Almost two years on from the release of their promising debut album Absolute Magnitude, Indie outfit Neon Atlas feels like an entirely new project. Originally a solo venture of Corkonian Kieran Ring, Neon Atlas have undergone something of a transformation in 2015, incorporating a new band and set to release beefed-up, heavier-hitting follow-up record Graffiti Reality. Prior to the release of the new record, Kieran reflects on what’s been a pretty eventful year for the band so far.
Well basically since Christmas we’ve been finishing up recording the album and all the things that come with it. With finishing the album we kind of took a break from the gigs so after October we decided to concentrate fully on that. We’ve had a few sessions, the second single (‘I Never Felt So Good’) has been getting a lot of air play, so it’s been exciting. The first single Velocity didn’t get a lot of air play but it got some great reviews. It’s our second album – always a difficult one – but it seems to be going well so far. We’re anticipating to release it on the 31st then we have a Paul McLoone session, so it’s busy enough and we’re hoping for good things from it. It’s gonna be our ‘shot at the title’.
Any difficulties making the new album?
No we didn’t have really, I suppose you just anticipate these things when you’re going for a second album. The first one did ok for us, we did a Dermot O’Leary session over on the BBC, but our sound was maybe a bit softer. For the follow up it was a bit grungier, we just decided to go a bit heavier with it. Changing your style can either go against you, or go for you, but the way it’s gone is promising. So far so good.
So overall you’re pretty happy with the band’s change in direction from the last album?
Well it’s a lot heavier which means the live performances need a lot more pedals and that sort of thing. I suppose when we were gigging the first album I was playing acoustic so it’s not a complete change in the sound but it was step forward, the production was just a lot better. It just sounds a lot heavier, and we used our influences more. It took longer than the first album, about 15 months to record and finish it, but we’re nearly there.
So you’ve been enjoying the whole experience then?
Yea, it was really interesting to make, I really enjoyed it. It’s just a great art form. To be involved with something like that was a great experience. The live thing hasn’t quite taken off yet but we’re still finding our feet. For the first album it was just me and the producer, I hadn’t the band around me; they didn’t really come until the second album, and there’s been a few lineup changes. But with this one now we’re playing three gigs for a little Irish tour. It’s the first time we’ve ever done that so this weekend will tell a lot, just to get a steady lineup, and getting everything sounding right. If people like the record they expect a good live performance and we hope to give them that. But it’s been good, and hopefully we can build on it.
What about the whole creative process, in terms of the writing?
Songs are written on acoustic guitar, because for me a song has to work in bare bones, first and foremost as a songwriter. Basically it’s a bit of a blank canvas in a way. The first album was more of a collection of songs I had and this album was written as an album. It was themed and planned as such, whereas the first one was just a collection of songs that I just knocked out. With this one, even though I was writing the same way, I still had the sound in mind.
When you say it was themed, what was the main inspiration behind some of the songs?
Well I tend to write really personal songs, I think it’s better that way. Generally the theme was broken relationships, everyday stuff that everyone can relate to in some way. I could go deeper but in a way I like people to take what they want from songs. The lyrics are dark enough, but they’re up tempo so there’s a bit of a mixture. The single’s called ‘I Never Felt So Good’ but it’s actually based on a broken relationship so there’s a bit of darkness there as well. It’s not as summery as you might expect, but that’s just the way I write.
You have been doing quite a lot of live performances though with appearance at the Indiependence and Sea Sessions festivals?
Yea we did Indiependence last year and that was a good experience, and Sea Sessions this year, and on short notice we did the Whelan’s One to Watch stage and Working Class Heroes of course. So we’ve been doing bits and bobs but, as I said, the lineup’s changed and it’s hard to find that dynamic when people are coming and going. I suppose when you’re not involved from the start, and it’s not your project, people find that they want more input. But that’ll come from staying on and we’ve been settled for a while now, so hopefully moving forward we’ll creatively gel.
So what’s your plans for the rest of the summer? Any other big gigs coming up?
Yea we’ve one coming up in Portlaoise, Scrobarnach which is the only festival I think. We’re back up next week for the Berkeley Survivors fundraiser, and then we’ll just be hitting Cork (for Pine Lodge). With the album we’ll hopefully go to London in October and get our foot in the door over there. I suppose with Ireland you can only play so many times in the year and you have to progress. In life you always have to push yourself so we’ll see how we get on over there. We’ve been over to the BBC before and that went down well, so who knows?
Graffiti Reality is out on July 31st