and really go for it. You can’t worry about, “Oh, how does this go again?” You have to have it hammered down so you can go loose.
K: Controlled chaos.
D: We put in a lot of work in order to control the amount of debauchery without it actually falling apart.
K: But it has to be real debauchery. It can’t be contrived.
What are the greatest challenges that you guys face when you’re working together or writing a song?
E: There are many challenges. I think trying not to get on each other’s nerves when we’re around each other for long periods of time. We try to keep things light.
K: And we try to reduce violence.
E: That’s Kelly’s job in the band.
J: I am the defuser. I try and calm everyone down.
D: I’m good at compromise.
[The whole table bursts out laughing]
So who’s bad at compromise?
J: The guy who’s violent.
K: I’m bad at compromise?
J: No…you’re slow to compromise. Occasionally.
What kind of things would you have to compromise on?
J: Usually it’s just like sussing out a part. Like, does this lead line work? You know, whether you should change what you’re playing. But sometimes you say, “No, I like what I’m doing.”
E: Typically it’s the most trivial shit.
D: And usually what we fight about we change it the next day anyway.
J: The point is often moot.
Do you guys write a song all together? How does that work?
E: Typically a song will start with one person. They’ll bring it to the band and suss it out, and we’ll finish it that way.
J: Then I show up and half-ass some drum beats on what they wrote.
D: Eric and I live together. A lot of times we end up coming up with stuff in downtime on acoustic guitars. Then we bring it to the loud version and see how that sounds.
What content do you guys write about?
K: Sometimes we write about women. Sometimes we write about drinking.
E: Drinking and women together. But we also have some serious stuff. We try to balance it out.
K: Sometimes you write a song when you feel like shit. But then you play it in a way that feels good. It’s like a sleight of hand – you can put a feeling into a song and when you play it again you don’t need to feel that way anymore.
So I heard that you guys have a new EP coming out. What’s that going to be like?
J: Yes, we have a seven-inch coming out really soon.
E: I think the first week of August. And actually the A-side of that single is on the AS220 summer sampler. We should have the seven-inch for Foo Fest. Then we have our first full-length album coming out in the fall. I believe at the end of September, beginning of October. It’s on Almost Ready records, so it’s really whenever they put it out. But they promised us by October.
So it’s your first full-length under a record label?
E: Yeah, it’ll be our first actual release. We’ve been playing together as this unit for a little over a year.
K: My second show ever we opened for the Black Lips. That was pretty awesome. It was a good one.
What are your favorite venues?
J: I like Dusk.
D: Yeah, I like Dusk too.
E: I think it’s become one of our favorite local spots.
D: It sounded really good when we played at AS220.
E: Yeah, we played AS220 for New Year’s Eve. That was one of the funnest shows we’ve done. By far my favorite show that I’ve played at AS220.
So what should we look forward to at FOO FEST?
K: There will be a giant donkey involved.
D: A giant donkey.
E: I think that’s pretty much it. A giant donkey.
K: We’re probably gonna play the songs we know how to play. And we’re coming off tour; we’re doing a 15-day tour of the East Coast and back.
D: Foo Fest is the final day of the tour. So we should be up to par.
J: Or completely dead.
D: We just want to make it as fun as possible.
J: Yeah, we don’t ever want people to take us too seriously.
K: No one really does, anyway.
E: We’re psyched to play Foo Fest.