Of the Commons [EP] (2007)
a’tris [EP] (2009)
Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us what instruments you play?
My name’s Mason and I do the singing and piano playing in a’tris.
How long has the current band line up been together?
The current line up was established to tour in support of Lensing shortly after its release in 2008.
How did you get to meet each other?
Mike and I met back in 2003 at Berklee College of Music. At that time, we were both taking a mandatory writing skills course. Our class was fairly advanced so the professor would usually allow a student to share his or her music before beginning his instruction. This opportunity became an outlet for me and Mike took an interest in what I was doing. One day he approached me to discuss collaborating on a project and we agreed to do some sessions for a couple of my tunes. The band we put together for those recordings became a’tris.
While the line up has changed over time. I believe that Mike’s continued involvement with the band as our producer and as my writing partner has allowed us to maintain a degree of continuity between records.
Did you always want to be in a band when you were growing up?
Growing up I greatly enjoyed dabbling in the performing arts. I knew that my strengths laid in writing and performing and I was extremely passionate about music so I chose to focus on improving my craft through attending Berklee College of Music. I can’t say that I necessarily saw myself in a band at a younger age but I knew that I would be involved in this industry in one manner or another.
What music did you listen to while growing up?
Growing up I mostly listened to classical music while I studied piano under Katherine ScottGillam. My interest in the music from the Romantic Era led me to New Age and World Music and finally the keys to the rest of the musical universe were handed to me in the form of an Elton John’s Greatest Hits record. Shortly thereafter the cassette tape became a CD and glam rock gave way to grunge. A next-doorneighbour of mine introduced me to a new band called Nirvana and later the allure of alternative music led me to R.E.M and Radiohead who, to this day, are two of my greatest influences.
How long have you played your instrument?
I started taking piano lessons at six or seven and have been playing ever since. At the moment I’m travelling and do not have access to a keyboard. Let me tell you, after playing my instrument almost every day for 19 years, I’ve begun to experience withdrawal-like symptoms from not being able to play a note or two.
What was your first keyboard?
I was given a Sesame Street keyboard at the age of four or so. I’m pretty confident that my obsession with the Oscar the grouch key is what led my parents to book me some lessons.
What is your current equipment?
I travel with a MacBook Pro, MOTU 828, Yamaha P-80 (when possible) and a SHURE Beta-87A and PSM 200
Are you self taught or did you have lessons?
I’ve taught myself enough to botch up the technique that I learned from my lessons.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
A 1927 Mason and Hamlin Grand Piano from the original Boston factory and several people stronger than I who could help to transport it to shows.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
No, the studios don’t like it when you take their gear.
Do you record at a purpose built studio or do you record at home with portable digital equipment or pc/mac with audio software?
We do a little bit of both. Often the guys and I take a Postal Service approach to the creation of our songs in that we venture to the places where it’s more affordable for us to work and then trade ideas in the form of stem files over the internet. I’m very grateful for Apple’s Garageband because I remember very well how I used to have to capture thoughts with a tape recorder and then send those recordings out via parcel post. I’m glad that I don’t have to do that for this project Real time feedback is extremely helpful in crafting a song - or anything else for that matter - so the advent of webcams and instant messenger programs have assisted us in that respect as well.
Which software do you use?
Nate and I are GarageBand guys. Travis swears by Logic and Mike and Ben use Digital Performer for music editing. Finale is the one program we can all seem to agree on as each of us uses it for notation. Reason and Waves often find their way into the mix and the list of plug-ins and miscellaneous software that’s used to help us create our songs could probably take up a couple of pages.
Any new recordings planned?
We’re just beginning to record a new batch of songs for what we hope will be our third full-length record.
What/ Who do you listen to when chilling out?
Dr. Phil’s warm and soothing voice.
When is the new album released?
Principal writing for this project began after we got off the Lensing tour. I’m really excited about the new material and hope to share it with you soon. Please visit us at atrishq.com for more details.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
I feel that the tone of a session is really set by the team with whom we work. I’m honoured to have collaborated with some incredibly talented and genuinely good people who’ve truly been interested in doing what was best for our music. Sometimes doing so makes for a comfortable experience and other times it doesn’t but - at the end of the day - I believe that we always make our best effort to serve the song.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
We always endeavour to realise our songs by embracing the medium in which we’re working and feel that it’s best to do what seems most appropriate in the given setting.
Do you have any favourite tracks on your new album?
I’m particularly proud of how “Dark Lotus” turned out. Have you seen the music video we did with Reza Dolatabadi for it? I’m really stoked about how we were further able to expand on the song with that collaboration.
Who are the main song writers for the band?
Mike and I are the chief writers but recently Ben and Nate have made some fantastic contributions. I’m looking forward to seeing how our co-writing evolves over time.
Do you write songs only about personal experences?
