SXSW Feature Series Part V: Air Traffic Controller
From the band's BIO page at www.airtrafficcontrollermusic.com (we thought their story was interesting!)
Serving in the US Navy as a real-life air traffic controller, singer/songwriter Dave Munro sent home 4-track demos he had written and recorded during his deployment. With his enlistment up, Munro returned to hometown Boston and discovered an impressive number of fans, prompting the genesis of the aptly-named rock band Air Traffic Controller.
With a refreshing, modern day, indie rock sound resembling The Decemberists, ATC further infuses its compositions with unforgettable pop sensibilities in the vein of Petty, McCartney, and Springsteen. Munro keeps it honest, with autobiographical lyrics and well-crafted storytelling reminiscent of classic singer/songwriters such as Paul Simon and Cat Stevens.
One of Dave’s demos reached LA-based singer/songwriter and record producer Bleu. Munro states; “I was floored to find out one of my musical heroes wanted to produce us. With Bleu onboard, the production is much more epic” and in December of 2009 the band released its debut album, The One to a zealous audience. Accolades and award nominations soon followed, as did airplay on tastemaker radio stations such as 92.5 The River and WFNX, as well as positive coverage in publications such as Business Week, Performer Magazine, The Boston Globe, and The Boston Phoenix.
Nominated for an MTV “Best Break-Out Artist” Video Music Award in late 2009 and winner of "Best Indie Rock Act" of the 2010 Boston Music Conference, Air Traffic Controller soon found itself on many of the Northeast media outlet's Best-Of lists.
Fast forward to 2011, Air Traffic Controller were ready for round two with Bleu. Having a home-run success on Kickstarter and raising over $12k to support the production of “Nordo” – the team set out and made a brilliant All-American Indie Pop record that can call up musical references to Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons and Brendan Benson. Taking advantage of band member Steve Scott’s experience with composing, the band went the distance and recorded a forty piece orchestra on the song “Blame.” This new album also features band member Casey Sullivan singing on two duets “You Know Me” and “Any Way.”
This year, the band has debuted songs from “Nordo” around New England in venues like the Tupelo Music Hall in NH, Acoustic Long Island, and Boston’s legendary singer-songwriter venue Club Passim. Dave and members of Air Traffic Controller were hand-picked by WERS and Reykjavik Calling to play with Eli “Paperboy” Reed and Will Dailey at The Paradise Rock Club for an unforgettable evening of collaborations with Iceland’s top emerging artists. WXRV has also hand picked the band to perform at the historic 92.5 the River Music Hall for their series Live In The River Music Hall which will air on the station and on Comcast On Demand starting in May.
The band’s music has been used by Disney World Resorts, Ecko and Hollister stores worldwide, and licensed to Lincoln/Mercury, NBC Television, USA and CW Networks. The band will also have a featured musical intro in an upcoming episode of MTV’s scripted show Inbetweeners. WERS Radio calls Air Traffic Controller “One of Boston's finest independent bands” and during the height of The One’s radio campaign the band’s debut became one of the top three most-added albums on college radio stations nationwide.
The band features Dave Munro on lead vocals and guitar; multi-instrumentalist Steve Scott on lead guitar, keys, and more; big brother Richie Munro on drums; Casey Sullivan on bass, banjo, and backing vocals; with violinist Alison Shipton and Kiara Perico on viola. The band often performs live accompanied on stage by an entire string section to capture and recreate its brilliant, full sound... one that consistently identifies Air Traffic Controller as one of the fastest rising original acts in the country.
Answers from Dave Munro - lead singer/guitarist/songwriter:
How do you feel about the business of music licensing (film, tv, video games)?
The business of music licensing is something we're constantly aware of and excited about. Film, TV, and video games have always used music in the background but I think it's quite different today. Not only is there more of a "who is that band I'm hearing" feeling coming from the audience, but the music seems to be used more creatively, and it's simply better music than what used to appear on soundtracks. The process of placing a song, from our experience, was confusing at first, but like any contract, easy to understand when it's all broken down by a professional (manager/lawyer). Artists need to have music licensing on the brain for survival purposes. Bands from other eras made loads of money from other avenues that just aren't as profitable these days, they also had other means of exposure, but things have changed, and are still changing in this industry.
How do you feel about bands as composers? (Will Butler & Own Pallett’s Her score was mentioned as a reference)
I think it's beautiful that the music and film worlds can collide like this and be so successful. It seems like major soundtracks and scores have been dominated by a few key brilliant composers in the past, and I'm so glad we're seeing more bands move in and take on scoring projects. We want to do that next, our guitarist Steve Scott is quite the composer/arranger!
How do you feel about the whole “music-for-media” movement?
The music for media movement is how many brilliant musicians are making a living. Good for them!
