Pourin’ One Out: Four Promising Atlanta Bands That Called It Quits in 2017
...and four that thankfully didn’t.
So often, a city’s local music scene exists in only one time and place. Even in the age of Bandcamp and Spotify, barely a few bands escape their hometown city limits. The rest persist and grow old, or they disintegrate and fallen members form new groups with the other local musicians who suffered similar fates.
2017 Atlanta meant Beltline expansions, substantial “luxury” condominium developments, an influx of major tech companies, Y’allywood, and the inevitable resulting gentrification. These were the ingredients that formed a local music scene led by angry post-punk and disjointed, disillusioned art rock. (Plus some dance music in between.)
The reasons vary for why groups like these break up. Perhaps part time jobs became careers. Significant others demanded more money, more attention. Bandmates grew to despise inevitable hierarchy. We are not here to keep record of the reasons why a promising young band fell apart, however; we are here to pay our respects to great music and help identify and catalogue bands that may otherwise be forgotten.
With just two LPs to their name, Warehouse quickly received acclaim as an Atlanta staple and standout. Throughout Atlanta, there exists a strong post-2000 tradition of atmospheric yet technically savvy rock, notably demonstrated by Deerhunter, Atlanta’s most famous breakout band of recent memory. What primarily distinguished Warehouse were Elaine Edenfield’s chalky vocals, which overlaid an intriguing grunge quality atop the band’s complex interlocked instrumentation. Warehouse is best introduced by their debut full-length, Tesseract.
As self-described on their Bandcamp page, “Jock Gang plays harsh art rock, forming abstract sonic paintings with a broad palette of sound. Songs follow intuitive structures, noise grafted onto noise, with subtle pop melodies rising from the din.” Singer and songwriter Jared Collins would be the first to admit the inescapability of pop in his music, and his approach of organically embracing, then deliberately evading “pop” as a vague musical entity. Surely Jock Gang is “pop,” but what isn’t? Their songs’ textures are complex-minimal on tape, brash and abrasive when played on stage. During the band’s brief three-year stint, Jock Gang opened for Deerhunter on two multi-state tours.
Where are they now? Jared and his wife Kimberly continue to write and play music in their garage, occasionally performing with Sister Sai.
Downtown Atlanta doesn’t offer much these days. On the blocks surrounding government buildings, homeless occupy the landings of abandoned storefronts and busy lawyers hurriedly make their way past the parked cop cars and courthouse attendees. But come sundown, the litigators make way for artists and attendees who visit the numerous DIY venues that started popping up several years ago, funded by city grants in their effort to revitalize the downtown blocks. Mammal Gallery, co-founded and co-owned by Chris Yonker, leads the pack as a three-story studio, all-age venue, and exhibition space. Fittingly, Yonker also fronted Hello Ocho, one of Atlanta’s most innovative and talented musical acts, known for its spurts of catchy psychedelic rock amidst sequences of Chris Childs’ sprawling jazz vibraphone and Clinton Callahan’s electric bass. Sadly, the band called it quits in the middle of last year, but those in Atlanta have one final chance to see the band play a romantic one-off reunion show on Valentine’s Day, in celebration of the anniversary of drummer John Gregg and his fiancé, Emily Stover.
Where are they now? Yonker continues to manage Mammal Gallery; Callahan plays bass in several Atlanta bands including local mainstay Small Reactions; Childs independently records and releases more traditional modern classical and DIY folk albums with fellow Atlanta players.
Muuy Biien represented the ever-present bridge between Athens and Atlanta. Athens, of course, is the source of countless popular acts throughout the decades: R.E.M., The B-52s, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pylon, The Whigs, of Montreal. This city, just an hour or so north of its metropolitan counterpart, serves as a bit of a training ground for aspiring musicians—and a home to many more musicians comfortable with their local status within it. Muuy Biien was made up of members from both iconic Georgian cities, led by the young vocalist Joshua Evans (their first four-track recording surfaced when he was only eighteen). The group didn’t perform their hook-filled noise punk songs for a crowd; they attacked and screamed with their instruments at the audience in their presence.
Where are they now? Spread across the country.
…and Four Bands That Are Thankfully Still Kicking
2017 was a good year for Atlanta three-piece Omni. A tour through Europe, an acclaimed sophomore release, and lots of journalistic love helped the band find their footing. On stage, their modest square-footage adds to the casual quality of their technical, minimalistic presence. The ever-nonchalant Frankie Boyles (ex-Deerhunter) and bassist/vocalist Philip Frobos deserve all the love they receive.
Dance rock does not typically prevail in Atlanta, but Dot.s have found their stride. Often performing at Atlanta’s smaller venues (The Earl, The 529), Dot.s fills eighty-person capacity rooms with swirling color lights, synth, trumpet, and LCD Soundsystem–esque rhythm. Lead singer Ryan James has a knack for shy-dancing and slow-build compositions that pay off every time. Their most recent release is a twelve-minute EP titled “Down Goes the Elephant.”
Art School Jocks
This four-piece, all-female pop grunge group boasts the catchiest tunes in this list. In mid-2017, their debut six-song self-titled EP was released via Father/Daughter Records, an independent label with a knack for picking up young polished acts that gain quick and steady popularity. If Art School Jocks continue to release tracks on par with “Just a Gwen,” they will be on track to surpass local status by the end of 2018.
Punk and post-punk are terms that, through diluting overuse, become increasingly confused with each generation of artists. It’s hard to know what’s not punk these days; similarly, isn’t everything post-“punk”…post-punk? The reason for this tirade is that every once in a while a band comes about that truly evokes the sound and culture of what organically grew to mean punk. Nurse prove themselves such a band. Their shows are authentically violent, raw, and visceral. Their recordings are, too. FL