I believe that one of a’tris’ songs was about a personal experience but I’ve forgotten which one.
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Challenging is the word that comes to mind. Almost all of our songs involve research and it can take a lot of time and energy to figure out how the information we gather fits together cohesively.
Is there anyone whom you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
At the moment I’m on a big Metric kick. I think their most recent record, Fantasies, is outstanding and I would very much love to work with Emily Haines. If you’re not familiar with Metric I’d highly recommend checking out what they.re doing at http://ilovemetric.com.
Who are your favourite song writers?
George and Ira Gershwin
What would you call your style of music?
Which countries have you gigged in?
Thus far we’ve focused our touring efforts in States. I would love to expand them to include other countries but the cost associated with putting tours of that magnitude together has prohibited us from moving forward internationally.
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
Well Nate and Ben are from Canada and Israel respectively so we’d all like to travel to their home countries. The UK would definitely be at the top of our list as well because we’ve been receiving some incredible support there from our latest radio campaign. If anyone who’s reading this wants to sponsor a band we’d love to hear from you!
Who would you like to tour with?
At this point I’d love to work with anyone who could help a’tris get guarantees which would allow us to better afford our groceries.
How do you promote your music and get your music to new fans?
We really make our best effort to build personal relationships with our fans by always making ourselves accessible. I believe that audiences these days truly want to connect with musicians on a deeper level. For that reason we actively manage about twenty different online social networks and return every message and comment. When we play shows we also always walk off stage after our set to meet and great everyone who came out to support us. I’m very much a face-to-face type guy though so, as much as I enjoy responding to mail, I truly love getting to meet people in person so be sure to check out our tour schedule as it becomes available at www.atrishq.com!
Do you use any websites like ‘Reverbnation’ or ‘Soundclick’?
Absolutely! - We’re always looking for new ways to share our music and connect with people! Most recently we created a profi le on Kerchoonz.com. The folks there are still in beta but their site is already extremely intuitive and I’m really excited about the innovation they’re bringing to their platform. It seems like everyone in the industry is starting a dot com these days so it’s diffi cult for a Start-up to establish footing.
Another company I’d like to see succeed is ArtistData. ArtistData envisions an environment in which musicians can connect with all of their fans across each of their social networks with the push of a single button. I don’t mean to stand on a soap box here but the current operating method being used by most companies in this space is absolutely ridiculous. Posting one blog with proper formatting can take me up to three hours on all of our networks because of the vari- ations in the code that I have to input in order to properly present my messages. I understand that these businesses are propped up by the revenue they generate from advertisers but the bottom line is bands are growing tired of running rat race
Do you think such sites are good for independent and unsigned artists?
Certainly but they are not a marketing panacea. Like any other aspect of a campaign artists will only get out what they put in.
Do you think the internet overall is a good or bad thing for new artists?
It is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s simply another piece to a seemingly amorphous puzzle.
How did you come up with name?
It came in a vision, a man appeared in a flaming pie and said unto us, “from this day on you are a’tris with an a”.
Have you ever entered any ‘battle of the bands’ competitions?
Yes. One of our shows turned into a battle of the bands when a couple members from a hardcore punk act we were billed with in Cincinnati Ohio decided to jump into a mosh pit and start pushing their fans towards where we were stowing our gear.
Where can you see yourselves in ten years?
I could see myself becoming the head of the Budgeting Directorate of the Ministry of Defense and subsequently assuming the role of Financial Advisor to the Chief of Staff.
What’s your best/worst experience at a gig?
The better stories actually always seem to stem from the efforts we make to get to our shows.
Thus far we have been:
-run off an interstate on two occasions,
-nearly arrested because a bank thought we were intending to rob them when we came inside with what I suppose they later realised was a safety deposit box to do our accounting
-nearly arrested for sleeping on what we later learned was government property.
-assisted by the NYPD and a SWAT team in
removing gear from our overturned trailer in New York City
...and we’ve now successfully blown all of our van’s tires!
Would you sign with a major record company?
Do we get five cars and a personal masseuse as a signing bonus?
Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
I can’t say that I really get nervous before a gig. I’m usually just glad to be there. :)
Before a show I often step out of the venue to sit in our van for a half an hour or so. During that time I use a warm up routine developed by Jeannie Deva to prepare myself physically and mentally for the gig. I look forward to the day that I might have my own room in which to do this but am grateful for modern technology as my iPod allows me to move this routine to another location if necessary. I can’t imagine carrying a boom box around all the time these days. Can you believe we used to do that?
What are your day job if you have one?
I often go back to repairing watches when the music isn’t paying the bills.
Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
One of our songs will shortly be featured in an independent film. I look forward to blogging about that on a’tris HQ in the future!
Is it something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
You bet! Terry Gilliam - if you’re reading this can my people talk to your people?
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Mickey Rourke, I’m glad you’re back!