ā'trĭs (pronounced /eɪ trɪs/) is an American indie rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 2003 by Mason Taylor and Michael Kreher while they were attending the Berklee College of Music together. The band currently consists of Mason Taylor (vocals and piano), Ben Azar (guitar), Nate Lueck (bass, background vocals, and guitar), and Travis Abel (drums) while performing live, although the live shows feature prominent synthesized elements programmed by Michael Kreher and Chuck Sokol. In the studio, both Kreher and Sokol perform many additional instrumental and occasional vocal parts in the process of arranging and producing the music for the recorded releases. These parts are typically the basis for the synthesized elements featured in the live setting.
Taylor and Kreher met in a writing skills class at Berklee in 2003. Taylor would frequently perform original songs before the class would start, and the music caught the attention of Kreher. Kreher, who had experience in both the business world and music industry prior to attending Berklee approached Taylor about a possible collaboration. Taylor began working with Kreher on new musical material while formulating a plan to build a career as a touring musician.
After putting together a small collection of original tunes written primarily by Taylor, the pair auditioned a series of musicians resulting in the first incarnation of what would later be known as ā'trĭs. Heading into the recording the band featured Mason Taylor on vocals and piano, Dave Lewis on Drums, and Zach McLean on guitar. Other parts were performed by session musicians from Berklee.
At the recommendation of other students on campus, Taylor and Kreher approached fellow classmate Chuck Sokol to work as the recording engineer on the band’s first demo. Sokol had a small collection of recording equipment in his dorm room, which in turn was located adjacent to the sound-isolated dormitory practice rooms. This amateur set-up was the venue for the first recording by the band.
Upon completion of the demo, Kreher forwarded several copies to industry figures with whom he had contact in the past, including several A&R executives at Atlantic Records. The demo was received with a high degree of criticism, specifically mentioning that the sound was too close to other less popular singer-songwriter styles. After receiving this criticism, Taylor and Kreher began working to develop the sound into a more alternative and unique style.
After reinventing the sound and style of the music, Taylor and Kreher decided on the name Atris to represent the band. Because many people were having trouble pronouncing the name, Taylor suggested including American Heritage Dictionary phonetic symbols, resulting in the current all-lowercase form of the name, “ā'trĭs.” After several of the musicians from the first recording project left due to artistic differences, Taylor, Kreher, and Lewis worked together to write a set of new songs to record as the band’s first full-length album. Taylor, Kreher, and Lewis enlisted the talents of Chris Ashworth (guitar), James Colazo (guitar), and Pete Wahlers (bass) to record and tour with the band. Kreher approached Sokol once again to engineer the recordings, and also brought him closer to the project as a co-producer and arranger. The initial recordings were done at Colazo’s home studio in Connecticut, while the remaining tracks and arrangements were all done in Sokol’s apartment in Boston. Appeal became the first ā'trĭs album to Kreher and Sokol's synthesized programming.
After the completion of Appeal in mid-2005, Kreher formed the vanity publishing company Offensive Tie Publishing to track royalties for ā'trĭs. Offensive tie would later spin off from ā'trĭs into a music production and publishing group. Kreher also enlisted the aid of record label owner and acquaintance Mark J. Morette and his record label Mark Custom Recording Services, Inc. to warehouse and distribute the album. The album was sent again to several large record companies for review, all of whom at best offered only criticism.
ā'trĭs began preparing for a national tour in support of Appeal in late 2005, but all of the musicians except Lewis dropped out when faced with a tour of that scope. Eventually the line-up was filled with new musicians including Ben Azar on guitar so the tour could continue as planned.
Following the tour, in early 2006, Taylor left Berklee to begin working on new material. Kreher, having completed his intended coursework, declined to return to the school as well, and Sokol graduated. Shortly thereafter Kreher and Sokol both moved to western Massachusetts to begin creating the space in which many of the post effects and synth elements would be added to future ā'trĭs recordings.
