Bad Copy

Matt Allison
Interview

Atlas Studios: Turnspit, Still Alive, and The Menzingers Talk Chicago’s Famous Studio

Fest 16

Atlas Studios – the words are synonymous with Chicago Punk. From Alkaline Trio to Textbook to almost every notable band Brendan Kelly has been in (The BroadwaysLawrence ArmsThe Falcon, etc.) to The Traitors to The Methadones to The Smoking Popes and so many more, Atlas has been the rock in Chicago’s music recording scene for years. The studio has also lured in some amazing out-of-towners such as Cobra SkullsDead to MeThe MenzingersMurderburgers, and Less Than Jake.

To help celebrating over twenty years of Atlas, we have teamed up with the studio and will be releasing interviews with band members who have recorded there throughout the years, the engineers, and with the man himself – Matt Allison.

Check out the first part of our project, an interview with Matt Allison, and the second part, interviews with Brendan of The Lawrence Arms, Ken and Daryl of The Bollweevils, and Dan of Alkaline Trio now!


 

The term ‘up and coming’ no longer does justice to Chicago locals Turnspit. The band started sporadically playing shows on the North Side of the city in 2015. Since then, they have picked up steam and fans, gracing stages all over the city and playing heavy hitter shows like The Lawrence Arms’ War on Xmas and Riot Fest. I talked with singer/guitarist Gillian about all things Atlas.

Kendra Sheetz

What brought you to Atlas?

Turnspit

Well, first and foremost, our drummer Dan Tinkler is one of the main sound engineers at Atlas. He’s done a lot of great work there with bands and on the business side of things. So financially and logistically, it just made sense. But on a musical level, Atlas is something of a legendary studio in Chicago for punk rock. So, to be a part of that roster is pretty incredible.

Kendra Sheetz

What was your favorite thing recorded there?

Turnspit

I’m gonna break the rules and choose two. Greatest Story Ever Told by The Lawrence Arms and On the Impossible Past by The Menzingers.

I got into Greatest Story when I was in high school and have so many memories of just driving around in my mom’s minivan at night alone –or in my boyfriends’ cars — just screaming the words. That record and that band really lead me into a different style of punk rock that I hadn’t explored and it’s what I’ve stuck with since. I think “The Disaster March” is one of the best songs ever written and I’ve cried to “The Revisionist” too many times to count. It’s angry and chaotic, but also so raw and painfully beautiful.

On the Impossible Past came to me at one of the most difficult times of my life. Mentally, I was a total wreck and was dealing with a lot of stress from several areas of my life. I heard “Gates” on Spotify radio and it stopped me dead in my tracks. The album art intrigued me and when it opened up with “Good Things,” I knew I found something special. That album is the nearest thing to perfection I’ve ever listened to. The melodies and the lyrics are so gripping to me and I love, love, love the guitar tones on that record.

Greatest Story and On the Impossible Past manage to create a world that I want to be engulfed in, whether I’m happy in my reality or not. They provide this beautiful escape for me when I need it, or just want it. It’s powerful, melodic, emotional songwriting and I feel like you can hear that influence in Turnspit. And I feel like I need to say, in a very close second is Four One Five Two by Sundowner. I want “Midsummer Classic” to be playing in the background during all of my life’s most beautiful moments.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story which occurred within the walls of Atlas?

Turnspit

A favorite story is a tough one. I’ve been hanging around Atlas a fair amount the last couple years, but there was nothing like recording our upcoming full-length Desire Paths.

It was great to just be together as a band and as friends and just work on all these songs. We had so much fun during that time, you start to get weird after hanging out together for days on end, ya know? I specifically remember Googling whether lips and buttholes are made of the same bodily tissue (they aren’t) and Dan made lots of jokes about his hot dad. We also spelled out a bunch of weird things our tracking chart when we’d finish an instrument or vocals for a particular song.

Kendra Sheetz

What is the best restaurant or bar to go to when posted up at Atlas and why?

Turnspit

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I would just get groceries over at Jewel! It’s so easy to just order a bunch of garbage food (especially in the winter when we recorded), but it’s not the best for your body or even your voice. So I’d just buy a bunch of vegetables and healthier snacks so I didn’t get all bloaty or farty (to be fair, I’m always a little farty).

But yeah, the Jewel is cheaper, healthier, and it gets you out of the studio for a little while. There aren’t any windows in there, so it’s good to get some fresh air when ya can.