Has your music been synched to picture?
Our song "Pick Me Up" was used at one of those special moments in an episode of Cougar Town, where the music sets the mood and the words actually mean something. It was an unbelievable feeling to know that everyone watching that show was hearing the song and be effected by it in the context of the scene. Another proud example was a series of bank commercials that were showing people making important life decisions (which require banks…), like buying a house. They used our song "You Know Me" and it really hit me how putting a song and picture together can make such an impression. The commercial likely made the viewer feel hopeful and empowered, and I can't thank them enough for letting our song play a role.
Answers from Steve Scott - guitarist/keyboards/mandolin:
How do you feel about the whole “music-for-media” movement?
I think the overall perception by artists and the public is shifting quickly to accept that music-- and particularly new music-- can quickly find a wider audience through placement in media. It used to be seen as "selling out," but in the last several years we have been seeing numerous artists breaking out through a key placement in a TV show, film or ad. With the rapid erosion of terrestrial radio, artists have needed to look to other media to get their music heard.
Has your music been synched to picture?
Yes, our music has been synched to several television shows. I think ATC's music has been a good match for licensing because our lyrics often deal with some universal themes that are central to so many stories being told on screen. I also think our music from song to song can be really eclectic instrumentally, so there is a "sound" for almost any kind of scene-- whether it be a simple bar scene or something grander and more cinematic.
What’s your favorite music supervision moment?
I really loved how Paul Thomas Anderson used Aimee Mann's music in the film "Magnolia." Here was an instance where the director in many ways built the film around the music-- even including one of Mann's lyrics in the dialogue of the film, "Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?" In another moment each of the main characters in the film sing a line from her song "Wise Up." The connection between the storytelling of this film and Aimee Mann's music was just so seamless.
Air Traffic Controller at SXSW: Eight showcases in 4 days: official showcases with FILTER Magazine, GRAMMY Museum, Sonicbids and more. Poster attached and text dates listed below.
The band was recently featured by FILTER Magazine, The Deli Magazine's SXSW edition as an Emerging Artist, SXSW.com, SoundExchange, the Guardian UK band of the day, and they have some other upcoming world-wide exposure opportunities (stay tuned!).
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER - SXSW 2014 - SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS - PRESS - TOUR DATES
3/12 - Austin Ale House & Win Within presents Fuel Our Fire - 11am
Austin Ale House - 301 W. 6th St.
3/12 - Haggar presents FILTER on Rainey Street - 3pm
Clive Bar - 609 Davis St.
3/13 - Berklee College of Music & Vanyaland SXSW Party: Boston & Beyond - 3pm
Brush Square Park Tent - 409 East 5th St.
3/13 - GRAMMY Museum’s official SXSW showcase: MUSICAL MILESTONES: THE ROLLING STONES - 8pm
Red Eye Fly - 715 Red River St.
3/14 - Sonicbids Official SXSW Party presented by JanSport & Magisto - 1:30pm
Maggie Mae's - 323 E 6th St
3/14 - Latin Works & Boondoggle Showcase - 5pm
Republic Live - 301 W 5th St.
3/15 - Best Lil’ Big Fest 2014 - 3:15pm
Tiniest Bar in Texas - 817 W. 5th St.
3/15 - Official SXSW Showcase at Stephen F's - 11pm
Stephen F's Bar - 701 Congress Ave.
"You Know Me" - over 833,000 plays on Spotify, 4,256 followers, over 180,000 plays on Soundcloud, Hit #1 on the Hype Machine
Air Traffic Controller's new animated music video PICK ME UP premieres via FILTER Magazine Media
Featured in The Deli Magazine's SXSW 2014 Issue - Emerging Artists 2014
Featured by SXSW Four On The Floor
Featured band at FILTER on Rainey Street at SXSW
Featured by Sound Exchange on Soundbyte
Winner of the Magisto & Sonicbids SXSW Video Contest
Recent promo trip of London landed Air Traffic Controller on: the Guardian Band Of the Day, Steve Lamacq on BBC6, MusicWeek Playlist charting, and features on Contact Music, Stereoboard, Daytrotter London and Balcony TV London & more.
“Quirkily infectious geek-pop from the States. Prediction: they might be giants.” – Guardian
“Things are looking bright for this Boston indie group.” – Contact Music
"'Hurry Hurry' is so addictive it should come with a health warning.” – UK's Shout 4 Music
Other Tour Dates:
March 8, NYC - Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, 8pm
March 29, Philadelphia - Tin Angel, 10:30pm
April 3, Boston - Great Scott's, 10pm
April 4, Bangor ME - WHSN's Acoustic Showcase to Benefit the Nat'l Multiple Sclerosis Society, Gracie Theatre