At the end of the summer, in an effort to capitalize on the momentum generated by ā'trĭs' tour, Taylor relocated to Western Massachusetts to begin the production of a new record that would prominently feature Ben Azar's guitar work as well as the hallmarks of their debut album. Auditions for a drummer and bass player were held at Berklee in Boston to compliment the new direction and Pete Koopmans and Pat Speece were added to the lineup to begin tracking the next release, an EP eventually titled Of the Commons. Concerning the title of the record Taylor had this to say in one of his blog entries: "While writing the lyrics to these tunes, I realized a common theme had begun to emerge. Each song had come to speak to how the middle class has been forgotten and our voice really isn't being heard. I wished to express that the songs included were written and recorded for the commons by the commons, thus it is "Of the Commons."
Immediately following “Of the Commons” ā'trĭs began recording tracks for the follow-up release “Lensing.” Before much work was done Speece left the group to study in Europe, leaving Sokol to fill in on bass for the album and interim live performances. By the end of the recording Nate Lueck had joined the group, but not soon enough to appear on any of the recorded tracks. Lensing was released to radio January 15th promoted by Tinderbox Music and Planetary Group and broke the top #100 on the college charts within a few weeks following its release.
Presently ā'trĭs has brought drummer Travis Abel on board to create drum tracks to aid in the commercial viability of their next record. Both Lueck and Abel are expected to appear in a music video alongside Taylor and Azar for the first single from Lensing
, “Automatic Doors.” ā'trĭs is scheduling a follow-up tour to promote Lensing
during the summer of 2008, as well as gearing up for the release of a new record in early 2009.
Interview by SolitaryMan
Email Interview conducted with the alt-rock band A'tris. Very Exclusive. They've done other interviews, but have they ever done one this good? Odds say no! Enjoy, and let this be a springboard to your eventual fandom of one of today's most well-concealed indie gems. Look for a possible follow-up interview in the near future...
Kevin Sellers: Okay, let's get the preliminaries out of the way. Who is A'tris,
who does what and where can we hear your stuff?
Mason Taylor writes songs, sings and plays the piano.
Ben Azar, co-writer and guitar player.
Nate Lueck plays the bass, guitar, and synths.
Travis Abel, the drummer.
Mike Kreher, co-writer, programmer of sounds, producer, manager.
Chuck Sokol presses the buttons on the console that we hope make our
music sound good.
Mason: A'tris is a word that does not have an intrinsic meaning. I
the songs we fashion together will encourage our audience to create a
primary meaning for A'tris.
Nate: Our music is available on iTunes, Rhapsody, emusic, and
Mike: And of course at the shows.
Kevin: To run a little deeper into the basics, give the fans (and
fan-potentials) the dirt on your touring schedule for the near and far
Mason: a'tris will be doing a tour in the summer. After that wraps up
intend to release a new EP before heading back out on the road in the
The best way to be informed about upcoming dates is to sign up for our
mailing list at atrishq.com. We try to make our newsletter fun and
informative. In addition to the information about our tours, records,
promotions we also like to include political propaganda directing
how to think and feel. [Ed. Note: The last sentence is sarcastic.]
(Reviewer's Note: Sign up. It's worth it.)
Kevin: How's the road been treating you? It seems to be the indie band's
best friend and worst enemy all at once; do you feel you respond better in a live environment or in the studio?
Travis: The road is such a great way of reaching people in a way where
can directly affect our fans; something that the internet and record
can't quite express. I love playing shows and interacting with the
The road right now is a very open-ended place where we don't know if
have a place to stay for the night, but there have been so many
people that are generous enough to put us up on their floor or couch for
night. This really makes things easier. As far as having a favorite
or studio environment) I love both. They're two different animals that
approach differently, but all together make a great combination and
to the process and experience of music.
Nate: (In agreement) They're both different beasts. The road is an
interesting thing to get used to. It often sounds a lot more glamorous
it ends up being, but as long as you're prepared to be a bit of a
it's great. Personally, I experience very different highs from playing
and playing in the studio. On the one hand, there's nothing quite like
feeling the sound all around you and bonding with the guys in the band
you present music together on stage. But on the other hand, there's a
satisfying feeling that accompanies getting a line or phrase or piece
exactly the way you want it on a recording, and being able to revisit
moment over and over whenever you hear it. I think part of being a
is the ability to harness the positive energy of any situation, and
to create things that not only give you pleasure, but others as well.
