Photo: Meghan McInnis
[Before we begin the article, we have to give an apology to the ladies: contrary to the picture above, Steve is now sans mustache.]
By Andrew Wilhelm (TX)
Chicago quintet The Atlas Moth have made quite a name for themselves in such a short time. Having come out of the box with 2008's Pray For TIdes EP, they were quickly signed to Candlelight Records and released A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky in October 2009. Sky still retained a lot of the metal from Tides but added a heap of psychedelic influence. It's not fair to call it post metal - yeah, there's a tiny drop of post, but it's way more on the metal scale. They've toured a ton behind the record, got to open for Harvey Milk, gained a lot of new fans in the process, and even made 60s imagery cool again.
"If you think about the times that we're growing up in - most of us are in our mid-to-late 20s and early 30s - we're growing up in a time where the economy actually means something to us," guitarist and vocalist Stavros "Steve" Giannopolous said. "It's kind of like the 60s again, there's a whole revolutionary vibe with our stuff."
Don't expect any Strawberry Alarm Clock revivalism, though.
"There's a lot of love and peace in the 60s stuff that we don't really get down with. We're kind of a darker spin on it, if you will." Giannopolous said.
Right before touring with Nachtmystium, Dark Castle, and Zoroaster last fall, The Atlas Moth banged out an EP of covers entitled One Amongst the Weed Fields, a play on one of the songs from Sky, "One Amongst the Wheat Fields." They covered songs from Failure, The Mamas & the Papas, The Doors, and Pink Floyd. This was from a list whittled down that also included Bill Withers and the Deftones. Constant touring brought about the EP's song choices.
"Our old van had a radio. That's all it had in it - there was no tape deck or CD player. We toured in that fuckin' van and listened to nothing but shitty classic rock stations. Every one in a while, you hear a song and - "Oh, this would be awesome [to cover]," Giannopolous said.
The release was only made available as a download card before the Nachtmystium tour. Since the band and the label didn't see it as an album proper, they felt a pressing would be unnecessary.
"We went to Candlelight and they were 'No, I highly doubt you'll want to press something that's just cover songs. Why don't we just release it digitally' and have it just out there," Giannopolous said. "We were wanting to make sure people understood that it's different from an album release."
Recently, the band was in the studio recording material for their next full-length. Giannopolous assures that most of it is done and that the remaining work will be completed after the band returns from the road. He said that the new songs are "more focused - we all kind of know our role in the band, where everyone fits in the mix."
The album "is a bit more thought out and not so ADD about things," Giannopolous said.
The Atlas Moth are touring as part of the Metalliance tour, a mix of legends and blogger-tested, fan-approved up-and-comers. Saint Vitus, Crowbar, Kylesa, Red Fang, and Howl make up an impressive line-up, but Giannopolous is most excited for Helmet on the tour.
"I grew up listening to Helmet everyday. Meantime is a huge record for me…" he said. While the band won't have much time onstage, Giannopolous did say they will try to fit in at least one new song into their setlist.
Hearing Giannopolous's enthusiasm for Helmet made me realize another big element of The Atlas Moth's sound: they are, in a way, a realization of what "alt-metal" could have been. Bands like Helmet and the Deftones had big chunky riffs, but they came before that all got bastardized by the nu-metal trend. Helmet has seen better creative days (though I hear they are still great live), and while the Deftones have expanded their sound somewhat, The Atlas Moth do it better and heavier.
The Atlas Moth will be playing Dirty Dog on Friday. In addition to the bands mentioned, Weedeater will be joining. Last year, The Atlas Moth was at SXSW for five days, so he finds only being there for one day a huge relief.
"I'm not going to miss being there for five days, but I love Austin on the regular," Giannopolous said.
And if they should still happen to have the "Drop Acid, Not Bombs" shirt, totally cop it.
"Extaordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence"