British indie rockers Air Traffic have a lot going for them. Their songs are infectious, they rock a lot harder than most of their contemporaries and they've already received a great deal of buzz, considering they released their debut CD, Fractured Life, just last year. Earlier this month the Bournemouth band set off on its first U.S. tour, which includes a May 18 Chicago stop at Reggie's.
Fractured Life is a rarity in its genre - an album on which every song has its own personality while remaining cohesive and entertaining throughout. From the cocky rock and roll swagger of Come On and Never Even Told Me Her Name to the raucous jolt of Charlotte to the piano-driven introspection of Empty Space, the disc is a feast of styles fit to please any indie rock mood. The album has already caused quite a stir in the band's native land, with singles Charlotte and Shooting Star scoring significant airplay and chart success.
Frontman Chris Wall took some time out to fill us in about the tour, the future and why he's most looking forward to showering while in town. Read on...
The tour so far has been really enjoyable. The response from the audiences, no matter what size, has been overwhelming...I think those are my most unexpected moments! The show that was most enjoyable for me was probably last night in Dallas.
I noticed you guys recently played a church. What was that like?
Uh...I don't recommend it. There were pews and everything, it was a bit uncomfortable!
As this is your first full tour of the States, how would you describe U.S. audiences compared to U.K. audiences? Have there been any differences between the two that have surprised you?
The crowds here seem to be more open to new music. We were opening for Elbow, and very often in the UK people don't really give the opening act much attention, but I was really surprised over here...people came right up to the stage and didn't talk through our set and were really fun to play to.
You’re coming to Chicago Sunday…have you ever played or been here? What do you know about it and is there anything in specific you’re looking forward to while in town?
Never been. Shamelessly I actually have no idea what's there to see or do, so the thing I'm most looking forward to is a shower in a hotel.
For people who don’t know about Air Traffic, how would you describe your sound? What do you think sets Air Traffic apart from other bands?
We are basically British indie rock. What sets us apart from other bands is that we write great songs...which I think are becoming more and more rare these days. I can't even listen to the radio any more with all the shit that they play. We don't write for the radio and we don't write for an audience. We write for ourselves, and people just happen to like it. We're pretty diverse so it's hard to say what we're like. When we play live we have a lot of energy, and always put 100 percent into our music.
Do you have any favorite tracks on Fractured Life? Are there songs you particularly like to play live?
I love to play Shooting Star live... it's usually a crowd winner. Favorite track on Fractured Life is probably Come On.
Do you prefer playing live or recording in the studio?
Bit of both. I used to hate live, but now I'm really getting into it and I don't freak out so much before going on stage. There's something really comfortable about studios, though...I love being locked away in a little music world like that.
You guys have known each other and been playing together for a while. When was the first time you really thought to yourself, “Wow, this could be something big?”
The first time I really thought it was after having six months away from the band -we kind of disbanded, actually - traveling around Australia and New Zealand. I downloaded our demo stuff off our Web site at the time to play to a friend and she was bowled over by them...that's when I thought seriously about getting the band back on its feet.
How do you all get along on the road?
Usually pretty good. There are good and bad days, you just have to roll with it. I feel sorry for interviewers when they get us on a bad day, we can be a bit miserable. Ha. A couple of days some girl had to break me and Dave apart while we were trying to kick the shit out of each other in the street. But we're fine now. It's always booze and women.
Tell me a bit about the Air Traffic songwriting process, from how the songs start to how they end up sounding on the album.
A song can come in minutes. You just get an idea in your head and run with it. But it takes a long time for songs to fall into their right place - usually we need to play a song live so many times before we're actually comfortable with it. And when you get to recording it you can mess with it all over again. When we've got a new idea we just play it over and over and everyone works out their individual parts. It's a pretty open book, but it works best if someone has some kind of idea with where it's going.
How do you feel about your songs being played on shows such as One Tree Hill, The Hills and Kyle XY?
I think anything that gets us a little more exposure is a good thing. I don't want to "sell out" at all, but in such a huge country you've got to do what you can to get your songs around.
I noticed you guys take a pretty interactive approach to communicating with fans through blogs on MySpace and your official site. That’s something a lot of other bands don’t do. What do you think the benefits are to taking this approach?
It's actually really enjoyable, that's why we do it. It brings your fans closer to you, and it also drives us to keep making music.
What’s next for Air Traffic after the tour? What do you hope for the band in the future?
There's no limit to what I hope for Air Traffic. I want to play to the whole world. Sometimes I don't think I'll ever be satisfied however far we get...but that's what drives me so hard, trying to reach a goal that's always getting further away. The next thing we need to do is write and record a new album that's better than the last one!