Review: Lower Than Atlantis with We Are The Ocean and PVRIS

Published

Kate Snowdon
Production Manager

(Check out our interview with LTA here)

Opening Lower Than Atlantis’ Glasgow show was PVRIS, a Boston-formed rock band, who Mike Duce admitted in our interview he had never heard of before their tour. Their crowd interaction and reaction was impressive for UK newcomers, with the lead singer making eye contact throughout and coming right up to the barrier, before looking a bit baffled as to how she would get back on the stage. The crowd were very receptive, jumping and singing along, which the singer couldn’t stop smiling at and I was surprised at the number of people who knew all the words. Pre-disposed to dislike them, due to their constant media presence, I’m loath to admit how good the singer’s voice was, but despite my reluctance to give them any more hype, she had a seriously nice tone and some pretty impressive grit. I did have to rein in my questioning of all of the band’s choice in stage clothes, but then again, I was wearing a summer dress and long socks to a gig. I did take solace in the fact that unlike the lead singer, I’d given the Skrillex-hair look a miss (bizarrely making the rounds again). However, the most impressive part of their sound besides the vocals was easily the heavy beat that the drummer managed to keep consistently tight and exciting, prompting vast amounts of clapping from the audience. For me, the synths used weren’t exciting enough; they added layering to the sound but were fairly boring and the overall effect was quite muddy. PVRIS are a fun band to jump and sing along to, but if you’re looking for the clarity of their CD sound, you’ll be disappointed.

My first impression of We Are The Ocean was utter hilarity after seeing their ridiculously glittery drum kit with their moderately terrifying logo on the kick, but this was quickly dispelled by the impressive musicality of the band. I was immediately hit by their force, the vocalist enthusiastic and animated from the start with a lovely gritty quality to his voice, an awesome vibrato, and a lot of power behind it, with some especially beautiful low notes. There were some lovely harmonies between the singer  and the lead guitarist, but unfortunately a lot of these were lost due to the guitarist being quiet and the rest of the band being so intense. The guitarist did have a lovely tone which came out nicely over the chunkiness of the other sounds, and despite his overall lack of movement, which jarred with the rest of the band’s high energy, he did cut some very subtle shapes to himself in the corner. The bass sound throughout was thick and the funky bass lines were always clearly audible, with the bassist enjoying them as much as the crowd,nearly bashing his head off the speakers with his head-banging. The synth was used to good effect, blending well with the rest of the band and including some nice organ tones, but the synth player’s maraca jams actually stuck with me more. This was a nice touch musically, but seeing someone headbang to their own maraca beat was ever so slightly bizarre. The drummer did a good job of holding all these different sounds together to an intense beat, and as I watched the kick drum shake so hard, I reflected that the glitteriness of the kit was probably not that important. Lots of the songs featured some really nice building, especially in the drums, which was very skilfully done. Despite there being an exodus of PVRIS fans from the front of the stage when We Are The Ocean came on, there were clearly a few diehards out there singing along and interestingly, screaming at them to take their shirts off. They didn’t, but after such a great performance, I’d be willing to bet they gained some new fans in Glasgow anyway.

Lower Than Atlantis’ most impressive feature throughout was undoubtedly their passion. From the beginning, their energy was brilliant, bringing 100% just like they promised in their interview. Having spoken about the differences between their live sound and record sound earlier, I was still struck by their awesome live quality and the heaviness of the sound live, which is hard to imagine on some of the tracks, but translates beautifully. The drums brought a lot of this heaviness, and were super tight with a really thick sound, totally different from record, indeed actually drumming a few tracks completely differently. Eddy Thrower, the drummer, made the bizarre decision to use cowbells throughout which I found jarring, but the rest of his performance, particularly his really nice fills, excused it. As it turns out there is such a thing as too much cowbell though.

(Photo Credit: Kate Snowdon)

Dec Hart, Bassist, Lower Than Atlantis (Photo Credit: Kate Snowdon)

 

It was really refreshing after the recent wave of bands with multiple singers, percussionists and synth players to see a simple four-piece, self-proclaimed rock band, particularly one that brought so much energy to the genre. Watching them all jump in time and just rock out, compared to other bands overly-acted stage presence, was brilliant to see. Frontman Mike Duce’s simplicity of interaction with the crowd was also invigorating, as he spoke to the sold-out venue he said”’I’ve got to do that cheesy singer of the band bullshit, don’t I?”. His banter was great throughout, as he talked about getting all the plays on Myspace back in the day, told the audience to “shut up and fuck off” when they told him to down his drink, wearing a rabbit mask thrown on stage and bashing the music industry to vast cheers, all in his lovely accent. Live, his voice wasn’t as good as on record, but the energy and intensity he brought made up for it, and watching him smile at the audience smashed listening to a CD at home. His live vibrato was actually really impressive too, and there were some really nice harmonies kicking about the set.

Mike Duce, Singer, Lower Than Atlantis (Photo Credit: Kate Snowdon)

Mike Duce, Singer, Lower Than Atlantis (Photo Credit: Kate Snowdon)


The guitarist Ben Sansom had a really awesome tone throughout, but particularly on the track ‘Words Don’t Come So Easily’, one my favourite tracks off the new album anyway, but with a special live twist. The bassist Dec Hart carried the tracks along on a solid foundation, his tone blending nicely with Ben’s. Highlights of the gig included ‘English Kids in America’, but at a part where the entire crowd was expecting it to get heavy, they cheekily kept it quiet, which resulted in some whiplash-stops to headbanging and rapidly aborted jumping. They introduced a song by talking about the new album and then saying ‘yeah, this next song’s not on it’, explaining the song ‘Sewer Side’ is about ‘feeling like shit through the metaphor of actually being a shit’, getting a massive mosh pit opened up and some what the fuck looks for their old tracks, a fair whack of crowdsurfers, including the guy who got on stage and sang for a bit, and Mike Duce playing the song ‘Another Sad Song’ in the crowd. Despite the high energy of the rest of the gig, and telling everyone to sit down and back off when he came in, the solo acoustic performance was oddly touching comparatively, and showed another facet to Lower Than Atlantis’s live ability. They closed with ‘Here We Go’, cementing their image as a rock band with a heavy live sound, and proving their passion and energy during live performance haven’t gone unrewarded, as the crowd screamed and cheered for them to come back.

Ben Sansom, Guitarist (Photo Credit: Kate Snowdon)

Ben Sansom, Guitarist, Lower Than Atlantis (Photo Credit: Kate Snowdon)