Exposure: electronica two-piece Atom Tree
Songwriter Shaun Canning discusses how the group has evolved, and where they're going next
East End Glasgow boy Shaun Canning started making gentle electro on Soundcloud last summer. His project grew into a duo when he was joined by percussionist Michael Robertson for live shows – but after seeing them onstage at King Tuts, Fergus Cook of Edinburgh band Discopolis came up to ask them about collaborating. Shaun’s project Atom Tree (formerly Atomic League) gets an outing tonight at the CCA, where the three of them will perform a brand new track.
How did you guys come to be Atom Tree, and what projects had you been working on before?
Shaun: I’d been in a few different indie bands growing up, with my first taste of electronic music being in my teens through Radiohead – I attended their gig at Glasgow Green. I liked the way some of their stuff mixed electronic beats with organic sounds and I guess this may have been early inspiration for what I would do later down the line. It was a good few years and bands later when I decided to start producing my own music; originally being a drummer, I felt I wanted to do something on my own, and not have to rely on others.
I started making electronic music around a year and a half ago, uploading my music to Soundcloud under the name Atomic League, which received a great response and gave me confidence and the motivation to keep making more. The name however just didn’t feel right, for the style of music I was making, so around six months ago I decided to change to Atom Tree. I then recruited Michael Robertson to play drums live. A chance meeting in King Tuts with Fergus Cook from Discopolis took the music to greater heights – and ended up with his fantastic vocals on ‘Desired Effect’.
You recently reworked Bonobo’s ‘Cirrus’. Are there any other artists out there who you wish to remix?
A band I’m particularly fond of just now is The xx and to be able to rework or remix one of their tracks would be fantastic. I stumbled across them at the Leeds Festival a few years ago in one of the tents, the year when Radiohead headlined, and from then I was hooked. Also Radiohead or any of Thom Yorke's solo stuff and Atoms For Peace would also be great. The idea of being able to use Thom Yorke's vocals and rework a track would be amazing.
Would it be fair to say your music is similar in style to artists such as Active Child and How to Dress Well? What consciously influences the music you make?
Listening to Active Child there, I’d say it’s definitely a similar vibe to what I’m trying to create. The main things that influence the music I make are anything which stirs the emotions. I love hearing chords and melodies, which may be simple but they really make you feel something. A lot of Philip Glass does this for me, as well as Yann Tiersen, who wrote the soundtrack for Amélie.
You’ve already had quite a lot of airtime on the radio (including plays from Vic Galloway, Jim Gellatly and Ally McCrae). When you see the recent meteoric success of another Glasgow band like Chvrches, where do you guys hope to be in a years’ time?
I would love by the end of next year to have an album out which people can enjoy in clubs as well as in bed. We have a gig coming up in Berlin and it is the first time I will have played a gig outside the UK, so I’m hoping by the end of next year to have played the music in many other cities across Europe. I’ve always wanted to go travelling and the idea of doing it playing music to people is the dream.
The title of your new EP ‘Tide of Thorns’ conjures up images far removed from the smooth chilled-out sound you create, where did the name for this come from?
I guess it was my favourite name for one of the tracks on the EP and I felt like it’s trying to describe the idea behind the EP. It can be quite soothing like a gentle tide, but full of staccato melodies, like jagged thorns, however I’m almost sure I found meaning after coming up with that name and simply liked the sound of it.’
Atom Tree play alongside Ghostpoet and Mt Wolf at the CCA, Glasgow, Tue 22 Oct. They also play Electric Circus, Edinburgh, Wed 13 Nov, with Man Without Country. The debut EP, ‘Tide of Thorns’, is out now on Hot Gem.