It’s a warm Spring Thursday night as I make my way over to the 5 Points Pub in Columbia and I am met at the door by the manager, Vance McNabb. The bar is not ready to open just yet, but I go inside where I hear the band, Atlas Road Crew, going through a routine sound check prior to their first show of a two night stint at the Pub. After running through their check, I sit down with Patrick Drohan, drums, Dave Beddingfield, lead guitar, and Max Becker, the bass player. Taylor Nicholson, their lead singer, has taken the opportunity to get some skateboarding time in, and Bryce James, keys, has slipped out until showtime.
If you have not heard the name Atlas Road Crew, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not yet two years old, the outfit is trying to be patient as they navigate the waters of being in a band. Initially the thought was to put together a band in order to hang together and play shows for their friends. However, almost immediately they felt a connection and realized that they were onto something special. In fact, the project has turned into a true matter of focus and intent for this five piece. After cutting their teeth on bars such as Pavlov’s and Jakes, they began to pick up a small following. Reaching out to anyone and everyone willing to listen, Dave took it upon himself to introduce a demo to one his professors, Paul Graham, who used to be the tour manager for Hootie and the Blowfish. Paul enjoyed the music and recommended speaking with Mark Bryan to seek out his services as a producer on their first EP. Timing initially did not click, but fast forward a couple of months and they successfully worked with Mark on their first record. According to the guys, collaborating with Mark was a turning point. It was time to decide whether or not they were going to continue as a band, or move on after graduating from college. Lyrically and musically, Mark was able to serve as a mentor. He guided them in a positive direction and helped them realize they really could make a go of it as a band.
Stylistically, each member brings their own unique flavor to the outfit. Influences range across the board from funk, to classic rock, to post punk. Collectively what drives the band is solid classic rock and roll. I would not necessarily classify the band as “Jam”, although live shows do tend to leave musical notes weaving and lingering from one song to the next. More or less, they are a throwback to early 70’s classic rock. When I hear songs such as Morning Eyes” or “Movin’ On” I feel like I am transported back to when vinyl was king and bands such as the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band ruled the airwaves.
While not settling on just one or two people to serve as the primary songwriters, the band members individually bring forward ideas, which the entire band then fine tunes. Admittedly, they are still discovering how to play together as a band. This is common among young bands. Even the greatest musicians are sometimes guilty of getting so wrapped up in what they are playing they forget about their bandmates. Dave summed it up best when he quoted Trey Anastasio of Phish fame, “If you can hear yourself onstage, then you are not really listening”. Taking a cue from this adage, they are constantly pushing themselves. Their goal is to be totally in sync for the success of the song as a whole. This is a compelling attitude because these guys are mature enough to leave their egos at the door and take constructive criticism. This trait will serve them well in the future.
So, what does the future hold for this quintet? Well, for starters, a small East Coast tour is set to kickoff on June 6 down at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms, which is just outside of Charleston. They are also making plans to make the move to Charleston at some point this Summer. This is a smart decision considering the strong music movement underway in the Lowcountry. If everything falls in line logistically for the band, then a Winter 2014 recording project to showcase their new material should begin to take shape. Atlas Road Crew is poised to make a bright and promising future for themselves. They are a talented, smart, and likeable group. I am excited to see the next stage unfold for this band.