By: Dennis M. Kelly
W: There was a lot of turmoil behind the making of Grayscale, from me having a daughter, to lineup changes, and some personal conflicts within the band. It was a crazy 3 years. Lauren and I are much closer and much better off for it, but ultimately I’m glad the record is done.
L: Relief and excitement. I love this album. I’m also very much looking forward to having the process in the future go a bit faster.
What was the process involved in making it?
L: Wade and I in a studio in Chelsea for 3.5 days. I was so sick after that.
W: In addition to the time in New York, I’d have to guess that I spent about 6-8 weeks nonstop in my studio working on the record. So, we did the vocals in New York, recorded some drums here in Chicago. Then, as with Metropolitan, I locked myself in a room for a really long time. All this after spending a good 6-8 months writing the record. It was a long, tedious process.
The songs I’ve heard so far all sound polished to perfection, how much nit-picking do you feel you had to do to get it “just right?”
L: Wade is a nit picker at heart…a true perfectionist…I’m not complaining.
W: Sometimes I’ll tweak the subtleties of a track for days on end during the mix. And sometimes it just comes out sounding like I did. A lot of the detail is in the programming itself, something I love doing. So while it may sound like we’re doing something simplistic with a Rhodes and live drums – it’s never quite that simple, what we do is deceivingly electronic.
There are bands that make music and those that make moods. You’ve succeeded in making both in a symbiotic approach from every word sung, how they were sung and sculpting the sounds that surround them. Anyone can learn to play music and put songs together on an album, The Atomica Project has exceeded any normal standard and offers deep experiences to be shared.
How do you tap into these emotional, real-life moments and put them to music?
L: I think our themes are pretty universal…tapping into emotions is just a matter of digging deep into yourself and recalling moments in life. I think Wade and I are hyper-emotional in very different ways.
W: As a producer, there’s always been a very clear right and wrong for the Atomica Project sound. Lauren makes it very easy. She’s the only person with the ability to convey emotion in our particular way. Her voice defines a lot of the emotional content in our music. The writing part has always been very real and come very naturally. It’s the easy part of making an Atomica Project record.
While I’ve not had any opportunity to hear either of your albums in their entirety, the songs I have heard seem to resound in reeling in consequences of troubled relationships, floods of emotion and the frozen moments in time invested in the moment… highly thoughtful subjects and moods captured indeed. Can you expand on some of the subjects of your songs and how they relate to each of you individually?
W:The first record reads, literally, like a journal of my experiences in New York. I moved there broke and in love and nearly left more broke and broken-hearted. The city itself has a way of writing stories for you, all you have to do is show up and be cast. On Grayscale, Lauren and I found a common theme of storms in the midwest. My fondest memories of growing up in this area (I grew up in Southern Illinois) are of the storms, being terrified of them as a kid and growing to love them.
How many studio hours did you invest?
L: We lived in the studio in NYC and did nothing but record or sleep and eat…no showering though as there was no hot water. And then god knows how much time Wade spent beyond that in his room.
W: My day job is writing and recording music for network television, HBO, Biography Channel, etc. so we’re very lucky to have a well equipped home studio to work out of here in Chicago and a full studio in New York as well. Lauren works very quickly in the studio, so we don’t really spend too much time recording. I’m the same with the bass and guitars, we’ll usually track for a few days. Mixing, other the other hand, seems to take months!
Where was it recorded?
W: The vocals were recorded @ RK/Music in New York, everything else in my room, otherwise known as UV4.
Upon starting this album, were there any specific themes you wanted to capture or did it evolve through the creative process of simply writing songs?
W: There was a strong theme from the start. There always is with my writing. We’re actually attempting to write our new EP in more of a freeform manner – just writing about what comes to mind and letting a theme, or lack thereof, develop.
With so many bands/artists out there, did you have any trouble creating in the vein of the music you love while maintaining your own identities in your music?
L: Wade and I have varied tastes in music. Between the two of us we pretty much cross the board and then back. We love a lot of the same musicians which also helps…I think we both have an overwhelming desire to stand out and not sound like anyone else.
How many of your personal favorite musical styles would you say you’ve successfully infused into this album and (again) managed to maintain your individuality?
W: I don’t feel like we left very much untouched, as far as refering to our influences on this record. It’s not really a conscoius process, you’re influences always affect what you do as an artist. Luckily, as Lauren said, we have a broad range of influences. We don’t try to sound like, or not sound like, anyone else. That kind of self-analysis can ruin a record. We just try to do what we do and not worry too much about it.
Besides spending a lot more time on making Grayscale, how did things differ for the band in making it this time around?
L: We almost fell apart but then managed to pull through as the team of two we originally started as.
W: Yeah, unfortunately, that was probably the biggest difference. Lauren and I have a very basic thing that works between the 2 of us. And I have really good chemistry with Percy Trayanov – who helped out on both records. We kind of went away from what works for us, something we’re wise enough not to do again.
What do you want every listener to your music to come away with after hearing your albums?