As for booze, I would get some at Jewel, but Gman is where it’s at for hangs, for sure. We have a lot of friends over there and they’re always spinning good tunes and serving up great drinks. It’s nice to wind down there after long days in the studio.

Kendra Sheetz

If you could have been at the studio during the recording of one iconic album, which would it be and why?

Turnspit

I mean, part of my wishes I was there during On the Impossible Past so I could make Greg Barnett fall in love with me and write sad songs about me. But, you know the old adage… “You can’t mix sad with sad!” Hahah.

Bt seriously, I’d want to be there for Oh! Calcutta!, another great Arms record, start to finish it has such a strong feel and sound. The vocal dynamics and deliveries are super tight and interesting. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for the recording of that album.

Barely a week goes by where I don’t see a “Why is Still Alive not the biggest band in Chicago” style post on my Facebook newsfeed. (Granted, most of those may be made by Denis Buckley of 88 Fingers Louie). But the truth of the matter is that they’re good. Damn good, in fact. I chatted with Dan of Still Alive about what drew their band to the legendary punk studio and their time there.

Kendra Sheetz

What brought you to Atlas?

Still Alive

We were initially drawn to Atlas because some of our favorite bands recorded there and their quality of work is top notch! Then we got to know Justin Yates (Atlas engineer) and that sealed the deal.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite thing that was recorded there?

Still Alive

I don’t know about that specific location, but under the Atlas name I’d call it a tie between Goddamnit by Alkaline Trio The Romance of Helen Trent by The Killing Tree. The records are two totally different styles and it’s a good example of the studio’s versatility.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story which occurred within the walls of Atlas?

Still Alive

Hanging out and having beers til 4AM after shows was always a blast. The best time that comes to mind is watching Elway and company dumpster a giant box of pizza, like thirty deep dish slices and then eating all of it.

Kendra Sheetz

What is the best restaurant/bar to go to when posted up at Atlas and why?

Still Alive

Art of Pizza is the go to. It’s across the street, the slices are well priced, and they have good daily specials. If pizza isn’t your style, the Whole Foods a couple blocks down is the runner up. The Jewel next door gets an honorable mention.

Kendra Sheetz

If you could have been at the studio during the recording of one iconic album, which would it be and why?

Still Alive

It would’ve been cool to witness the making of Goddamnit. It’s one of my favorite records and it would have been interesting to see it all come together piece by piece.

Any article or interview about Atlas would be remiss if it did not mention The Menzingers. While there have always been a handful of out of towners who has passed through and recorded at Atlas, The Menzingers are most likely the most famous of the modern day bands. Tom was kind enough to recount his time there, memories of Red Scare, Art of Pizza’s special slice of the day, and more.

Kendra Sheetz

What brought you to Atlas?

The Menzingers

Chamberlain Waits was our first record with Red Scare Industries. They had a whole operation going where Toby (Jeg) and Brendan (Kelly) found bands and they reeled ‘em in and sent em over to Atlas. Just the idea of going to another city to record a full length was mind blowing, let alone to go to Chicago and to Atlas studio of all places. So many legendary records and stories came out of there. The whole thing was magical.

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite thing that was recorded there?

The Menzingers

Oh! Calcutta!

Kendra Sheetz

What is your favorite story which occurred within the walls of Atlas?

The Menzingers

Well, I’m not going to put my favorite stories into a physical form in order to protect the identities of those involved.

I don’t think that I have a favorite story persay, but my favorite times at Atlas started out with Matt sending one of us to Jewel Osco to buy a case of Busch Lite. When we were done for the day we would all stand around the kitchen island slowly getting drunk and smashing down cigarettes like they were going out of style (which they certainly were, none of us smoke anymore let alone inside). We would talk about life and music, recording, JFK, Chicago, Philadelphia, you name it. It was always snowing and freezing cold outside but so warm and comfortable in there. They’re some of my fondest memories.

Kendra Sheetz

What is the best restaurant/bar to go to when posted up at Atlas and why?

The Menzingers

Gman for reasons apparent to anyone who visits there. I’d be so remiss not to include Art of Pizza where I had each day’s special at least once.

Kendra Sheetz

If you could have been at the studio during the recording of one iconic album, which would it be and why?

The Menzingers

I’m going to mention it twice and say Oh! Calcutta! Those guys (Lawrence Arms) are some of my favorite people that I’ve met. It was be such a bright experience to see them working together with Matt in a fun and creative environment. I bet it was fucking wild.

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