Posted On 15 Sep 2017
Nick LaFalce picked up a guitar at age six and never looked back – next was his father’s drum set, then his mother’s piano, the saxophone in grade school, and plenty more along the way, including a degree in Music Theory and Composition. From there, LaFalce played in numerous bands throughout New York City (namely Brooklyn mainstays BRAEVES and Terrible Terrible), but they all ended the same way:
“I’ve been kicked out of enough bands to finally take the hint”, laughs LaFalce, 28. “You realize that if you have a vision for something, rather than forcing collaboration with others, you just need to trust and rely on yourself to make it happen.”
So Atlas Engine was born.
“Shadow Dancer” addresses the idea that moving forward starts by looking to the past. A sun-drenched vocal intro reminiscent of the Beach Boys swells into a driving Police-esque groove with choruses saturated in Fleetwood Mac’s vocal harmonies, consciously traveling through various decades of pop music with its own twist.
The response, Don’t Stop Now, as title suggests, is an optimistic call to arms. “This is when we wake up” LaFalce declares, backed by a wall of voices in every register. After reaching its peak, the track exhales before building back up higher than before. “Don’t Stop Now” LaFalce repeats over bombastic drums and swelling guitars, until all voices and instruments together implore the listener to similarly pick themselves back up, resist, and persist. With soaring melodies, shimmering guitars, and grandiose arrangements, both songs stand on their own as separate giants – each distinct and memorable, whose sentiments are only strengthened by the conversation between them.
While After the End was basically a one-man operation with LaFalce writing, recording, and producing everything himself at home, this release also shows growth in terms of collaborators. Atlas Engine has since become a full band featuring Justin Mayfield (guitar) and Pat Cocchrane (bass/vox). The group also enlisted Andy LeMaster (mixing, Bright Eyes), Jeff Citron (drum engineering, Fleet Foxes), and Joe Lambert (mastering, Local Natives) to help further bring their vision to life.
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Learn more about Atlas Engine in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? What music do you like to listen to when you are relaxing or answering interview questions?
Pleasure’s all mine! It’s a beautiful day, which I’m lucky enough to enjoy spent on a Bolt Bus to Baltimore to play some music. I just took a break from working on some new songs, so I’m bumpin Spotify’s Release Radar to see what’s new in the world.
How does 2017 so far compare to last year? Did you approach this year differently then you did 2016?
2017 has been awesome so far – musically speaking, at least. We’ve been playing at a lot of great venues and meeting some great bands and people along the way. 2016 was really spent setting the groundwork for what the band was going to be, and who was going to be joining me in it, so as soon as that all got set in motion, it’s been a lot of fun. And we’ll be releasing two new songs this summer that I’m personally very excited to share.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall the moment you realized that you could really make music and be a musician?
It was never a matter of “wanting” it, to be completely honest. Music runs in my family, so there was never a moment where I consciously thought about what life would be like without it. I just kind of started picking up instruments at a young age and started making sounds with them until music came out. From there, I started playing in bands in middle school and just never stopped.
Why do you think the name Atlas Engine truly represents this group and the music that you create?
Well, when I first moved to New York, I kept trying to join existing bands, but creatively it just never worked for me. I’d inevitably end up clashing with the primary songwriter, or try writing everybody’s parts, and I understand why it never worked out. So with this project, I took a step back and realized that if I wanted to produce music the way that I hear it in my head – as one holistic piece rather than specific parts – I was just going to have to do it myself. And I think the name Atlas Engine really embodies that idea of self reliance.
I always like to ask artists how their hometown has been an influence on the kind of music they make and really what kind of a band they are today. So how do you think your hometown of Brooklyn has affected you?
I grew up with an amazing music scene in Montclair, NJ. It was a community full of kids playing music just because it was fun and felt good – nothing more. Most of them were pretty bad (some of mine included), but that was part of the fun. Being in Brooklyn now, you couldn’t escape the creativity here if you tried – I mean, even our lattes are art now – so it’s incredibly inspiring to live here. With so much art from all mediums, I’m really committed to bringing that community aspect back more prevalently – whether it’s working with existing entities with similar goals like Sofar Sounds or The Wild Honey Pie, or booking my own shows, I just really want to bring talented people together without any other motives besides it just being fun.
How does your experience in Atlas Engine compare to any other band you have been a part of?
Best yet! Creatively, I’m making the music I want to be making without having to make compromises. And the band I get to do that with are guys I love. And the fact that some people like it too is just icing on the cake.
What are your plans for the rest of this summer? Do you have any tour dates scheduled?
It’s been a busy summer! There’s a new single “Don’t Stop Now” that came out on 8/23 and we celebrated at the Secret Loft’s indie pop showcase that night. We’ll also be at Pianos on 9/29. In terms of a bigger tour, that’s still being worked out but news will be coming shortly, so this is where I tell everybody to follow us on #socialmedia to find out when and where that will be happening.
Where do you think you are happiest- on stage performing, in the studio recording new music or elsewhere?
That’s a tough one. I’m an extroverted introvert, so both are important for me: being in the studio really allows me to find out or reaffirm who I am, what I know, and see how I can surprise myself creatively. But on the other hand, I just love sharing things in general – music, food, whatever, so of course I love being on stage and sharing whatever I’ve made with anybody who wants to listen.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you like to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration for this band?
Well, I just saw Fleet Foxes in Prospect Park and it absolutely killed me – the new album is absolutely beautiful, and those songs played in a live setting really made me love it even more.
Dream collaboration is, and will always be, with Bjork. No question. I’d also hit up Radiohead or Nigel Godrich to see if they’re around too.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Overall? Sincerity. I hope people listen to this music and can hear where it comes from. The message varies by album or song, but each word, note, and sound is worked meticulously before it gets to your ears. I also hope the message is that nothing is simple – this world and the people in it are very complicated, and especially nowadays where everything’s getting politicized and politics are becoming more and more polarized. Reduction is so common because it’s so easy. I want to challenge the listener, but from a comfortable place, so with this music (as with everything else), always dig deeper.
What advice would you give to a band just getting started? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
Like I said before, it shouldn’t be that much of a choice. If it’s in you, it has to get out, so do it, and don’t give up. You’re going to be bad before you’re not, and eventually you’ll get less bad, and then better and better. But here’s the rub – the better you get, the worse you’ll think you are, because your standards get higher and higher. So, the moment when you both love and hate what you’re doing is when you know you’re in a good place. How’s that for inspiration?
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
Please support art! Doesn’t have to be mine, but it’s so important now more than ever. Buy the album for $5, pay the $10 cover. We all spend more on dumber things. And use your social capital! Every Follow, Like, Retweet, etc. costs you nothing and goes soooo far. Don’t make me beg you to tag us while I’m on stage, because I will.