When the guys of Atlas Frame sit down together to talk, they speak over one another—slipping between seemingly unrelated ideas mid-sentence and finishing each other’s thoughts, all while ribbing one another mercilessly. The conversation can become a bit hard to follow. But when they apply that same approach to their music, it works—really, really well.
“I think it just kind of comes out,” said Daniel Lawson, one of the band’s two guitarists. “It’s the combination of all our tastes of music.”
That combination defies categorization but, ultimately, seems to find its roots in the kind of instrumental post-rock that came out of the ’90s. Using the type of time signature changes common to progressive rock, Atlas Frame songs like “Trenches” and “Resonate” manage to flow seamlessly from echoing, liquid guitar solos to dense, heavy metal drum and bass lines, before circling back again. The result is reminiscent of the way separate movements come together in a musical suite.
“It’s weird because none of us listen—for the most part—none of us really listen to the kind of music that we play,” said drummer John Walker.
Walker and Atlas Frame’s other guitarist, Justin Bishop, have been playing together since their early teenage years, experimenting with ways to combine Bishop’s classic rock influences from bands like Rush and Walker’s love of groups like Coheed and Cambria. The sound that would eventually define Atlas Frame began to emerge in 2013 when they were still students at Reed High School. Bassist Tenaya James, also a Reed graduate, joined them in 2014. Lawson came on board after moving to Reno from Grass Valley in November 2015.
“The very first practice that Daniel showed up—we didn’t even know this guy,” Bishop said. “He just hit us up on Facebook and was like, ’Hey, I want to join you guys’ band.’ … We’re looking at his Facebook profile, and I’m like, ’This guy’s from Grass Valley? Who the heck is this guy?’”
“I guess it didn’t say that I lived in Reno, so they’re like, ’Is he just going to commute?’” Lawson said.
Lawson proved to be a natural fit for the band. His own musical style complemented that of his bandmates, and the group quickly went to work writing new songs and tweaking their old ones to include the second guitar.
“Between Justin and Daniel, they think of pretty cool stuff between them,” Walker said. “They’ll just randomly play stuff and then just bring it together. It makes it easier for me and Tenaya to lay it in behind.”
The guys set a date to record the first Atlas Frame EP just a few months after Lawson joined them. InDepth includes three songs—“I am the Leader of My Own Death,” “Resonate” and “Trenches.” The official release took place during a May 15 show at the Holland Project.
According to James, the band is already working on songs for a second EP, which they hope to release next year. That means long nights spent in their rented space at the Musician Rehearsal Center in Sparks, where they can work on honing their fluid sound as well as their constant ribbing banter.
“We pretty much live together, Bishop said. “And—”
“We hate each other,” Walker interjected. “But we love doing this. … Like, you know, getting to know Daniel, we don’t like him but he’s already in and—”
“They can’t kick me out,” Lawson added.
“And so it’s like, it’s too late now,” Walker continued, over his bandmates’ laughter. “His stuff’s in there. It’d be inconvenient to kick him out. He pays part of the rent.”