Boston band, Air Traffic Controller is one of newest bands that has begun to control the music industry. Singer and songwriter, Dave Munro, was serving in the US Navy and sent demos home when he was deployed. Casey Sullivan, singer and songwriter, met Dave soon after and became Air Traffic Controller. In 2009, they released their first album, The One, and in 2012 they released their second album, Nordo. Their third album, Black Box, was released on March 11, 2016 and after I listened to it, I cannot stop listening to it.
Air Traffic Controller’s indie pop sound has begun to get people’s attention.
- In 2015 they were on Billboard Hot 100 Fest which included The Weeknd and Justin Bieber.
- Place on the NPR Hot 100 List for SXSW
- Named Guardian UK Band of the Day
- Best Indie Alternative Song in the Independent Music Awards
- Over 15 million Spotify plays
- Licensed by: Bose, MTV, NBC, ABC, Disney, and more
- Featured on Alt. Nation’s playlist for bands to watch a the SXSW festival.
- Their music video for, “The House” won two awards. In 2015, it was named best video by Boston Magazine and in 2016, it won the New England Music Award for Best Video. This video is a must see if you haven’t seen it on MTVU, MTV2, and on the homepage of Funny Or Die.
Air Traffic Controller started the year by playing at the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah. Right after Sundance they played on their first boat cruise, Sixthman Rock Board with bands like, Michael Franti, Bronze Radio Return, and Jukebox the Ghost. Air Traffic Controller also played showcases for McDonald’s, the Grammy Museum, and more.
Band members: Dave Munro, Casey Sullivan, Steve Scott, Jeremy Van Cleave, Adam Salameh & Adrian Aiello will be going on tour this summer. They will start in their Watertown on the 17th and end it on August 19th in Pennsylvania. Air Traffic Controller will be playing Shirley, Lowell, and Boston, if you’re from/live in the New England area! I was able to talk to Dave, Casey, and Steve.
Dave, when you were serving in the Navy, how hard was it to create written demos and sending them home when you were deployed?
You’re probably imagining me trying to record in my bunk on a ship in the middle of the ocean, but that’s not at all how it happened. Not everyone in the Navy goes to sea, I worked at the airport. After boot camp and ATC training, I lived on base in the barracks. It was a lot like living in a college dorm, not too shabby, but not an ideal recording situation. Eventually I moved into an apartment off base with a couple friends. I would wait until I had the place to myself and set up my 4-Track tape machine and a microphone. This was my first time working with multiple tracks – recording guitar first, singing on another track, then adding percussion etc, it was so much fun. I wish I still made demos this way, I would probably write more songs! Anyway, I would then load the songs from the tape into my PC, burn CD’s, and mail them home to family and friends. It was an exciting time, it really felt like the beginning of something.
How did you all meet?
Dave: When I completed my Navy enlistment and came home, my brother Jeff was starting an Open Mic Night in our hometown of Malden. I would help him carry the gear and try out my new songs in the bar. The open mic quickly evolved into this awesome community of musicians, one of them was a girl named Casey Sullivan. She was under-age so her dad always escorted her in to play a quick set. Her voice could quiet the whole place, it was really impressive. I turned one of my songs into a duet and asked if she’d with sing it with me at open mic. Later I would invite her onstage at local shows, eventually we recorded that song and she became a key member of ATC.
Steve was sent to ATC from God. Haha… He approached me at a gig one night at Great Scott in Allston, MA. He knew he could bring the classical side of ATC to life and was willing to play any role to be a part of it – guitar, keys, string arranging, singing, he could do it all. He joined on keys, but as the revolving door of guitarists kept turning, he finally stepped in and said something like – I’ll just play everything.
Casey: I met Dave at an open mic night that his brother runs near our home town. I started playing there when I was really young and there was a very supportive and encouraging community of musicians. I met Dave and we started singing together here and there and then eventually joined his band and here we are today!
I love your song, “You Know Me,” but what is it really about?
Dave: “You Know Me” is about the moment you realize you are a good match with someone. It is a simple love song, but not about just being gaga in love, it points out the differences, the ups and downs, the understanding that comes along with being in a serious relationship. It’s something many couples have related to, and have even called ‘their song’, which makes my head explode every time.
When writing an album what is your process?
Dave: Most ATC songs have come naturally, literally just popping into my head like dreams, but this album was different. I feel like the earlier records just sort of happened, which is a beautiful thing. Black Box was definitely more of a collaborative effort. We were pretty careful to stay the course but maintain ATC’s adventurous spirit. Having two main songwriters certainly made it a new process. Casey and I both had finished songs and songs we wanted to finish together. As usual we took stripped down acoustic songs and imagined what they could be, and with Bleu as our Producer, the sky is the limit. He was vital to the process, as he has written like a million songs and this was our first time co-writing. He knew where to guide and where to contribute. It was a familiar setting but a whole new experience.
Casey: Our writing process can be very different depending on the song, but generally Dave or I will bring the bare bones of a song into the studio. We work closely with our Producer Bleu and the band to build around those songs and come up with whatever arrangement we feel the song needs.
Steve: Dave and Casey usually start by bringing the band the blueprints for a song… words, melody and chords in acoustic singer songwriter form. The band and our Producer, Bleu usually then work together in the studio to dress the song to be the best version of itself. We really don’t approach our songs with any particular view on “a sound” or style we’re going for. I think that’s the part that is most fun for me. Our songs can sound very different from one another and it seems like our fans enjoy that. The ATC sound really ends up being Dave and Casey’s voices and their storytelling.
What are some of your musical influences?
Dave: The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, They Might Be Giants, Paul Simon, R.E.M., Peter Gabriel, Mason Jennings
Casey: I listened to a lot of folk music growing up but since then I’ve been influenced by the phases I go through of listening to different genres. New wave, pop, electronic music, soul, and punk. Anything really.
Steve: My musical influences are all over the place. I grew up listening to all kinds of rock music like The Police, Yes, XTC, and The Beatles. But I also had classical training in high school and college so I’m always listening to tons of classical music and jazz from Beethoven to Bartok to Basie. I think it’s safe to say that I like music with lots of arranging.
How are you preparing for your upcoming tour dates this summer?
Dave: I’m strumming the songs quietly on acoustic guitar which is not really preparing me at all. Casey is prepping for tour by touring with another band, haha.. We should definitely put her in charge when we hit the road, she’ll be in tour mode, finding us shortcuts and places to eat and sleep…
Casey: We are always focused on putting on the best show possible. Most of our time prepping for tour is spent practicing, experimenting, and trying to get the songs sounding as tight as we can. I always leave packing till the last minute.
Steve: We really hit the ground running in 2016. In January, ATC played a string of shows for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, followed immediately by our first time playing a Sixthman festival on The Rock Boat. Since then we’ve had other New England dates, our big Boston album release show and then several shows for SXSW in Austin, TX. We’re really pumped to bring the band and these new songs back around the country for folks to hear. We’ve got some new sounds and we’re really having a blast with the new songs mingling with our previous material. The shows are a really fun ride!
Thank’s guys for taking time to talk! Keep on rockin’ for me and see you soon! Shout out also to Kelly for being so nice and setting this up!