If you’re like me and enjoy a dark and spooky but beautiful aesthetic, you need to check out Brisbane’s The Atomic Beau Project. They are the perfect mix of scary and ethereal, bringing back the theatrics and forging their way with a unique sound. Keep reading for my chat with drummer/founder Andy James and lead vocalist Beau (who sadly dropped out on the call halfway through). We talk about the band’s origin story, future plans, secret societies and nerd out a bit (my favourite part!).
Over the last week, I’ve been listening to your songs, and I’m obsessed! I’m a bit of a spooky gal, so I like the imagery and the themes you guys have. You’re a relatively new band, and I found the story of how you came together really interesting. Andy, you started off solo, and then it branched from there?
(Andy) I’ll give you the full backstory. It started as a solo project -I was in uni and had no money to start recording. I had this idea of this weird sort of prog band mixed with all these different styles, and we wanted to record some stuff. The first couple of years were just myself and Beau trying to learn how to produce ourselves and record stuff ourselves from our little bedroom in Brisbane.
A lot of the stuff that we started writing in the early days was all based on Sci-Fi, horror and psychological themes, particularly this online community called SCP.
I was going to ask you about that because I looked into it and it looks really secretive.
(Andy) When you first stumble across, it’s like what the hell have I stumbled upon, is this the Pentagon secret files? Basically, it’s a massive international online community, and people create these stories around this fictional organisation. The stories are about the various entities or creatures they find and how they have contained and dealt with them. There are thousands of these stories and there’s also a whole bunch of art, music, video games and new movies being made based on it and there’s a huge fan element behind it.
Pretty much every song we do is inspired by it in some way, but the first few songs we did were a direct inspiration from those stories, and the artwork we used was from some of the artists in that community.
So it was Beau and I, and then we wanted to get the live thing happening, so we incorporated our guitarist Jack (Gardener) and bass player Luke (Woolett) this year.
With SCP, were you guys participating in it or had you just stumbled upon it?
(Beau) You kind of were Andy.
(Andy) They call the stories an entry and I’ve never made an entry; they are like 7000 or something [entries] deep. I don’t have the writing chops for it. I did what I thought I’d do best and just made music about it. I was involved in the forums and the Reddit threads though.
That’s fascinating, and there’s not a lot of bands that have an origin story like that.
Are you guys huge Sci-Fi fans?
(Andy) I’ve got a bit of a nerd history. A big thing in our music is of gaming music. Are you a gamer at all?
I’m not, but I have a lot of people around me who are.
(Andy) Well, it’s kind of weird how much in the internet world crosses over these days. There’s one guy, who blew up in the gaming world with the soundtracks he did. He did the soundtrack to a game called DOOM.
Oh yeah, I know DOOM.
(Andy) Yeah cool! So the producer Mick Gordon, he did this heavy, djenty, electronic kind of soundtrack to the game. And it blew up because it was so different. Now he’s gone on to do a whole lot of collaborations, with Bring Me the Horizon and Yungblud, so we draw a lot of inspiration from that as well.
If you could soundtrack a game, what game would it be?
(Beau) Maybe Hollow Knight, but I feel like it’s already too good.
(Andy) Yeah, it is already too good. If we could soundtrack a game, it has to be something pretty intense hey?
(Beau) yeah, something dark!
(Andy) Ok, there’s a game called Inside, which has no soundtrack behind it and it’s a really dark — gritty —sci-fi-y — horror-y — alternate future, kind of game. That would be a cool one to do.
That sounds cool! When I was a kid, I used to play Alien on PlayStation, and the way they did the sound in it was incredible. It added to the tension, you could hear when the Xenomorphs were getting closer like you can in the movie.
(Andy) Something like that would be awesome.
Moving on to ‘Cellar Door’ itself, it has been well received, and you’ve had amazing radio plays. You must be pretty stoked with that.
(Beau) Yeah, we freaked out when it was played on Triple J. We’ve never had any big radio stations play our stuff before, so it was pretty crazy. We all got in the car together and just drove around, playing it really loud.
Guys you are compared quite a lot to Poppy, Marilyn Manson and SKYND, which is incredible. Those are excellent names, obviously, but sometimes comparisons can maybe pigeonhole you a little, how do you feel about it?
(Andy) The comparison thing is a difficult one; we all came from pretty diverse backgrounds and grew up playing a bunch of different styles of music, not just heavy stuff. Beau played the violin, that was her full-time gig for a long time.
(Beau) Yeah, I’m a classically trained violinist, not a singer so I’m loving it. I don’t really care who I get compared to—I just take it all, it’s great.
(Andy) I guess the big thing is, it’s kind of cool being compared to those artists because they do stuff that we value.
This is when we lose Beau from the call.
(Andy) To answer your question, with the backgrounds we have, we try to fuse everything. So although we primarily play heavier music, we try to incorporate a whole bunch of other inspirations. I think particularly in heavy music, people are real sticklers to genre — they want to know what genre you are. The closest thing that we have been able to say is we’re progressive metal, I guess.
To be honest, I’m not great with the genres – I just listen to stuff because I enjoy it, and I feel like it’s all very fluid.
Yeah, I just think good music is good music, it doesn’t really matter what the genre is.
I agree. And while I can hear those comparisons, I think what you’re doing is still very unique and different.
That’s the staple of what we do — being more creative is the source of the joy we get from doing this project. And like you said, you get to forge your own path and create your own sound and the other artists you mentioned, they have done that. SKYND does that, Poppy does that, and I’ve been listening to a lot of GHOSTMANE, and he’s kind of doing the same thing.
Random question but is Cellar Door named that because it’s the most beautiful phrase in the English language? (laughs)
Definitely part of the inspiration for it, yeah.
But also basements are scary.
Yeah, exactly. It being such a beautiful word probably came secondary to the actual song – it’s primarily just a scary story.
Cellars are scary, like in movies when you see someone going to the basement, you’re like why do houses have basements?
That was actually a problem for us when we were shooting the video, we tried to find a cellar, and could not find one. It must be an American thing — we had to improvise. Maybe all the axe murderers just do it out in the forest in Australia?
That leads me to the film clip of Cellar Door, which is incredible.
Thank you! Back to our poor, uni student days and DIY, it was the same for the clip for Cellar Door. We got one of our mates (Max Van Heusden) who has a couple of great cameras to do it for basically nothing, and one of our friends (Cindy Vogels) made Beau’s dress. The idea behind it was a model shoot combined with a horror story; we’re trying to combine the two worlds — beautiful elements with dark, sinister elements.
Obviously, you haven’t been able to play for a long time. When you do, what do you want us to know about your live shows?
We want to take the same theatrics that you see in the videos and put that onto the stage. We want lots of big costumes and hopefully, we can get a bigger production.
We’ve got some big plans for next year — we’re probably going to do some live vids. I think everyone will get a bit of a pre-show before we start doing some live gigs. We’re thinking maybe January, February; we might start kicking things off.
That’s exciting! I honestly can’t wait to see you guys as soon as I can. Thanks for chatting with me Andy and thank Beau for me too.
Interview by Caitlin MacDonald (@cait_2tone)