I think about what influences artists a lot. That might seem like a “well, yeah,” from the guy who does a show dissecting metal and hardcore artists’ musical inspirations, but the reason I do that is because it’s how I think. I often wonder about what inspires the artists as people. Not so much where they get ideas; as Neil Gaiman said, “I make them up, out of my head.” No, it’s a step before that. What gets artists into that space where they can create?
When I first heard f.e.a.r. by Stand Atlantic, one of my immediate thoughts was ‘I would love to sit down and take this band apart.’ The songs are so diverse that figuring out something about the artists who made them would really be fascinating. Not a few days after I had the thought, I was sitting down with Bonnie Fraser of Stand Atlantic (working for idobi has its perks, y’all), and the inspiration question must have been on my mind pretty heavily. Otherwise, I don’t know how to explain the rabbit holes we went down.
Fairly early on, Fraser shared, “Inside, I was angry as fuck at the world, obviously, so that’s where the all cynicism on the album’s come from. I was just so angry. I went to therapy over COVID and stuff. I couldn’t deal with it.” You really can pick up the anger and the cynicism on the record. It’s not front-to-back rage, but it’s there, and it’s an undercurrent you can feel as you listen. And that tracks: People who are happy and doing great don’t often make great art. But Fraser was more than just angry. “And not only the situation of being locked in your house and not being able to control your life, and having that taken away from you. . . but like, even my personal life, there were things going on that were not good,” she said. “It was just a lot, and I honestly just felt like I was in, like, someone’s video game. Like, it didn’t feel real. And I didn’t feel myself.”
There is another thing I have envied about artists for a while, too, and that’s the way they can take anger, pain, doubt, and uncertainty and turn it into something that connects with other people. I can’t do that. When I get upset, I take an edible and binge-watch crap TV from the 90s. When Fraser gets upset, she and Stand Atlantic create a fantastic album. “I wanted the old me back,” Fraser said, “and I didn’t know how to get there because I couldn’t live my life. Just not having any control over your life and path. . .that’s just what all the songs are kind of about, and I was in that headspace the entire time.”
Emotion is just one part of what makes up that atmosphere to create. We’re inspired, sometimes, by everything around us. And when everything around us compresses to four walls but somehow expands to include the entire world, things can get weird. For Fraser and producer/songwriter Stevie Knight, it came together in self-isolation. “At the end of the day, when me and Stevie were locking ourselves away in his apartment for seven weeks, we were watching a lot of old-school documentaries, just a bunch of movies and stuff like that. It wasn’t so much music that was influencing us, it was our whole environment at the time. I mean, we were being dicks the entire time, laughing and. . .I don’t know. It’s so strange.”
I get watching a bunch of documentaries while isolated. I probably watched Until the Light Takes Us more times than is healthy (which, incidentally, is twice). Another thing that set the atmosphere during Fraser and Knight’s seven-week lockdown was music. Lots of it. There’s no method or pattern to what they were listening to, which I totally feel because I was the same way. You end up chasing Chelsea Wolfe – Live at Roadburn with Power in Numbers by Jurassic 5. It’d make no sense if you tried to explain it to someone who’s not into music. Fraser felt the same, “I mean, musically we were listening to literally everything, I couldn’t even pin it down to one or two artists,” Fraser said. “Someone will ask you, like, ‘what are you into?’ And you’re just like, ugh. . .you know, music? And you sound like you don’t like music at all, don’t you?”
When you spend a lot of time each week talking about music, about the music that influences artists, as a matter of fact, sometimes the influences aren’t musical at all. “I mean, yeah, we were listening to music, but at the end of the day, I feel like we’re so overcritical of music. . .and if you like something, you’re like ‘well, I don’t want to rip that off, and it already exists, so why would we wanna do that?’ We try to take influence from something else,” Fraser said. “Even, like, a conversation we were having that day that’s a bit deeper. . .and that influences a concept to a song, and you can kinda build everything else around it.”
Despite literally everything Fraser and I talked about, f.e.a.r. isn’t a doom-and-gloom record. There’s poppy stuff on it. Some of the songs are downright upbeat. “On the record, there’s just heaps of moments of me and Stevie or the guys just having a fucking giggle, because you can be feeling this way, but as long as you’ve got mates around you, and people that you like having fun with, you can always make a joke out of a shitty situation,” Fraser said. “You can always find some kind of positivity in that.”
At one point during our talk, I mentioned I was happy to see Tom The Mail Man popping up on a track. I’m a fan. As it happens, this was the first time Stand Atlantic had done much in the way of collaborations and there were a few of them on the album. “I am so stoked we got the three people we have,” Fraser said. “nothing,nowhere. was our top pick for that song, and we just put it off for ages, because we were like ‘well, he’s not gonna say yes, so there’s no point,’ and then it turned out that he liked the song, and wanted to do it. It was awesome and he’s such a talented dude. Royal & The Serpent is absolutely killing it, and her voice is super unique, so I just fuck with that hard. And same for Tom The Mail Man, as well. He’s killer and I really like what he’s done to the song, given it a different energy. And that’s what I really like about collaborations.”
Near the end of our conversation, Fraser and I talked about touring and what that might look like after all the world-changing seriousness of the last couple of years. It turns out, sometimes the best way to deal with the issues is to leave them back in that apartment. “It’ll be so nice to be back on the road, though,” she said. “Nothing will beat this. Nothing beats escaping your problems. It’s sick. And everyone should do it.”