Tell me about Grand Atlantic.
PU: Grand Atlantic formed in a coffee shop in the Brisbane suburb Paddington in late 2005. Several of the members were previously involved in Australian band Tonjip. It was during this time that the guys toured nationally and had a heap of airplay etc… Grand Atlantic is made up of 4 guys who are good friends and love playing music together. The band is made up of me (Phil Usher – Guitars/Vocals), Scott Mullane (drums), Sean Bower (bass/backing vocals) and Nigel Smith (Guitars/backing vocals). We have released a debut EP in late 2006 and our debut album in July 2007.
Do you have a favorite track on the new album?
PU: I guess it varies from time to time. I joke that the songs on our album are all like my children… But I guess in truth, there is something accurate in that statement. I think I am most proud of “Wonderful Tragedy” and how the final recording turned out. I guess it has a lot of personal meaning for me as well.
Has growing up and playing in Brisbane prepared you for pop music
PU: I think it has stood us in good stead generally. It’s a great place to live… Not too big and not too small. It has a good music scene with some great bands. The main thing about playing music in Australia, is that the market is very small compared to the American or European ones. This means that a lot of bands play music because they love it, rather than to be famous or to make shit-loads of money. We have worked very hard to get where we are now; both collectively and individually, and I think there is a pretty strong work ethic amongst bands we know from Brisbane. It is particularly important for bands like us to get our music out there to the international market if we are to try to carve out a career.
What was your musical environment like at the time?
PU: It differs for all of us I guess. Grand Atlantic is Nigel’s first band which is exciting. Scott, Sean and I have been in a few other bands previously and pretty much grew up with music. We’ve also known each other since our teens. I’ve been playing music in school bands since the 3rd Grade, so you could say it’s in my blood. I’ve had the opportunity to play in all kinds of groups, from Jazz to Orchestras and rock bands of course. It’s been a hell of a ride. My passion is definitely playing the rock though… Music has taken me all over the world and I’ve met so many people I never would have without playing music. It’s been an amazing adventure and here’s to many, many more!
Do you have any contemporary bands you really admire?
PU: Hmmm. I think musically, there is so much great stuff out there. After being in a band yourself, I guess to some extent the “magic” of celebrity fades quickly, so I would have to say it is purely musically based. As far as Australian groups go, I really love some indie bands like Belles Will Ring and Sounds Like Sunset. We’ve had the fortune to play with these groups as well, which has been great. I also really like the following: The Anyones (Australia), Spiderbait (Australia), You Am I (Australia), The Shins, Oasis, The Vines (Australia), Beck, The Warlocks and the list goes on.
What do you find works best for your creative process when bringing
a song together? Does it evolve from jams, riffs, lyrics?
PU: With our album, I wrote the songs in my studio… Demoed them, and brought them to the band. We then took them apart and started again from scratch together. It’s really important for us all to put our individual stamp on the songs and have ownership. Some of them ended up sounding like the demos and others changed quite a bit. I am definitely interested in exploring other ways of writing in the future with jams etc. I think it’s important to mix it up in order to avoid falling into the same patterns all the time.
Do you pick up tips from other bands you’ve toured from?
PU: It’s great to see other bands play and feed off each other. There are so many things to learn about the process, and it’s really exciting to see how other bands operate. I think it would be a great thesis topic to study the inner working of different bands and the nuances of their interpersonal relationships, and how this affects their music. I love to see how bands work their sets and the spaces in between. I am really obsessed at the moment, with the ideas of creating a whole performance with the set and also the interaction with the crowd. I think it’s important for bands to break down that whole wall between the artist and the audience, and I’m fascinated by how this can be achieved. It’s much more interesting than just seeing a band get up there and play there songs and get off. We did some shows with Belles Will Ring on our recent tour, and they are a great band to watch live.
Note: We updated this interview in 2011 with the release of “Constellations” Read it here!