Kevin: Your music lends a great deal to the spaced-out atmospheres of
psychedelic bands, while harnessing a huge modern edge. How have you
to find this rather unique sound that seems to honor several genres of
while almost inventing it's own in the process? I like to call the
sound "alt-space-psych-prog-pop-rock", or just damn good music, haha.
Mike: Mason and I come from different musical backgrounds. I draw
influence from my jazz and classical background as well as the more
blend of electronic rock a la Radiohead. That said, when it comes to
nitty gritty songwriting, I approach it from an angle of
say "let's try this and see what happens."
Nate: I think we are very fortunate to enjoy a balance in perspectives
it comes to writing music. Having been trained in jazz and classical
I know I tend to think very analytically when writing, as do some of the
other guys. I believe what makes the music different is the combination
that intellectualism with a sense of accessibility, which I attribute to
great extent to the lyrics and melody. For music to be complex yet
understandable is a very difficult mixture to perfect, and I believe
that is something our music strives to achieve, and will always strive
Mason: We aim to have all of a'tris' parts arranged much like a film
score. I love how you describe it as "alt-space-psych-prog-pop-rock." I
always have a difficult time describing it myself; perhaps I should
your description and use it for future interviews. That's pretty
to say in one breath though.
Kevin: Mason, your lyrics are undeniably intriguing, and I and other fans
pick up on a heavy amount of symbolism and metaphor. Where does the
inspiration for your words spring from? For instance, if I had to guess,
songs that make up your EP "Of The Commons" seem to explain the aching
passions of your average office clerks and 9-to-5ers, looking for more
life but getting less and less as time goes on. It's very melancholy
perspective, but it would be great to know yours, for those songs and
new ones found on "Lensing".
Mason: I've tried my best to make the lyrics as obtuse as possible so
people may apply them to their lifestyles as they see fit. I draw many
ideas for lyrics from articles I find in newspapers, magazines, and on
web. The internet, in particular, is an artist's playground. Every
on a blog or statement in a chat room becomes a clue to a puzzle I must
together. When writing a song I become a detective and thus, when I
piece, I liken it to solving a mystery. Sometimes, however, lyrics can
the result of mundane matters; and, from time to time, my words can be
ambiguous then intended. I'm sure it wasn't difficult for you to hear my
frustration vented through the lines of Moored. Four years of attacking
music industry with A'tris and I have a day job as a watch repair
to show for it.
Mike: I agree. The goal of our songs is not too tell people how to
vote, act, etc. Although we may joke about that from time to time, I
it is not our place to claim any knowledge outside of our chosen
Kevin: You seem to have a fairly loose lineup; not that there aren't
members, but you don't seem to have issue with session players or the
I love how this adds to the diversity of sounds you can expect on an
album. Was it your intention to do this, or were fill-ins necessary due
scheduling difficulties and the like? I refer to the past 2 albums
done, not having heard your debut as of yet (That's gotta change soon).
Mike: We're very fortunate to be floating in the Berklee circle of
musicians. It's like the old school jazz approach where players will
for this tune or that tune. It never gets boring that way because the
is constantly being pushed by the different players. That said, I look
forward to the time where we can have the same group for at least a few
albums in a row so that we can see how the different sounds and styles
themselves. That will be determined by the almighty schedule and the
Nate: I see it (the line-up changes) as a chance to expand and grow the
music whenever we play with someone new. We choose our musicians
taking great care to ensure that the music will be served rather than
hindered. It can be a little stressful at times, but I think it makes us
better musicians and better people.
