Interview with bassist Stefan Bratt and guitarist Gustav Burn | By Spike Porteous
Atlas Losing Grip were back on the road in Europe a year after the release of their album Currents via Creator-Destructor. This time round, there was nothing to promote other than a love of what they do. The band are no strangers to the city of Hannover in Northern Germany, which is where I caught up with lead guitarist Gustav Burn and bass player Stefan Bratt.
Burn explains that the band didn’t really know what to expect, but they have been blown away by the fans’ response to the last album and that fans have come out in numbers to see the band live. Burn states, “We wanted to come back to Germany, as it is probably our biggest fan base. Usually, we have an album to promote or something, and there is maybe some media attention around that. This tour has happened a year after the release of Currents, so we didn’t really have much to promote, and if I’m honest, we didn’t really expect too much. Cities like Cologne and Hannover have always been good to us.”
A bout of winter colds infiltrated the guys—with frontman, Niklas Olsson, taking the brunt of it—but like true professionals, they did what they could to alleviate the symptoms, put on a brave face, and got on with the show.
2015’s Currents was two years in the making. Due to touring schedules and internal changes within the band, it proved difficult not to jump the gun when making the decision on when to release it. Discussing what informed arguably their best and most refreshing work to date, Burns explains, “I don’t listen to any modern music. It may make me sound like a bit of a douche, but I am not a Belieber! I believe that music was better in the past, in particular rock music. Music is no different from a lot of other walks of life in that it has trends and those trends are set by trendsetters. Bring Me The Horizon are one of the latest trendsetters whose sound many bands have tried to copy, a sound that’s been around for the past five years. You will never be a trendsetter if you copy what’s around you, which is why I generally don’t listen to modern music.”
“We worked incredibly hard to make Currents work,” he continues. “It is super long, but I think if it was only, say, 45 minutes, the odd songs would sound even odder. I think the older listener will get that concept. For the younger listener, the album may be dead. We still didn’t want to release a single, though, so we had to come up with something that everyone could understand. If you listen to the album on vinyl, you can skip your way through it. It’s dynamic, so it doesn’t matter if you listen to side A, B, C, or D or in which order. I don’t wish to sound like we invented something new, as we haven’t. It’s kind of like we made an old-style mixtape that’s full of the type of music that got us playing instruments in the first place.”
Punk rock and heavy metal are still big influences on the band, in particular the punk rock ethos of Do It Yourself. “Too many young bands sit around the rehearsal studio hoping that some major label is going to pop in and ask for a copy of their demo CD. Guys, It’s not going to happen,” Bratt points out. The guys recall how, in the early days, they would work for hours to get the band more of an online following. Doing most of the work using university facilities that they had bluffed their way into as none of them were studying there at the time.
Discussing how the band’s sound and audiences have evolved over the years, both agree that they have continued to change, but not due to any master plan. Burn says, “It’s not like we ever sat down and spoke about how we should sound or anything. Evolution is something changing naturally over a period of time, and that’s exactly what has happened with us. Our audience seems to have evolved with us; when we first started, the average Atlas fan was a 25-year-old male who was into skater punk. Now, we have quite a mixed age group, and I personally have noticed more female fans coming to our shows.”
Burn adds, “When we were recording Currents, we took the conscious decision to write songs that came naturally and record what we wanted to record. If we recorded something and it sounded too heavy metal and perhaps some wouldn’t like it, we wouldn’t ditch it. That would not have been the case a few years ago.”
Bratt goes on to recall that, in the early days when he was writing, he was so influenced by other bands that when he listened back, sometimes the songs sounded like he had stolen them. Nowadays there are still influences in his writing, but he finds it’s more mixed and results more in the band’s own sound. He adds, “I can still hear early Metallica in our music. Lars Ulrich has not been on the phone yet, though!”
Atlas Losing Grip have plans to tour the U.S., however, they want to do it on their own terms and not without good reason. The band are currently with California based Creator-Destructor Records, who also have ambitions for a U.S. live debut. Bratt explains, “We don’t feel the need to play the kind of punky basement shows, if you know what I mean…? There are a lot of bands who have gone out to the States, played a couple of small shows, and come home having toured the U.S. If that’s the case, we can tour anywhere; all we have to do is buy a plane ticket and pay a couple of hundred dollars to the venue to be allowed to play there. We just need the time to be right. Maybe a small festival or a support tour, we will get there one day. We wanna make sure we do it the right way and we give our fans the best show possible.”
The band admit that they have been keeping future recording plans under the radar. Mainly due to having their fingers burned last time round, when they announced Currents only for it to take two years to release. A new album is in the offing with a number of demos ready, recording planned to take place in Sweden during the summer, and a release set for early 2017. However: no promises! Burn explains, “In the past, we done everything ourselves. Before we recorded Currents, I said I wouldn’t produce another album. It’s exhausting work producing, playing, and singing at the same time. This time round, we will be working with a producer to try something new. We’ll keep the same creative control, but hopefully, it’ll take some of the workload off and allow us to concentrate fully on the music.”
Bratt adds, “The rest of this year will be steady. We’ll play a few shows and festivals in Europe and possibly a few dates in Japan, but mostly, I think we’ll be concentrating on new material. After the recording and into next year, we’ll be back to full force live shows.”