Atala – (Dis)Colored SandsSaturday, 14th May 2016
Too bad more metal gents don’t speak their mind the way Atala’s Kyle Stratton does. It sure would make traditional interviews a bit more interesting. But toeing the line, playing nice, back-slapping, hand-shaking, et al, doesn’t appear to be the man’s thing, and it shouldn’t—Atala are effectively in their own little bubble in the high desert region of California. This isolation has clearly benefited the band, who have turned in one of the year’s true unsung doom albums in the form of Shaman’s Path of the Serpent. Stratton’s clean, towering vocals lead a surge of colossal riffage and well-worn compositions in the vein of The Obsessed, St. Vitus, and of course, Kyuss. With that in mind, we grabbed Stratton for a quick round of questions via email. Here’s how the man responded…
Dead Rhetoric: To you, what does “high desert” rock represent?
Kyle Stratton: To me, the high desert is quite simply where we are from. A tiny town called Twentynine Palms that absolutely no one has ever heard of. When I formed Atala, I was definitely inspired by local heavy music, especially Kyuss. What is great about the scene up here is it isn’t about sounding the same. We are so secluded that we aren’t exposed to all this L.A. or big city bullshit where every band sounds the same. Not to sound negative, but I hate shows where you can’t read the band names and they all sound the same with no melody. To me, that’s boring
Dead Rhetoric: Would Atala sound different if say, you were from the Eastern part of the U.S.?
Stratton: I am not sure because we aren’t there, but, what I do know is we have never once sat down and said to one and other, “We want to sound like this band or that band.” We just kind of do what we feel and see what happens. I do believe we definitely went into this project wanting to express ourselves and be original. We really don’t care if people like us or if we fit in.
Dead Rhetoric: To our knowledge, at least, there aren’t very many other bands purveying the desert rock sound. Do you feel that gives Atala an instant identity?
Stratton: I feel we have our own identity because we are not trying to fit into a scene. We embrace the desert rock label because that is our home and we feel freedom and comfort at home. The space we have up here allows us to play loud at practice, no cops busting in breaking up jam sessions, just time and space to experiment and create.
Dead Rhetoric: You cite “positive motifs” in your bio. Of course being positive is very un-metal, but, why does it work for Atala?
Stratton: We are both positive and negative at times. To be completely forthright I really don’t care what is metal or un-metal, I just want to be authentic; I could give two shits what people think metal is about. I know my soul has journeyed through many hard times and experiences and because of that I am heavy. I could whisper in your ear and it could be the heaviest thought ever; I don’t have to be some fake tough guy screaming in your face to be metal. That is poser shit and to me completely homogenized. It works for us to be positive at times because it is real. I came from nothing to become a very successful person and I have nothing to be angry about except the horrible state of mankind (war, greed, injustice). I try not to focus on the latter because I know we become what we create as a whole and I want to do my part to inspire change.
Dead Rhetoric: Your vocals are one of the best facets of the band. With vocals becoming less and less important in metal, was it important to you to showcase that you can sing, and, that they can work well in this context?
Stratton: I am not a fan of this current trend in metal where the vocals and melody mean nothing. I started to create music because I am a poet and I grew up singing in the choir. I love bands who are unafraid to express other emotions than anger. It takes a truly tough man to express sorrow, despair, or pain without disguising it in anger. It is important to me to show I can sing because I can. I feel it separates us from the herd. All talent should be utilize when creating art, I should not force myself to scream if it feels unnatural to me.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with Scott Reeder and Billy Anderson. What kind of lessons did you learn from them?
Stratton: Wow, so much! Scott really taught us how to record a professional album and to be prepared for the recording process. He also taught us the importance of slowing down and leaving space, to only state a couple. I personally have learned a lot more from the man about so many things some of which are personal. I love the guy with all my heart. Billy taught us to be perfectionist and to really focus on every last detail of the creative process, to keep molding and molding. He is a fucking mad scientist and he really taught us how to capture our tone and really make the album as heavy as we are. He is also an amazing individual and it was an amazing time working with him, such a heavy person.
Dead Rhetoric: And you’ve had experience in prior bands. Have you taken previous lessons learned and applied them to Atala?
Stratton: Truth be told, I have never taken any lessons. I play my way. I never wanted to learn to play the ways of another, I always wanted my own style, tuning and picking techniques as to not copy the techniques of another. I am not sure if this is my strength or weakness or both, but it is what it is.
Dead Rhetoric: Is having a beard a prerequisite to being in Atala?
Stratton: Ha-ha. No, we just look this way because we live in a military town with a predominant right wing perspective. I think the beards are symbols of freedom and counter culture for us. We really don’t care about image.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s the rest of 2016 hold?
Stratton: We are touring to Oregon in May to play the Central Oregon Metal Fest, then we are touring to Maryland in June to play the Maryland Doom Fest with The Obsessed, which is very exciting for us, Then, we are taking some time off to finish writing another album and discuss strategy for 2017. We are hoping to find the right team to advance Atala and get to Europe. We will be working towards our goals independently until we find the right team with the right fit.