Atomic Swindlers

SEPTEMBER 2005 PRESS

gaywired.com

Coming Out Electric: Primed to Sweep the Cosmos
Interview with the Atomic Swindlers
09.14.05

By Chris S. Witwer

The Atomic Swindlers are an out of this world phenomenon with a cosmic groove, a hip spacey sound, celestial lyrics, and a hot front woman oozing sex – not to mention an animated video that’s creating sonic waves all on its own. Coming Out Electric is a remarkable debut album featuring consistently rock-solid musicianship, unique style and sound, and superb production. This psychedelic glam rock CD gives “the nod” to the GLBT community, while pleasing sci-fi and post-punk junkies alike. Coming Out Electric is like nothing you’ve ever heard. And you’re going to want more.

We had a chance to chat with the band recently, and what struck me most was how funny they are. I guess you’d have to have a sense of humor to write a sci-fi concept album with songs like “Intergalactic Lesbian Love Song”, “Space Bandit”, “Float (my electric stargirl)”,  and “Planet of a Thousand Lies”. Still, the band’s comedic leanings turned my mildly mundane interview questions into a truly entertaining exchange:

Q. Reviewers have called Coming Out Electric a sci-fi concept CD. Would you agree with that assessment?

Gary Trainer: The CD is a concept piece, in that that the sum of all of its parts does make up a whole. The CD has threads of ideas that weave in and out, almost like a collage, which becomes one large whole. The CD does not tell a linear story, but challenges the listeners (as all art should) to form their own concept story. I have always loved all Sci-fi rock such as T-Rex, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. So, for me, the Reviewers have all been very on target with this assessment.

Roy Stein: I’m not quite sure what to call it. Buck Rogers sci-fi… don’t think so. Unless old Buck was hiding a thing or two from us.

April Laragy: I think of our creation more like an adventure… each song has a very unique personality but in some way it has a connection with all the other compositions on the CD. Many personalities… like a schizophrenic alien!!

Q. How did you come up with the names Atomic Swindlers and Coming Out Electric?

GT: The name comes from a song that I wrote “Murphy Man”. There was a line “he had the Atomic Swindle tattooed on his chest”. I suggested the name to everyone when we were forming the band, and “voila”, the Atomic Swindlers were born. The Coming Out Electric we hope, has many meanings to many people. We wanted the album title and the image of April on the cover to work together. The word “Electric” is used a lot in the lyrics of the CD, and of course “Coming Out” does have a strong meaning in the gay world, which the “Atomic Swindlers” are proud members/allies of.

RS: Go Gary!

Q. Just so we’re clear-- the band consists of April Laragy (vocals, boards), Scott Ostrowski (guitars), Roy Stein (drums), Gary Trainer (bass) and Chris Yockel (guitars). Is Brian Eggleston also a regular member of the band?

RS: Actually, Brian is a member of the band, we just haven’t really told him. But you’re right about him not being “regular.” I’m the “drummer”, though the rest of the band often preface it with “just a”.

AL: Sometimes Brian is auctioned off at the end of the night so he actually does serve an important purpose.

Q. Curve Magazine called April the new Gwen Stefani. How did you feel about that comparison?

RS: That statement was the first hard copy national press the band received. I loved it. What a rip. Now April’s even more the “princess” of the rehearsal studio than before. If that keeps up the rest of us are gonna have to carry her around a-la Judy Tenuta.

AL: Actually I will be hiring extras of my choosing to do the carrying.

Q. Roy, as the guy who penned “Float (my electric stargirl)”, how do you feel about the depiction of the song in the video?

RS: Delight and a very nice satisfied euphoric buzz (think valiums… blue). Joel Trussell, the director and animator forwarded some initial sketches early on in the creative process. We were all blown away. The storyboards followed shortly thereafter. We didn’t provide much input. Joel’s a wonderfully talented and creative person. It was like… hey do your thing. My interpretation of Joel’s video is that it’s images and messages are very anti-patriarchal/anti-Gilgamesh. The feelings that arise from that worldview underlie the feelings that gave rise to the song. So I couldn’t be happier with Joel’s vision.

Q. The “Float” video seems to have done pretty well at a couple of film festivals. Tell us about that.

GT: The “Float” video has gotten airplay on Mania TV, which is the Internet version of VH1. Maybe the new “LOGO” GLBT network, which is a part of the MTV, VH1 family of companies, will play it. That would be very exciting to me.

RS: The video debuted at the ImageOut film festival in Rochester, NY. From there it’s been in four more international film festivals. It just won top prize at Hollywood’s prestigious HypeFest film festival. We were basically the little engine that could story at that festival competing against very powerful producers and production companies. We’re trying to get it to as many outlets as possible. I’d like people to have a chance to enjoy it. Out of the Closet TV was the first to stream it on the internet and as they so aptly put it, “When was the last time you've seen a lesbian/cartoon music video?”

AL: That is so not a cartoon… I really look like that… even in high resolution!!

