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James Thorley (Atlas)

posted 29 Aug 2017, 11:37 by Paul Woodward

New young English AOR act Atlas are set to make waves in the scene with their debut EP ‘World In Motion’. I chatted to band leader and Keyboardist James Thorley about the EP, the birth of the band and AOR!

Interview by Woody

Can you tell us about the birth of Atlas and also the origin/ meaning behind the name?

The initial idea for the band started last year. I had been working on some ideas on and off throughout 2016, just rough piano chord progressions and melodies really. I found some time last summer to really put it all together and the result was 5 rough demos. After that I brought on board 4 other musicians (at first Howie and Chris and later Craig and John) to polish the demos and turn them into a full band effort, the result being the 4 tracks heard on the ‘World In Motion’ EP. In regards to the name, I wanted something that was short and easily memorable. I’ve always liked shorter 2 syllable names; Toto, Asia, Kansas, names that roll off the tongue easily. ‘Atlas Project’ was the working title for the demo sessions and so ‘Atlas’ sort of stuck around after that.

Atlas’s musical direction, was it a conscious decision to write songs in the AOR genre or just a natural song writing process? Given the ages of the band members this style is surprising, I’m sure none of you were even born when this genre was at its height – especially the ones I feel you sound akin to!

It’s true we’re not of that generation, and our social groups are often surprised by our taste in music! I would say it was sort of an intentional decision. The plan when the band came together was to make the songs very melodic, with guitar/keyboard solo spots while still crafting and giving focus to strong songs. We’ve always loved AOR music though, we’ve all played in different bands that cover lots of genres but we’ve all still had a mutual fondness for the AOR genre, so that seemed to be a reference point for us.

Who are your musical influences, I’d be particularly interested in hearing about your Keyboard heroes?

I especially love Kevin Moore and Tony Banks. I’m also quite fond of the piano/keyboard work Peter Gabriel uses on his solo work.

Take us through the songs on the EP, are there any meanings or stories behind the songs you can tell us?

Change of Heart is the opener and is a twist on the ‘love song/story’. The lyrics describe a relationship where both parties are only carrying on for the sake of habit/fear of being alone. ‘Alexandria’ is the second track and is a nod to Toto with the title choice. While ‘Alexandria’ may sound like a love song it’s actually about reaching out to someone who suffers from depression, while I’ve been fortunate enough to not suffer myself I have seen it first hand and communication and understanding the situation can be difficult both ways. ‘Cross the Line’ is another Toto inspired track name. It’s a basic premise about dealing with difficult relationships. It’s also the first track we recorded with Craig and I really think his vocals sound fantastic here. ‘Lost in the Moment’ is the closer and has some great guitar work by Howie and John. The lyrics deal with how people can sometimes form life-changing decisions based on the hysteria they read online and in the papers.

Do you plan to perform live and if you do, is there anything you can tell us about now?

We certainly do! Not sure about the rest of this year, it all depends on the feedback from the EP. We’re looking at some events that specialise in this genre for next year, so look out for that.

World In Motion is your first dip into the music world with Atlas, what is next for the band?

There’s a lot of material to put together that I have and I know the rest of the guys are eager to write, there’s even a song left off the EP that we couldn’t really finish in time. I think an album would be the next recording decision, with much better production and budget.

Given your obvious knowledge of AOR and its current outcast status in mainstream music plus the young age of the band, will the bands future see a more diverse or ‘current’ direction in future song writing in order to stay relevant?

It’s possible, but if we cared about being relevant we wouldn’t have started a keyboard/guitar driven band! What I can say and know for sure is that we’ll always write the music that best represents us at any given time, and our influences (which are always changing and evolving) will always be a key factor. We listen to so many different genres so nothing is really off limits; it’s sort of a big melting pot full of band influences when we get together.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Our EP ‘World In Motion’ is available now from our store (Cd’s and digital download!) and also be sure to join us on facebook to get involved in the Atlas discussion.