Leon Hunter of North Atlas takes on our questions. It’s a good job we have email because he lives at least a mile away from Moshville Towers…
We’re from Scotland, we all grew up by the Solway Firth in Dumfries and Galloway. Me and my brother Cam live in Glasgow now. Rusty’s still in the ‘old country’, a good place to be in the lockdown. He keeps sending us TikTok videos of him flying down disused farm roads on his motorbike.
How did you meet?
We’ve known each other since we were kids but our music colab started fairly recently. There’s some photos somewhere of Cam and Rusty at a 5th birthday party looking like dead ringers for the Milky Bar Kid and Jimmy Neutron.
How long have you been playing as a band?
The three of us have been doing this together for about a year and a half.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
‘North Atlas’ was a book of maps my dad had kicking about the house when we were young. It stuck out in my memory. Our dad was a sailor (legit!) he’s sailed up to Iceland in mad storms and all over the world. He’s got some stories.
What are your influences?
Bands like Biffy Clyro, Nine Inch Nails and Bring Me The Horizon have rubbed off on us. Simon Neil’s voice has been on my speakers since The Vertigo of Bliss and Infinity Land so it’s well ingrained.
Cam brings in plenty of Industrial and Hiphop influences from Trent Reznor and Young Fathers. You can hear this particularly coming through in our song “South”, it has these kind of ‘driving’ beats.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Firstly I think most bands from Scotland develop an accidental uniqueness. Seems that even though the population of the country is pretty small, there’s a very rich history of music, it encourages bands to start out playing to several different genres of music fans. Like when I think about Biffy, I loved them because they were like Nirvana, other folks love them because they also had this ‘indie’ guitar sound. Take their song ‘Glitter and Trauma’ from Infinity land. It starts as an electronic song then after about a minute you get this treble-y, clean indie guitar lick for 8 bars then it dives into a heavy Nirvana type riff. It’s sick.
So when it comes to North Atlas, we opened for Being As an Ocean last year who are definitely heavy. Then on our tour, Kleopatra, opened for us and she is definitively electronic. Both worked with our sound and ours theirs.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Our new single, Hypnotist is about anxiety. The hypnotic state we get into when there’s nothing to be anxious about but it still takes us over. It’s like a dark spell when it somehow feels like the end of the world. Mental health is something we care about deeply and something that in this band we talk honestly about. A lot of people who are getting involved with North Atlas are like us, people who are or have gone through depression or suffer anxiety or are close to people who have. It’s starting to become sort of like a rebel community against that stigma.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
We work best live. In the rehearsal room there’s this kind of dark energy between us. I don’t really know how to explain that. It’s totally present on stage but it kind of becomes shared with everyone who’s there. I suppose it’s like an electric, unpredictable feeling, but one that you’re totally safe with. You can see it reflected most in the people who come out to the gigs and those who really care about music. That’s the thing I like best about touring, being around people who love music. We began a tour in March this year but had to post-malone it almost immediately because of the pandemic. Which was of course the right decision to make. We’ll be back out as soon as we can! Very stoked to get out again when the time is right.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
In another band, a while ago, I was playing a gig and mid-set some dude at the front of the stage is getting a BJ in the audience. I suppose I just kept playing like it was no big thing. I don’t really give a fu*k what people do as long as they don’t hurt anyone.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Aside from guitars and drums, we use a lot of Roland gear, Sample Pads & triggers. Since we have a lot of electronic elements in our songs and we want to be able to perform them live instead of just rolling a backing track, we need to have quite a complex setup. I think it’s worth it though. If you think about it, Rock has always been about pushing tech to its limits, whether its driving a guitar signal through a 60’s amplifier until it distorts, or patching 808 kick drum samples through a distortion plugin on Ableton, it’s about that furious energy. That’s what will always set it apart from any other genre.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
“Hypnotist” is our new single that came out last week, go give it a blast on Spotify or Youtube. It’s our heaviest song to date and it’s probably not a bath song, so stick it on when you want to blow some dust off.
What are your plans for 2020?
We have been recording new music in isolation which will be out later this year. We are continuing our YouTube ‘bothy sessions’ from lockdown, that’s where we do stripped back versions of our favourite songs in a shack at Rusty’s house. At the moment we’re doing it live from our living rooms. We’ve done NIN and Sabbath, and the latest was a request for a dark version of ABBA’s “Money”. You can check those out by following us on Instagram.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Aw man, Ed Sheeran at an ‘intimate show’ with Jonah Hill opening with slam poetry. That’s the dream isn’t it?
But failing that, I reckon Enter Shikari or Don Broco, they’re both bands who kill it live. Kleopatra is worth checking out, she’s an Industrial/Electronic act from Glasgow who opened for us on the first few dates of our tour earlier this year.