Mason: Mike and Chuck's approach to music production and engineering
provided a'tris' music with a measure of continuity while embracing and
encouraging growth. Working with multiple musicians has assisted us with
development of our sound while allowing us to reach a larger audience by
playing more shows. With many musicians I've found there are fewer
scheduling conflicts. I have not, however, found a way to prevent
Kevin: What are all of your intentions with A'tris? Where do you see this
going, do you have some ultimate goal in mind or are you in it for the
moment, for the pleasure of being active day to day and being a creative
force when the creativity strikes? To be more direct; what drives
Mason: My goal with a'tris and in life is to make a sustainable career
of making music. Honestly, I just want to be able to afford to pay for
and rent with money I've made playing shows and selling merch as
to profit from the creation or sale of records in the future may be a
Nate: Each of us is deeply rooted in the need to make music and express
ourselves creatively, and we believe a'tris is our way of doing that.
tough industry out there, and it's important to remain grounded in
For my part, I'm not really interested in fame or fortune. I'm not
wouldn't take a'tris as far as it can go should those opportunities
but as long as I can make enough money for rent and groceries, I will be
happy knowing that my life is being spent doing the thing I love most. I
guess my goal for a'tris is to be a constant presence, always growing
changing, all the while sharing our strongest of passions with anyone
Travis: I am all for making a'tris a household name and reaching as
people with our music as possible.
Kevin: Also, along those lines, do any of you have any solo material out
or have you done work on any other recordings the fans might be able to
a hold of? Any future plans of the sort?
Mason: God I hope any recordings I may or may not have made in high
have been destroyed. Ben has a side project called Bone Gunn. If you're
indy-rock-experimental-folk-pop. (they're pretty hard to pin down too)
definitely check them out!
Nate: I do, unfortunately I do not own the rights to most of it. To be
honest, I've always been more of a collaborator, I find I work best
the details of the music, working out the things no one should be able
notice if it's done right, arranging, tweaking, adding, subtracting. If
someone is persistent, they would be able to find one of my recordings
myspace page, which I arranged and recorded as a duet with a good friend
mine, with Juno award winner Colin Lay producing. I mention that only
because we are all Canadian-I had to sneak my secret identity in
Travis: I have played with a lot of bands especially at Berklee College
Music and have done a lot of session drumming as well as recording bands
Kevin: I'd like each of you to answer these following questions...for fun.
Mason: David Bowie, Metric, Death Cab, R.E.M, The Decemberists,
Ltd, Tegan and Sarah, Radiohead, Robbie Williams, Elton John, Belle and
Sebastian, Elbow, INXS, Garbage, Muse, Peter Gabriel, Queen, Sufjan
Stevens, Billy Joel, Yoko Kano, Seal, The Police. Man that's the most
difficult question ever. I'd say that's a good sampling of the artists
music would show up if my iPod were put on shuffle.
Ben: The Miles Davis Band, The Pat Metheny Group, Porcupine Tree,
Quartet, Radiohead, The Chris Potter Band, Mr. Bungle.
Nate: Radiohead, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Pink Floyd, Collective
(the older stuff), Eric Clapton, The Wallflowers, Finger Eleven (again,
older stuff)...and a few jazz players- Chick Corea, Bill Frisell, Ben
- I'll keep it short.
Travis: Aerosmith, Daft Punk, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie, Seal,
Radiohead, Anberlin, Earth Wind and Fire, the list goes on forever.
-If you can, pick one absolute favorite song?
Mason: At the moment I can't stop playing Modest Mouse's "Dashboard".
I didn't add them to my list of favorite bands. (Reviewer's Note: lol.)
Ben: Pat Metheny - The Way Up
Nate: Hmm, that's tough - The theme to Sanford and Son? I guess right
it would be Paranoid Android - although the rest of OK Computer is a
Travis: Hands down it would have to be: Love's Divine by Seal. No
where I am or what mood I'm in when I listen to this song everything
and I am taken out of the stress and busyness of the world and I feel at
-Pets? I take it Mason once owned goldfish (a reference to one of your
lyrics. I know.)
Mason: Haha, yeah, actually growing up my folks always had goldfish.
goldfish never died too despite the fact that I learned from my friends'
experiences that the average goldfish's lifespan was significantly less
forever. Apparently my parents didn't want to introduce me to the
death so whenever a goldfish died they'd quickly run out to replace him
another. Fooled me, they all look the same.
