Blind Atlas: Southern Sound / Northern Grit

Blind Atlas have been kicking around for around the music scene for the last couple of years, and we’ve been trying to do a feature on them for ages. One of their tracks is featured on our latest music sampler HERE.

Blind Atlas

The band, a mixture of American and British blood are based in Manchester, but sound like they would be more at home on the banks of the Mississippi than Coronation St. They have been getting a lot of radio play recently and ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris is a big fan of theirs.

We finally managed to track them down to coincide with a special gig they are playing TONIGHT (12th Oct) with Cerys Matthews at Elgins pub on Portabello road in London. They’re onstage around 9PM if you are in the area, go and check them out.

How did you end up in Manchester?

Ross: I had finished school and was in a weird stage in life. I tried Boston but it just didn’t fit right with me even though I had found a decent band to play with and some friends, I just couldn’t afford New York, so…….. I had some friends living in Manchester who said it was a pretty cool place and of course its famous for bands coming out it, as well as sports. So I did, why not. Nothing to lose.
Pete: I was in another Manchester Americana band called Walton Hesse, but jumped ship over to Blind Atlas 1½ years ago, enjoying the creative process that Blind Atlas employs when writing and jamming new songs. Most of us are from all over the UK with Ross being the exception from Denver, CO. Even though we are located in Manchester our sound definitely cannot be classified as Mancunian, it is more a melting pot of British and American Rock N’ Roll.
Chris: I’m a Manchester lad born and bred. If you cut me in half the words ‘Northern Grit’ would circle my internal organs.
Cam: I drove here.

blind atlas interview

Aren’t all bands from Manchester supposed to sound like Oasis or The Smiths?

Ross: I thought that once, but you just have to look at bands around at the moment like The Travelling Band, or even Elbow, nothing like that.
Cam: I find that there are a lot of new bands that are trying to live in the past. There is nothing wrong with being influenced by any of these bands, but don’t try to be them.

From speaking to people I think most people are trying to move away from ‘that’ sound and evolve. I think, some of the younger bands coming through, think they have to sound like Oasis or The Smiths, because they’ll get recognition.

Adam: If you look at most the bands which have come from Manchester you can see a similar vein running through them all, the styles of music maybe totally different but a sense of the epic is reflected in a lot the songs. If you look at Joy Division, The Smiths, Elbow, Doves, Durutti Column, Oasis, James, The Stone Roses, they have all immersed themselves at one point in epic soundscapes, that big song moment. With The Smiths it’d be How Soon is Now, Doves, The Cedar Room and countless others.

Blind Atlas Iron WallI think it’s a real Manchester thing, it’s a not a happy ‘raise your hand to the sky and testify how great it is to be alive’ kind of feeling, it’s something else entirely, something maybe a bit more primal. This isn’t a happy city, but it has attitude, most people in Manchester are surprised that this isn’t the 2nd biggest city in the country, and it’s that attitude that comes across in the music written here.

Do you find all the rain in Manchester conducive to writing sad songs?

Ross: Cause we can’t go outside? Ha, no. It sucks pretty bad all the rain here, but I don’t think it really has any sway on the music we write. I’d still be doing this kind of music even if I was in Hawaii.
Pete: We all write the songs together, usually one of us will bring an idea to rehearsals or we will start jamming if inspiration hits and then drag in various directions until we get something we all like, that could be quite different from the original genesis of the song. Song themes range from failed relationships to longing for something else/more/different to topics in the news or about our life experiences so far. As our lives change the subject matter will invariably change.
Chris:  I often wonder what would happen if we recorded in Jamaica, would we turn a little bit Reggae-its a scientific question that needs to be answered, and with a little funding we are more than willing to be the unwitting guinea-pigs.

Who is your ideal band to go on tour with?

Ross: Like a sexy all girl band? Or do you mean music wise? In which case  ???
Cam: In the real world? Or fantasy land? In the real world, for me, I’d love to go on tour with Calexico or Ryan Adams. In fantasy land.. Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Doors, Neil Young (’69 – ’72).. this list could go on..

Do you have plans for a full length record?
Ross: Sure do, already recorded it. We’re just in the final stages of getting everything together, watch this space.

Where did you record Iron Wall?

Adam: We recorded Iron Wall at Modern English Studios in Colne, it took a few sessions to get the sound we were looking for, all the noises in the middle section were made by us using the instruments we had to hand, lap steel with loads of reverb and echo, guitar feedback drenched in reverb and echo, a very Beatles-esque reversed chord, all of which was phased to enhance the climatic nature of the song at that point.

Where is your fav place to eat in Manchester?

Ross: There are lots of good places to eat in Manchester. Damitries Tapas in town is pretty awesome, but the one thing Manchester is in saver need of is a GOOD Mexican place that actually make good salsa and burritos. 
Barbarito isn’t bad but….where is the green chilli smothered burrito? Not there sadly. I need a good Mexican place soon! I hate trying to make it myself, it just never really works the same.:(
Cam: I Agree with Ross, this town needs a good Mexican restaurant. Maybe you should open one Ross? And we could all hang there, drinking Tequila and eat Mexican food, for free of course, mates rates…

Blind Atlas Are:
Ross Thompson – vocals, guitar, harmonica
Pete Garner – guitar, Hammond, lap steel
Adam Jones– guitar, Hammond, lap steel, backing vocals
Cam Baxter – bass, Hammond, backing vocals
Christian Jacobs – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Helen Temperly (aka Bels) – viola/violin, Hammond, vocals

Look out for news on their album on Flush the Fashion, in the meantime Iron Wall is available to download from the Blind Atlas Bandcamp page