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Atomic Bride: Follow the tone

Atomic Bride is a glam-punk Seattle band, with male/female vocals from singers Astra Elaine and Chris Cool, who are self-releasing an excellent sophomore album called Dead Air next week. It’s a fun and sexy record with catchy choruses and great surf guitar riffs. If The Cramps and Frankie and Annette joined The B-52s to form a supergroup, it might sound something like Atomic Bride.

At an interview in a lower Queen Anne dive bar, Astra told me, “We’re a good-looking band and we don’t wear ripped up jeans and t-shirts. We want to look good. We’re into the performance and the glamour. We want people to appreciate that again.” She added, “It’s not that looks can be that important, but it can enhance something and make it all about all of the senses, especially when the music is good. I want people to get the aesthetic and not just that we look good, but that we look like how we sound.”

Of the five members of Atomic Bride, singer/guitarists Astra and Chris Cool, bassist Avtar Crowder, keyboardist Rachael Byrd and drummer Chris Coutsouridis, only the drummer is not in the band with their significant other. Chris Cool responded to an ad Astra posted on Craig’s List shortly after she moved to Seattle in the fall of 2006. She said that the ad’s headline was “Nancy Search for Lee.” Astra explained, ‘I had this idea of a Johnny Cash/June Carter vision in my mind and he had this John Doe/Exene vision in his mind and somewhere in the middle along the way, we tried to honor everything we loved but still compromised.” Together, and with the other band members, they found a sound that fits the band’s aesthetic and dynamic and it’s irresistible.

The best song, and first single from Dead Air is called “Radio Recession.” Astra explained, ‘it was 2009 when I wrote that song. It was in the middle of the recession. We’re not a political band or outspoken in that sense at all. I really wanted to have a song that was about a song. I thought it fit in well with what was going on at the time, all the media was blasting all of this shit that was happening. It was really depressing.” The song is instantly catchy, with Astra singing the verses mostly and Chris Cool singing the chorus. The hook comes in just a few seconds into the song. “It’s on the radio; don’t want to hear it, though; turn it all off; I can’t stand that shit,” she snarls. It’s one of the very best songs a Seattle band will release in 2012.

Astra and Chris Cool make a great partnership, with him writing most of the music (though other band members are becoming more involved in that process) and she writes the lyrics. She tells me, “Usually, Chris will come up with a melody and puts together an idea for the composition of a song, then I’ll put lyrics to it. That’s how it happens more often than not, but sometimes we’ll work on a composition together. Recently, our bass player wrote the music for ‘Crush Vaccine.’ Everyone is involved with arranging or pitching ideas.” “Crush Vaccine” is an excellent song that isn’t included on Dead Air, but is available as a free download from the band’s website.

Dead Air is a meticulously crafted album, mixed by local legendary producer Steve Fisk. Astra tells me, “I want people to appreciate everything I do about this album: the diversity of it, the feel of it, the vibe. There’s so many tributes to other artists that inspire us. Someone who knows us can tell, or someone who has an ear for music can tell, they can hear that. It’s an album that keeps getting better the more you listen to. We’re so passionate about our influences, but it’s a compromise. I don’t want to compromise on what I love, but when it works, it’s magic. ‘Let’s make it sound like an old Bruce Lee movie, or let’s give it that tremolo like a fifties sci-fi movie.’ Every single note is thought out on this album. It’s done with a lot a love.”

When Astra talks of a “compromise” she says of herself and Chris Cool, “We’re from two different generations. I’m more first wave punk rock, and he grew up listening to nineties punk rock. There was sometimes a conflict, sometimes a complement. I think we ended up finding the common genres that we both like, like surf music and the fifties sci-fi soundtracks, and a lot timeless punk bands like Dead Kennedys, Scratch Acid, The Cramps, The B-52s, X. The bands that helped glue us together.”

The sound and aesthetic of Atomic Bride clicks because of the relationships in the band, but also because they’ve found a sound that’s timeless and timely. Great rock and roll that’s cool and sexy and glamorous will never be unfashionable. It’s a sound that Atomic Bride and found that meshes all of their influences together, overtly and openly. It’s may only be rock and roll, but I like it.

{Atomic Bride’s CD release party for Dead Air is on Saturday, May 19 at the Lo-Fi Performance Gallery with Love Battery and Summer Babes, $8, 9pm doors, 21+.}

Chris

Chris Burlingame is the editor of Another Rainy Saturday.