Q. Has anyone in the band been going about their day and heard one of the cuts on the radio? What is that experience like?

GT: I have heard our song many times on the radio now. WBER a great local alternative station added, “Float” to their regular rotation for months. I would get in my car after work and hear the Atomic Swindlers. The CD was made for radio play. I just hope that we pick up a fan or two each time we get airplay.

RS: It’s just like... cool. It really does make you feel good. The first time I heard the band on the radio the station played the song “Float” right after U2’s “Vertigo”. I was psyched. Not so sure Bono would have been.

AL: What a rush it is... I am still not used to it… in fact I was flipping radio stations the other day and they were playing one of our songs… but, I didn’t pick up on it right away… and I immediately got pissed and said, “oh that is just great… that sounds just like us!” My friend said "uh, April… that is you… you dope!”

Q. Your website says that the CD has been added to 300 radio stations. Is this number still accurate?

RS: Over 325 radio stations have added the band to their playlists. The fan base is defintely growing, most quickly it seems in the GLBT community. The video also recently started streaming on the world’s largest internet gaming site, www.ign.com so the scifi and gaming aficionados are starting to pick up on the band.

Q. How did you become a band?

RS: The band started out like most. Get together with a few mates, figure you’ll play out a bit and have some fun. That happened about three years ago. We took tunes we had written for other bands and started playing smaller venues in upstate NY that allowed bands to play original music. Most of the tunes had a psychobilly/rockabilly feel to them. After about 6 months we started writing our own stuff as a band. It sounded nothing even remotely similar to rockabilly. For the most part it had this huge British/Bowie sound. I’m still scratching my head over that. We took almost a year off from playing out to focus on the record. Every song was written for this particular CD with heavy musical contributions from all the members.

AL: We all are friends first and band mates second. I think that is what makes any relationship important and what helps contribute to the musical compatibility. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this… no matter where it takes us!

GT: All of my songs were written for this CD with April as the lead performer, and the Atomic Swindlers as a band in mind. This effects the keys that I write in, the voice of the story, etc. The songs are then filtered through the band as a whole. At this time it is the most rewarding part of being a part of a band. Each member brings his or her own special magic quality that makes my songs come alive. I am just grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with such talented band members. Each day is a bonus.

Q. I noticed that April is credited with writing 4 tracks, you are credited with 4, and Gary is credited with 4. Is this equity purposeful, or did it just work out that way?

GT: It was a terrific creative period for me. To write, record, and produce my songs with such talented co-members, was an opportunity of a lifetime. We stopped at 4 each because more than two years of our life had already passed. It was a labor of love.

RS: Everyone loves to write so it just seemed to be the equitable way to share creative opportunities. It really worked out great. We had a semi-common vision thing happening and it was always a blast to hear what other bandmates were writing and to contribute to the work.

Q. How have things gone for the band since the CD came out?

GT: I believe things have gone very well. It has been a “Magical Mystery Tour” like puzzle pieces, which continue to fall together for the Atomic Swindlers. We have had the help of an amazing abundance of talented, creative artists, animators, managers, press writers, and marketing gurus. It becomes like a fun amusement park ride, the more creative people that help us with this project. We hope to enlist the whole planet before we are done.

RS: Things have gone very well. The momentum of the band just seems to keep building and building. To date we certainly have had help from an array of extremely talented and kind people. We thank our lucky, lucky stars on that one.

AL: So much work has gone into this… much of it on the shoulders of our manager Harvey, and on Roy. Without that we’d be the Atomic Sinkers going down with the spaceship! Roy and Harvey work their little fannies off. There is work to be done every day… but, whenever we get any good news it is all worth it. Writing music is so personal like any other art… and when you find out that you are reaching people in a positive way it is just so rewarding. We have been very lucky to be surrounded by such creative and compassionate people.

Q. And you all have day jobs, right? What’s it like being a performer while maintaining a career?

GT: I believe in keeping my feet in both worlds. The everyday work world, and my art world. My weekly paycheck has helped finance this project. To me, the end justifies the means. My art, rock and roll, and the music business are still exciting to me. I am not burned out by it. Of course, I would love the opportunity to write and record 24/7, but this has taken many a toll on many rock artists. I am still healthy, with a strong hard work ethic. I view this as a positive thing.

RS: Well… Gary and I differ a bit on this. I’d love to have suffered or currently be in the throws of that deviant rock and roll lifestyle. My arms are wide open on that one… please take a toll on me.

AL: Hmmmm… let me me see… I work in a museum… yikes… I am an artist… double yikes… and I play in a band… good lord, I never looked at that in writing, but, maybe I should some day get a real job… nah!!

Q. What's in the works for you now? Any projects you're working on, or long term goals to speak of?

GT: In lieu of writing new material, we chose to put together a multi-media live show. We would love the world to see us perform Coming Out Electric live. April is an amazing live performer. RS: Yeah…. we want to get this music out there. So we’re going to do a lot more live shows and just keep moving ahead. Our management is also pursuing some TV stuff connecting and expanding upon the animated video and the band’s music. This has been a great ride so far, so I’m just enjoying what’s happening and keeping my fingers crossed that it continues.

