Matthew and the Atlas are a five-piece folk band, who have just come off tour supporting Mumford and Sons. We caught up with them just before their new EP launch, for latest release Kingdom of our Own. What can we expect from Kingdom of the North, in comparison to To the North? M: To the north was written when I was writing songs on my own, then I met Dave, and then the others, and i started to write songs with the band in mind. It was an experiment to see what we could do with the band, and they had their input as well. It was kind of an experiment, hopefully it’s got a bigger sound, but still in the same vein as to the north. How long did it take, to write and record it? M: We wanted to get an EP out before we toured, so we had a really tight deadline, so I think we wrote it in about two months M: Yeah, a maximum of two months, rehearsing and recording the songs. Dave: We were rehearsing and performing the songs in August, and it was done by the end of September. M: It was pretty rushed, but it was nice that way, to have a kind of deadline. Are you happy being labelled as a folk band? M: I’m quite happy with it, I like folk-tech. The problem with it is that it has all-encompassing connotations about it, like everyone gets bundled into being a folk band. I think we kind of are, though. D: Yeah, we definitely come under that broad tree of folk. M: I can see why so many people get frustrated with it, and why so many bands that aren’t really folk can be irritated, but I think we are. Lindsay: It’s a very wide field, anyway, Folk, so it’s a good thing. Why do you think Folk has made such a comeback recently? M: well, it hasn’t really seen the light of day, I think everything comes back round again. D: It’s been bubbling up for the last ten years, you have artists like Sufjan Stevens, so it’s been building up more and more and finally it’s kind of broken a bit. What do you think of other bands currently involved in the folk scene? D: We got to tour with Jonny Flynn, and we all though he was great. T: I really like this band called The Mariner’s Children, they supported us on the To the North launch, they’re really great. M: I like Fionn Regan. He’s kind of separate from the rest, but he’s really good. Yeah. There are a lot of great acts involved. What’s your instrument of choice when writing songs? M: It’s kind of guitar and Banjo, actually. Generally i work more on a guitar, trying to come up with a melody is more interesting, but then I find when I write songs on the banjo they tend to come out differently, and I seem to sing differently. [To Lindsay] You write more on the piano, don’t you? Lindsay: Yeah, it’s nice to have two instruments, the piano and the guitar, so you can work with them to create different sounds. What made you want to start writing songs? M: A friend of mine joined a band at school, and I thought that was cool. There was no amazing record that started it off, I wish there was, I just wanted to be cool. I think I started writing at about 15 or 16. Who have been the greatest influences on your music? M: I don’t think there’s been a particular influence. I’m really into Americana, so stuff like Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine. L: I think Joanna Newsom and female singers have influenced me the most. M: We all have different influences and like different kinds of music, but I guess they’re the main influences. Oh, and Iron Maiden. Harrison: Yeah, I stole all my banjo links off the drummer from Iron Maiden (laughs) How did you find touring with Mumford and Sons? M: It was great, It was really really great. D: They were so friendly, everyone was so welcoming and so generous M: They’ve just got a really great crew around them, they’re like a unit. I think we liked the catering the most though (laughs) H: I got a tattoo on the tour, too. Me and Winston, the banjo player in Mumford and Sons, we both got the same (Harrison reveals a banjo tattoo on his upper arm) it only took ten minutes. Was there a standout gig on the tour? L: I really liked Brighton T: Yeah, I really liked Brighton, too. The crowd was great throughout all the shows, they actually pitched up to see the first act on, which we didn’t expect. But for me, Brighton or the last Hammersmith show was the best. M: By the time we did Hammersmith, we had done the other shows before. Our first show was in Glasgow, and we were pretty scared. We hadn’t got up on such a big stage before, but the crowd was really great. H: On the first night in Glasgow, we didn’t talk much between songs while we were tuning our instruments, and between one of the songs I suddenly heard Tommy stand up and scream “GLASGOW” without a microphone to the audience. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, but it was great, the audience really enjoyed it. Do you have a favourite type of venue to play in? D: I like them big; big audiences. L: No, I like them small! T: There’s something about a small crowd. We did a show at the Luminaire, and it was deathly silent, the audience were very close. At a gig like that there’s a solid bond between the audience and us. M: You can create more of an atmosphere when people don’t talk. There’s a weird disconnection you have on bigger stages, but the sound is always really good. This gig (at HMV venue The Borderline) is a really nice size. How did Matthew and the Atlas form? M: Lindsay used to run a folk night in Woking, and that’s how I met the guys. I went and played my songs, and eventually we just started working on some of my songs together. Communion offered to do a record with us so we went off into a studio. During the recording of To the North, I did a gig at Notting Hill Arts Club, and I met Harrison, and he just put some banjo down on some of the songs. It came together quite organically, which was good. What’s the story behind the Atlas? M: There’s no big story behind it really! It’s kind of perceived nowadays that the band is the Atlas. Before we got the name, I was just playing under my own name, but I kind of wanted something to hide behind. It was the first name I came up with, but I like the epicness behind the word Atlas, the kind of space it gives. T: It works really well, because it’s so worldly, and all of our songs have a different feel. I think the word has a landscaped, travelled feel, it’s great. What’s next for Matthew and the Atlas? M: We’re writing an album. We’re locked away doing that. How many songs have you got so far? M: Four (laughs) It’s a start though! Oh, and we’ve got a couple of shows before Christmas, we’re supporting Bellowhead at the Shepherds Bush Empire in a couple of weeks, and then we’ve got a headline show at the Luminaire in December. Oh, and we’re off to Belgium after the Shepherds Bush show. I think we just want to try and write some more, really.
You can visit the band by heading to http://www.myspace.com/matthewandtheatlas