J-Sun Atoms (of the Upsidedown) Interview
Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music.
With the effects of 2004’s Dig! still reeling throughout modern rock, The Upsidedown serve as the link between new and old; between neo-psychedelia and modern garage. Forming over the course of a few years following the break-up of shoegazers The Bella Low lead singer J-Sun Atoms and the other members of The Upsides look to formulate a sound that takes the best parts of the psychedelic rock into the future. In this interview Atoms discusses Dig! and the parties and enlightening gatherings that followed, comparisons between his bands old and new and Brian Hollywood’s recent return to join The BJM on stage.
As the story goes, The Upsidedown formed in 2003 after the break-up of The Bella Low. How do the two bands differ and what caused the change in direction?
J-Sun Atoms: With the way the time continuum worked, The Bella Low broke apart and then Clint andL formed the High Violets in 1999 and then I didn’t form The Upsidedown until 2003, even then it took from 2001 until 2003 for The Upsidedown to come to itself. The directional changes are a proverbial stew of all the members included in this project and some of the same aspects continue in the undercurrent of the songs.
What was the intrigue to go from shoegaze to psychedelic?
J-Sun Atoms: The Bella Low had some of the shoegaze aspects, but it was too much of an entertainment spectacle to be labeled strictly shoegaze. Directional shifts are always occurring and I don’t see it as a turn as much as another gear or a ticket for another train on similar tracks.
Between the band’s formation and its present state, how has its sound changed or grown?
J-Sun Atoms: We know each other and the familiarity is allowing us to trust in the significance of our own experience. Sometimes it’s simple and direct, sometimes it’s ethereal and elusive…I would say half of the amazing stuff we have done has evaporated into the atmosphere, other songs have condensated and rain down and some stick like snow.
If you had to explain the sound of 2004’s Trust Electricity to someone who had never heard your music before, what would you tell them?
J-Sun Atoms: Fuzz pop light. There are many influences there, but most of all it’s our music.
How does your band’s music reflect its Northwestern roots?
J-Sun Atoms: There are some really great bands in the Northwest. It’s hard not to be influenced when you are playing with amazing bands like Hypatia Lake, The Village Green, The Dandy Warhols, The Sun The Sea. You just are touched whether you intend to be or not.
As the band is currently touring, what do you do to take a moment for yourself and have a good time?
J-Sun Atoms: We try to do at least one amazing thing in each city that locals say we should see or else we try to take in the town and get a feel for its underbelly. We had an amazing time at Museum Mechanique in San Francisco. In Arizona we went and saw “the thing” off the highway. I love the outsider art in strange places. The best thing about “the thing” was someone had painted all of this ‘found’ wood into creatures. In Seattle, I’m in love with Ye Olde Curiousity Shoppe and Sylvester the Cowboy Mummy.
You have both The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre listed as “friends” of The Upsides on MySpace. Did you see the film Dig!? If so (and without clumping bands together based on genre alone, but…), how did it speak to you and does its story translate to your band at all?
JA: The movie uses footage from some of the shows that The Bella Low opened for the Dandys and that was just a really magical time to be a band in that Portland scene. One of my favorite memories is an after party at Peter Dandy’s parents’ house and everyone was in the pool all night and Anton sat on the side of the pool with an acoustic and played songs to everyone until the sun came up. We just played a show with Peter’s new side project The Sun and the Sea… it’s really dreamy and verve-like. Courtney is a sweetheart, generous and intelligent. Fathead is a guru, and I had a blast at a BBQ at Zia’s house a few weeks ago, she is a force of nature. This year we played the night before BJM and the Dandy’s at Musicfest NW. But wow! BJM were so great and Matt Hollywood joined them on stage and the Dandys played out of their minds with some really great walls of sound.
Speaking of MySpace, how do you feel its growth has helped the band’s success, likewise with online music sites, blogs if you will?
J-Sun Atoms: We have people from all over the world that are touched by the music and I love that. I don’t like the spam emails from so many bands that say “we saw you are a friend of who ever and so please check out our new music,” sometimes it’s too much and it makes people turn off their sincerity. But overall I love the amount of interest it generates. I just like the genuine interest and we attempt to friend people that seem interesting or have a certain theme running through their blog.
If The Upsides had one last gig, and could share a stage with one band only, who would that band be?
J-Sun Atoms: The Stone Roses.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]