Nate: No pets, although I would like to have one eventually.
Travis: I love pets, especially my cat Orange Julius. My family kept
name when we adopted him. We just call him Julius though.
-Hobbies? Things you're doing when you're not playing or writing?
Mason: I like watches.
Ben: Working out.
Nate: I like golf, although I haven't gotten to play lately. Really
anything I can do outside in nature is OK by me.
Travis: I like watching TV (Family Guy, South Park, Arrested
Discovery Channel, and yes HGTV). Movies are awesome too. And of
Kevin: How have the reactions to "Lensing" been? Personally, I thought it was
excellent, even though it wasn't given the chance to sneak up on me like
your EP did. Have the fans been digging it?
Mike: Well people have really gotten behind 'Automatic Doors!' It's
because that tune really stumbled its way into existence. Other songs
have a pretty good idea how they will play out within the first few
go over them. With 'Automatic Doors,' we really had to work. But it
out really well and that's what matters.
Mason: The reviews that have trickled their way down to me have been
positive so I hope that bodes well for its reception! At this stage in
game we're very fortunate to have a small following of fiercely loyal
I'm extremely proud of Lensing and what we've been able to accomplish
our work on such an incredibly small budget -it's really challenging to
raise the money for these things!
Nate: The response has been great so far. The thing that people have
saying which warms my heart the most is that it's unlike anything they
familiar with. The struggle to achieve uniqueness and develop your own
is something every musician strives after, and it's really great to hear
people recognize that effort in your music.
Kevin: I was glad to hear half of "Of The Commons" show up on "Lensing".
choices fit right in with the newer stuff; my only question here (and
is pure personal curiosity) is why "Moored" didn't show up. Don't you
know it's the best song you've done? Haha. All joking aside though, tell
a bit about how you came about with the songs and subject matter of
"Lensing", and how the "Of The Commons" songs you choose fit in with
in your opinion.
Mason: The holdovers from Of the Commons were selected due to musical
considerations such as the flow of the record.
Mike: I wouldn't say you've seen the last of Moored, though! Flow was
big issue and the current version of Moored really didn't fit with what
had in mind for Lensing. I think it is a song that will definitely be
revisited in the future. There's just not enough time in a day to do
would like with all of our material.
Nate: While "Of the Commons" and "Lensing" definitely have different
focuses, I believe the overall theme between the two (and in all of
music) remains constant. I prefer to liken it to where comedy is at
now, ironically. The best comedy seems to come from every day
identifiable circumstances, 'observational humor.' While a'tris' music
far from comedic, I think it follows a similar pattern. It is a music of
'observational drama,' which I think has been less explored. It is the
of reporting on the world's dramatic occurrences and situations, rather
creating them, because I think we would all agree that none need be
created-they already exist in the current state of things. What I think
lyrics do particularly well is avoid the imposition of opinion and bias
these observations, allowing the listener to draw their own conclusions
Kevin: What band would it be your dream to tour with and why?
Mason: I'd actually love to tour with Eddie Izzard. I think he's a
fantastically talented comedian and that our audiences could
to form beautiful children who would appreciate both Michael Stipe and
Nate: Radiohead, mostly because for me, they embody the type of
and marketability that I strive for in music.
Travis: I think touring with Muse would be awesome. Their music is so
Kevin: Mason, will you hold true (or anyone else in the band for that
to the bit in your bio about having a drink after a show? If I make it
to Berklee, which I'm planning on doing, I'd love to buy you a round and
maybe get another of these done, more personal and such. Sound good to
Mason: Kevin that sounds great but the drink will be on me. I really
appreciate the support you've shown us. Thanks again for your time and
Any parting shots? Last words? Perhaps a haiku?
Nate: I did write a haiku for all the students/musicians/both out
scheduling stage such a schlep
semester's soon slain
An alliterative haiku by Nate. Thank you.
Hope to see everyone at a show somewhere-peace!