L: Whatever they want to come away from it with. I’m not going to dictate what I think they will feel. We all have different intentions. all of us.
W: I agree with Lauren. We do try to make sure there is an emotional element with our records but past that, it’s up to the listener to interpret it. I’ve gotten some great, yet completely opposing, emails about the feelings our music brings up for people.
Will there be more remix versions of any of your songs?
W: Our good friends, Iris, did a remix of Gravity. And our live keyboardist, Dean, did one as well under his moniker – Bounte.
Do you subscribe to making numerous versions of your songs? Or are you content with one version only?
W: Wait, we can do alternate versions? I’m kidding, we usually have 30 versions of a song before it’s complete. So I guess we’re constantly working towards just 1 version.
Would you offer your music to others to make alternate versions of?
According to your blog on http://www.theatomicaproject.com as of November 20th, you’ve already begun work on the next album. What can you tell us about this album?
W: We’re actually going to do 2 EP’s. Maybe 3, and ultimately combine them into a full album. The EP’s will be digital only, the album will be on 12″ viynl. The EP format is pretty exciting for us and it’s something that won’t take us years to complete.
Do you have a name for it already?
W: The first EP is callled “First In A Series Of Dramatic Events.”
How much material do you have for it already?
W: For the first EP, the writing is pretty much done.
Will there be any video snippets of the making of it to appear in Youtube?
L: God no. You should see the state I show up to record in.
W: I think that would be a cool idea. We’d need to invest in a decent way to make video. And since I seem to be a tech prima donna, that probably means a $2000+ digital cam. Maybe if a good visual artist is reading this interview, they should contact us.
The Origin of The Atomica Project
What is each of your musical backgrounds?
L: I heart music. I sing in the car. I sang in show choir in high-school. I played the clarinet in 5th grade and the violin before that. Some might consider me classically trained.
W: I’m self taught. I was, ironically, the only kid in my family to not take piano lessons. My parents thought it was a waste of time and money with me.
Lauren, did you have vocal training?
L: For one summer after high-school I saw a vocal coach…it was all about the show tunes. I attempted to do it again a few years ago but she told me I shouldn’t go to bars and talk so much. I like bars. I like talking. I never went back.
How did you come to meet and form The Atomica Project?
W: A completely random ad on Craigslist. I’d worked with a few vocalists in New York with very little success. I moved to Chicago a bit wary of trying to work on this project. It was fate.
What were some common goals each of you had when forming the band?
W: Not really. Lauren wanted to sing. I wanted to work with a great singer.
Is this a long term project and how far do you foresee this could take you?
L: Wade, I’m down for as long as I’ve got functioning vocal chords. You?
W: Oh yeah, we’ll be doing this for a while. I can’t really function without music in my life.
Marketing The Atomica Project
How do you envision the best methods of marketing The Atomica Project would be?
W: That’s an amazingly complex question. We’ve had very good luck with people from all walks being into what we’re doing so I think it’s just a matter of being consistent, trying to reach as many people as we can. The music industry is way oversaturated with bands, it could take us years. We brought 4 Ohm in to help us atleast simplify that process.
The sound of the band is so universally acceptable from people of many musical backgrounds; it should be easy for people to become instant fans of your works. What do you feel are some of the best ways to get your music heard by more people?
W: I’m kind of old school in thinking that touring is what really seperates the hobbyist from the serious band. We defintely have far too much invested in the Atomica Project to qualify as hobbyist, so tour will become a major part of what we do over the next few years.
What are you currently doing to get the music out there?
W: We have a relatively strong web presense that we’re constantly building upon. That seems to be how most people find out about us.
How does Chicago compare with the Electronica music scene?
L: I stopped paying attention to the scenes of the electronic variety when Bigwig stopped doing their drum and bass nights.
Where do you feel are some of the best Electronica cities in the world?
W: The staples – London, New York, Bristol.
Do you see ever putting any of your music into any movie soundtracks? Would that in-turn destroy the fabric of the mood you created by marrying it with something entirely not you?
L: Who is to say it would be “not us” – Wade didn’t we provide some tunes for a porno? I’m not saying I think TAP should provide soundtracks for pornos exclusively, I’m just letting the world know we’ll keep an open mind.
W: We have been in a few television ads, and yes, I think a porn. We were recently on NBC’s World Of Sports. And we’re in some Red Bull ads in the U.K and Japan. I’m constantly working towards movie opportunities for us.
Its all about Merchandising…
Do you foresee a lot of merchandising opportunities for the band?
W: Well, that’s very dependent upon the success of the band.
I see through the Flagrant Records website (www.flagrantrecords.com) that you do have shirts already. What else do you think your audience would want to be buying up of the band?
L: I could be totally into TAP sweatbands and socks.
You’re managed by the 4ohm Group, how has that been working for the band?
W: They’ve been great, in the sense that we can really focus on doing music. The busywork that goes into managing a band is just endless. They soak up a lot of our stress.
