The Black Sheep Interviews: Maps & Atlases
- Written by Brendan Bonham
- March 20, 2012
Our compasses pointed due north when we were lucky enough to score an interview with loveable rockers Maps & Atlases. Guitarist Erin talks to us about keyboards, soy products and his pet Pegasus.
The Black Sheep: Your new album, Beware and Be Grateful, is set to be released on April 17th. Can you talk about your progression as a band, from your EPs to Perch Patchwork to this album? How is this the next step in your sonic evolution?
Erin Elders: I think it’s a continuation of things we were exploring on Perch Patchwork. On that album we really started with texture, whereas our earlier EPs were more stripped down with a lot of guitar. Here we moved on past the Perch Patchwork orchestration, but we found new ways to layer sound with crazy guitars and whatnot. I think the writing style is a steady evolution from our previous album.
TBS: How does the writing process work for you guys?
Erin: Every record has been different, but I think that’s what most bands hope to do, where you let the process and story behind the record be its own thing. It’s good to break out of your own habits and artistic patterns. For this record there was these group of songs [lead singer] Dave had been working on during his tour and when we had a little off time. It happened in a really stripped down way. We figured out which songs worked as an album, fleshed them out and worked it out over multiple sessions. We’d then throw as many ideas down as we could, then see what worked and what doesn’t.
TBS: Considering the length of time it takes to put a record out, how much of what you work on actually ends up on a record?
Erin: It’s really interesting. When you think about how much time writing, recording and playing music and you contrast it with the amount of time you actually produce the sounds that end up on the record, it’s small. You have to get to that point, though.
TBS: How do you strike a balance between making music you find personally gratifying, but also something your fans want to hear?
Erin: It’s a tough thing. Everyone has different interests, and some are able to pursue them under the moniker of their band. But there’s other bands where an out-there record doesn’t work in the parameters of what the band is. Our band, we want to grow and change every record, but the way we move in the same direction, together, allows us to explore new things.
TBS: How ambitious do you get with your sound? When you incorporate a new instrument is it out of necessity, like, “This thing makes this sound, so we will use it,” or is it, “We want to push the boundaries of how we consider ourselves as musicians”?
Erin: With Beware and Be Grateful we started with these cheap Casio keyboards to get the sound up and running, and from there it was experimenting and seeing what stuck. Running with our instincts. We’ve tried doing it before, and it’s worked on certain songs. On this record, though, it helped us produce a really loose sound.
TBS: You guys are headlining a tour right now. How do you prepare? Do you prepare?
Erin: I think when you’re on tour it’s one of those things where you’re constantly trying to stay on schedule while being exhausted all the time. It’s basically keeping up until you crash and just stop caring about a timetable.
TBS: Is there different pressure being the tour headliner?
Erin: I think we’re always making sure we’re playing well and presenting the songs as best we can every night, regardless. I mean, you feel obligated to put on a good show for people who paid money to see you. Plus, how often do you get a chance to play a place like Shreveport, Louisiana? Once a year? You want to put on a good show for someone who might be seeing you for the first time.
TBS: For someone who hasn’t seen you play live before, describe your show in five words or less.
Erin: Four guys, lots of sound.
TBS: What’s a band or artist you listen to that no one would think you like?
Erin: I listen to a lot of top 40 radio. When we’re on tour peoples’ iPods get exhausted pretty quickly. I think Nicki Minaj’s “Superbass” is an incredible song.
TBS: Describe to me your perfect sandwich.
Erin: I think a sandwich is a great culinary invention. I think a baguette, smoked tempeh, some tomato, avocado and spicy mustard.
TBS: If you could have any mythical creature as a pet, what would it be?
Erin: A Pegasus seems ideal, you can ride it into town if you need to, or you can fly.
TBS: The most practical of the mythical creatures.