Q. So we might get a chance to see you live, then?

GT: We have a great multi-media live show just ready to tour with. And for the record, opening for David Bowie would be great.

RS: We have just started to focus on touring. This fall and into next year we are booking festivals and a lot of college gigs. The multi-media show that we have compiled in support of the live show is gorgeous and a trip in itself. You can see some stills from it on our web page. Also, April is an incredible live performer. She is so assured on stage it’s almost scary. I know people are gonna love her when they see her perform. The rest of us… well we’re kinda like decorative wallpaper or a nice piece of chair rail.

AL: That is not true at all… except the part about me! Just kidding! The boys are amazing performers and musicians and we all create an energy on stage that takes just the right chemistry and you just can’t fake chemistry.

Q. Overall, what has Coming Out Electric meant for the band and its members - both as a creative work and as a career move?

GT: For me Coming Out Electric is the best work of my career. It is a CD that I personally want to listen to. It is modeled after such albums as Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. So many of the press writers have picked up on our intent here. Communication is the root of an artist’s work, and I feel like Coming Out Electric is working on this level. It is Rock and Roll, which is my passion. It is electric guitar’s, words, images and melodies. A myth for the 21st Century and (hopefully) beyond.

RS: Everyone who worked on creating this CD really came through. The creativity levels were just so high and people’s contributions so genuine. And that still hasn’t abated. In sum, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the results. As far as it being a “career move”, I never conceptualized it in that way and I don’t think anyone else in the band has either (much to the chagrin of our management). I’m proud of what established music critics have consistently said in this regard. Ron Netsky, who wrote for City Newspaper the first published review of the CD said, “'Coming Out Electric' sounds nothing like the mainstream recordings of today. It's a throwback to a bygone era when the music industry cherished poetic lyrics and albums that were works of art." And GayWired.com said, "Think David Bowie in his 'Ziggy Stardust' period. Time-traveling to the days when bands told stories with their music." It doesn’t get much better than that.

AL: This has been my happiest musical time ever. I couldn’t even imagine writing or playing with anyone else. Having kind words written about something I feel so passionate about is an incredible added bonus. I am very lucky.

And so are we, April. Coming Out Electric is a fantastic album, even more extraordinary for the fact that it is the Atomic Swindlers’ debut offering. Coming Out Electric hasn’t left my CD player since I got my hands on it. And I’ll be first in line when tickets go on sale in my little corner of the galaxy. Float over here, my electric starband!

© 2005 Michael Wilke, All Rights Reserved

If you wish to see the interview and comments with photos visit: http://www.gaywired.com/article.cfm?section=10&id=6941

 

The Cosmically Fabulous Atomic Swindlers

by L. A. Vess

Not long ago, the Atomic Swindlers were a little known, oddly named, sci-fi themed band with big dreams of conquering the universe with their psychedelic sounds waves. Now the sexy groove of the Swindlers is starting to swell into a fabulous roar, thanks to swank national mags and indie critics alike. Fueled by front woman April Laragy’s out of this world vocals, the Swindlers are on their way to making a Big Bang in the music galaxy. Laragy, the Atomic Swindlers’ luscious lead singer, and bass-playing band mate Gary Trainer recently sat down to answer some questions for GayWebMonkey.

GayWebMonkey: Who are the Atomic Swindlers. Better yet, what are the Atomic Swindlers?

Atomic Swindlers: Time traveling, genderbending poets looking for a new and brilliant way to express what has probably been said over and over again. Oscar Wilde has done it - without music – William Burroughs has done it in every way imaginable, and of course, [David] Bowie, Bowie, Bowie... we had to say it because of all the comparisons.

GWM: You’ve said your band members run the spectrum from gay to straight and everywhere in between. Is sexual diversity a big part of the band’s identity or just a nice way to get the queer media’s attention?

AS: We are a highly sexual band that appreciates the fact that the queer media gets off right along with us. Sexual diversity in the band is an important part of who we are... however creating a work of art was more important to us.

GWM: The band’s debut album is titled Coming Out Electric. In the queer world, ‘coming out’ has very specific connotations. Was the title a deliberate play on words?

AS: It was three words that sounded good together and captured the essence of the art, words and music that is the Atomic Swindlers. Our only hope is that someday everyone will come out… electric...

GWM: April seems very fond of running around half naked in leather, what about the rest of you?

AS: First of all... it’s rubber, latex and vinyl (much easier to get off quickly… because it rolls) and we all love it… some are more naked than others.

GWM: For those who have not yet had the pleasure of becoming your slavishly devoted fans, what would you say to enlist them to your cause?

AS: All we really need to love us is a record company president, the nations largest DJ and Martin Scorsese (hey, he did put Gwen Stefani in a movie) and the rest of the world will become our slavishly devoted fans. Seriously... please just listen to the CD in headphones and know that we are just trying to transport you...

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