As far as debut’s go, ‘Sleeping Giant‘ is a bold statement brimming with 10 razor-sharp tracks packed with true, honest, no-fucking around METAL.
If lavish doom arrangements, drenched with blackened aggression and boat-loads of groove and well-crafted lyrics is your thing, then walk this way…
Today, guitarist Daniel McCarthy and bassist, Adam Bayliss give us the latest on the bands’ activity as well as an insight into the origin of the band.
OD -For those who don’t know, who are Atarka, where are you from and how do you describe yourselves?
DANIEL – Hi there, many thanks for reaching out! I hope you’re doing OK with the lockdown over there. We’re from Birmingham, UK. It’s still one of the more musically cosmopolitan cities in the country, even today.
We label ourselves as “Blackened Groove” – however, we try to represent each individual’s influences as best we can in our writing. We touch on the trad-Swedish In Flames style “core” sound, as well as Black, Doom, and Thrash. We try and keep groove as the one consistent characteristic across the board though.
OD – Tell us briefly about the history of the band, how it all came together and the background on each member?
DANIEL – Myself and Adam [Bayliss – Bass] had met in a previous band and became great friends through a mutual appreciation of music and beef burgers. We went to the same university as both Alex [Dutton – Guitar] and Jamie [Smith – Vocals], and they were also in other bands prior to Atarka.
When we were putting a lineup together, Jamie reached out to Phil, who completed the lineup. It seems like a long time ago now. We’re all just great friends. My wife, Mel also helps me out a great deal when it comes to the bands’ accounting, as well as handling the contracts with third parties, such as management, distribution, and booking.
OD – You were one of the many bands that released an album, this being your debut, almost to the day the first pandemic lockdown came into effect. Can you talk about that experience and what kind of impact that had on the album?
DANIEL – It was unfortunate. It was the one occasion in our lifetime where consumerism wasn’t at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and being an unknown band, it became an even bigger uphill battle to get our music into people ears. It’s a hill we still haven’t quite conquered, and one that we’re still climbing.
The release date was already set from a distribution and PR perspective way back in 2019, so we couldn’t turn back, we just had to go for it and make the best of a bad situation.
OD – The title of the album is ‘Sleeping Giant’, can you talk us through the concept behind the title?
ADAM: Well, when Dan and myself started work on writing music for Atarka we found ourselves able to put down the ideas that we’ve always wanted to but were unable to in previous bands.
We had so many great ideas that were pushed to the back of the creative processes for those projects. So now with Atarka, we were able to do what we wanted and the ideas were flowing. It really felt like the name ‘Sleeping Giant‘ was a great metaphor for these ideas finally coming to surface.
OD – With regards to the album, we’ve seen quite a few videos/singles come off the album to date, but will there be any more before we hear some new material?
ADAM – We have a few nice visual bits coming between now and the new material, however, our main focus at the moment is the next record.
OD – As far as debuts go, ‘Sleeping Giant’ is a very strong statement from a new band. Since the lockdown, has there been any new material in the works and if so, can you give us an insight into a progression in sound?
DANIEL – That’s very kind of you to say so, thanks! There IS new material in the works, and we are all super excited to show it off. We have a new home base in Birmingham, which we share with our friends in CREATURE and Dead Slow.
We’ve spent a lot of hours locked away in there, demoing bits and pieces for the next release. The groove is ever-present, there is more aggression and more emotion. My personal hope for this record is for the music to resonate with people on a deeper emotional level, as well as just making them bang their heads.
OD – There are a lot of topical concepts on the album which shows that the band have a very open mind when it comes to the lyrical side of things. How does that process factor into Atarka when writing new material? For example, do all band members bring ideas to the table or is that primarily Jamie’s input etc?
DANIEL – Jamie, Adam and myself will usually write the lyrics. We’ll often discuss certain subjects out of interest and curiosity, and end up writing lyrics about them. For instance, I got really interested in Bog Bodies during the process for Sleeping Giant, and it was that same curiosity that led me to learn more on the subject and then write the lyrics for “Tollund Man”.
We found that this attracted a degree of interest outside of the metal community, too. The museum in Denmark where Tollund Man’s body is on display even sent us an email to ask if they could feature our music video in one of their exhibits at the museum – of course, we said yes.
OD – As mentioned, ‘Sleeping Giant’ was released at the start of the first lockdown, what plans do you have for the album, as it’s clearly obvious that it didn’t get the attention that it deserves, as a result of Covid?
DANIEL – The thing with new bands is this; many don’t break on through until their third or fourth release. Either that, or it takes a few years for people to hear it, due to the fact that smaller bands typically have a very finite marketing/PR budget.
I don’t think you can force people to listen to a band without becoming a bit of a pest. It was unfortunately timed, as we didn’t get to promote the record with touring due to the pandemic. For many people, the album might as well be unreleased, as they haven’t heard it yet. We need to capitalize on that fact and continue to push the record while we’re writing the follow-up release.
OD – Looking to the future, when can we expect to see some new music surfacing?
Adam: if all goes to plan, then we’re thinking mid-2021. We’ve tried to use the lack of shows to our advantage and utilise the downtime to write new material. So, hopefully, it won’t be too long before we have a new record.
OD – Has this experience [the pandemic] been a source of inspiration when writing new music/lyrics?
ADAM – I can’t think of a time that the entire industry has been told “You can’t play shows”… You’re not allowed to go out and perform. It’s frustrating for all performers right now. But we have used that frustration and turned it into something creative. We can’t play live, but we can write. So, that’s the biggest focus right now.
OD – If you could work with any other artists as a collaboration, who would it be and why?
DANIEL – Personally for myself, I like to try and raise awareness of the U.K and Irelands’ burgeoning extreme metal scene (despite us not being what I would call an “extreme” band, we’re all still great friends).
So, based on that, I’d possibly say From The Bogs of Aughiska or Crimson Throne. Either that or I’d go the total opposite way and say In Flames. If we were to look outside of the metal sphere altogether, I’d say Run the Jewels. I’ve given this plenty of thought, ha!
OD – From your perspective, how do you find the current state of Metal/Underground music in the UK, regardless of the devastating effects Covid-19 has had on the live music/creative industry?
DANIEL – Before we were dealing with the pandemic, the underground metal scene here in the UK was strong, and I’m sure when this is over it will come back even stronger.
There are so many great bands and artists all around the country that have a lower profile than the mainstream, but I think that’s where the beauty lies. Seeing a four-band bill in a small cramped room with 100 sweaty people. I love those kinds of shows, they feel more genuine to me.
OD – To date, what has been the most memorable moment for Atarka and what are you hoping for come 2022?
Adam: There have been so many. Releasing ‘Sleeping Giant‘ and hearing all the great feedback from critics and fans has been the most memorable. People seem to really love the record, which is what this is all about really – making music that people can enjoy.
In 2022 we’re hoping we’ll be able to get back on stage on a regular basis, get to touring and the festival circuit. Then we just have to keep writing and look to the next releases.
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‘SLEEPING GIANT‘ is out now. Buy your copy here.