Do you think you’d have been able to manage yourselves? Or is management (for you) the best thing that you could have ever done for the growth of the band?
W: I’ve sort of managed every band I’ve ever been in, in the sense of booking our shows, designing our promotionl materials, merchandise, planning tours, etc. But yes, with where we’re at, we defintely needed someone external to help us out.
How has the 4ohm Group helped the band thus far?
L: They send us nice e-mails and connect us to people like you.
W: They do a lot for us. As I mentioned, there are a million little things involved with keeping our momentum going. They take on pretty much all of them from giving us bits of advice to writing press releases, and helping us promote our shows.
You have a video for “Delorian” from your previous album Metropolitan. Will there be videos to follow up with this release?
W: There was actually suppposed to be already. We were working with an excellent graphic motion designer in New York to do a video for Gravity.
It seems he’s fallen off the earth. So now, I’m not sure. I have some ideas for a video but they are very far outside our budget.
Tell me a little about the video. What did you hope to convey with it and did it meet or exceed your expectations?
L: It far exceeded, considering our budget of $300 ($50 of which was a parking ticket from when I picked up the lighting).
Who directed it?
L: Was there a director? Wade, were you the director? Remember how hung over you were? And how sick I was?
W: Yeah, I guess technically I was the director. The shoot itself was fun, we borrowed a video camera and rented some lights. Lauren was sick.
I was still drunk from the night before. We shot in 1 day and then, as seems to always be the case, I spent 2 weeks locked in a room editing.
Would you ever create a full video album to go along with an album release?
L: If someone would assist us in the funding. and by assist I mean pay for…that would be awesome.
How do you perform your music in a live format? Do you perform the music any differently to flow better to a live audience?
W: We add a live keyboardist/turntablist (Dean Dunakin) and a live drummer (Corey McCaferty) for live performances. They really bring the recorded material to life.
You opened for The Birthday Massacre, how did that particular show go? That was at the Abbey Pub, right?
L: It was out in WI. (The Warehouse in LacCrosse) It was the 2nd time I was on stage. I had a super short dress on and all these goth teens were up close and personal. I’m not sure I opened my eyes the whole time. Once we were off stage I found out that Goth teens are about the nicest kids out there. We were followed up by a band of douche bags (can I say that?). Whatever, they sucked. And then Birthday Massacre played. They were also about the nicest people ever. It’s amazing what a difference nice people make when you open for them.
W: It was a great show, I was curious how we would do in front of their crowd – and we did really well. We sold more shirts and CD’s that night than I think we ever have.
How many shows has the band played so far?
W: Probably 10 or so.
What venues have you played?
W: Darkroom, SubTerranean.
What has proven to be the most acoustically satisfactory venue that has made your music sound better than other venues?
W: SubTerranean was probably the best. They have a very powerful sound system and we had a great soundman. Darkroom is good too. It’s hard to say.
Are there places you’d like to perform yet?
W: I’ve played The Metro 3 or 4 times with other bands, I’d love to have an Atomica Project show there.
Will there be a US or European tour anytime soon?
W: We’re in the process of booking a short east coast tour for the spring of 2009. And we’re doing everything we can to be included on the Chillfest bill for 2009, in London.
You have a show on December 7th at Darkroom, will you record any of the show for potential b-side versions or YouTube inclusions?
L: Ha ha..Wade signing off on live sound recordings! not likely.
W: Yeah, Lauren’s right. Given my engineering background and perfectionist streak, we’d have to bring in a whole mobile recording setup to do something like that.
The Atomica Project Biography
The Atomica Project is a union of downtempo beats and stunning female vocals, amplified by an organic warmth generally absent from electronic music.
Devised in 2004 by programmer/songwriter Wade Alin and vocalist Lauren Cheatham, The Atomica Project made waves in the chillout/electronic music community with their 2005 debut release Metropolitan. Based heavily on Alin’s personal experiences in New York, Metropolitan illustrates a compelling story of loss, affliction, collapse and recovery. Fueled by heavy podcast rotation, enthusiastic reviews, and an extensive online following, Metropolitan was considered by many as one of the best independent releases of 2005.
The Atomica Project spent the following year focused on live performances, headlining shows in New York and Chicago, as well as an appearance at the Midwest Music Summit and opening for The Birthday Massacre.
Grayscale, the highly anticipated sophomore release from The Atomica Project, embodies in itself the struggle of its execution. Taking nearly 3 years to complete, Grayscale is loosely based on the dramatic climate of Cheatham and Alin’s adopted home of Chicago. Many of the tracks draw parallels between the cinematic storms of the Midwest and the turmoil of inter-personal relationships.
Alin’s detailed production on Grayscale constructs a more heavily orchestrated, lavish sound that further incorporates organic instrumentation and exemplifies the emotional impact of Lauren Cheatham’s delivery. The comparisons that both flattered and diminished the uniqueness of their debut are no longer relevant, as Grayscale defines a sound exclusive to The Atomica Project.
For more information about the Atomica Project, please visit their official website at: http://theatomicaproject.com/