Manitoba Music’s Snack Sessions video series featuring emerging local artists that streams live via Facebook. Read on and stay tuned for more Snack Sessions. Snack Sessions is made possible by the support of Corus Entertainment, with snacks provided by Tomahawk Chips and Half Pints Brewing Company.
By Graeme Houssin
After a busy year, the map is only getting bigger for synthy R&B triad ATLAAS.
While they’ve played a number of high-profile festivals and shows within the past six months – including Real Love Winnipeg’s New Year’s Eve bash, Big Fun Festival, Festival du Voyageur, and the Manitoba Music Export showcase at NXNE – notoriety and expansion wasn’t always the goal for singer-songwriter and ATLAAS frontwoman Heather Thomas when she started playing as ATLAAS years ago.
“When I first started playing out and being a part of the local scene, it was a challenge because I was very afraid and had a lot of self-doubt,” says Thomas. “What drove me wasn’t a vision; it was a fear, or a growth.”
Five years, two EPs and two new bandmates later, ATLAAS is a mainstay in Winnipeg’s local scene, and Thomas is prepared for growth.
“I’ve gotten to the place in the last couple of years where I am looking ahead and I am planning for the next step and trying to make moves towards it,” she says.
While ATLAAS’ sound draws from many genres – “I usually would say like, R&B pop or electro-R&B, but it’s tough to say exactly what it is,” says Thomas – her pop-approach to songwriting felt singular, especially at the time of her debut in January of 2014. From the beginning, ATLAAS embraced the “guilty pleasures” of fun, cheery pop music.
“My songs are pop songs,” says Thomas. “They’re trying to have a hook; they’re trying to tell a story.”
Because of the last few years’ push for more inclusion in the local scene, Thomas says she’s excited to find ATLAAS among artists of varying perspectives, musical backgrounds, and influences bringing new sounds and inspiration to the local scene.
“Having all those perspectives now is opening up doors and the music people grew up loving that wasn’t ‘cool rock music’ or whatever is able to have a voice is someone else," says Thomas.
Beyond a set at Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival in Portage La Prairie this August, ATLAAS plans to be touring this September and writing new material. The experience of collaborating with two bandmates – Charlotte Friesen on electric guitar and Luke Janzen on drums – is a new one for Thomas as she recalibrates her approach to arranging music.
“It’s a bit of a different process,” says Thomas. “And because we have more time, it’s taking more time.”
Although the technicalities of arranging and composing a track has shifted – as Thomas had all her songs prepared before Friesen and Janzen’s addition to the outfit – her songwriting technique stays the same. It comes from a personal place, an exploration of love in its many forms – including self-love.
“Writing [is] a way of taking a step back and analyze how I’m feeling and expressing myself without being too vulnerable, right, because you’re not actually telling the person how you feel,” says Thomas. “You’re just telling the world!”
Keep an ear out for new music from ATLAAS in the upcoming year. Until then, listen to their 2018 self-tilted EP on their Manitoba Music profile.
Stay tuned for more Snack Sessions...