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Subatlantic is determined to keep pushing

Subatlantic at Future Appletree Studio in Rock Island, IL. L-R: drummer Phil Pracht, bassist Sean Chapman, vocalist & multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Rice, and guitarist Adam Kaul.
Matthew Terry Photography
Subatlantic at Future Appletree Studio in Rock Island, IL. L-R: drummer Phil Pracht, bassist Sean Chapman, vocalist & multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Rice, and guitarist Adam Kaul.

As the Quad Cities-based band Subatlantic prepares to embark on an exciting year, including performing at two of Iowa’s coolest music festivals, it felt right to go back and check out their performance in IPR’s studios. That was November of 2019. As with all musicians (and really, everyone), the band had to change plans and refocus shortly after that performance, thanks to the onset of the pandemic.

Navigating a creative path forward

“I think we all lost our minds a little bit for a year and some change, but like everybody did, we had to pivot and we figured it out,” said lead singer Rebecca Rice, who also plays keyboards and guitar. “We did a lot of social distancing, practicing in (bassist) Sean Chapman’s backyard, and it was really fun and a unique experience to have.”

Subatlantic also found a way to record and release several singles, as a sort of "silver lining" in the pandemic. Many of those songs are now part of Subatlantic's second full-length album, Say It Again. This includes their single “Party Line.”

Subatlantic - Sell Out (IPR Studio Session)

“‘Party Line’ is not necessarily a super happy, jovial song,” said Rice. “It's about sort of the political divide, and that has just sadly become deeper and deeper in this country.”

“Musically, it sort of taps into some of that kind of post-punk era that we're all really into in the band,” said Adam Kaul, who plays guitar. “I think that song in particular gets some of that '80s post-punk sound, that sort of indie sound that was emerging back then. For me, that song resonates with that kind of movement.”

Subatlantic performing at Rozz Tox in Rock Island, IL.
Tim D'Avis
Subatlantic performing at Rozz Tox in Rock Island, IL.

The band also found productive “writing weekends” spaces, full of natural beauty and right along the Mississippi River.

“We just rented a cabin and loaded all of our equipment,” said Kaul. “We sort of forced ourselves to lock down in the middle of winter and just write all weekend. We're trying to get away from our regular kind of context, and I think that's part of it too. You're kind of pushing yourself out into a strange place, and that creates a kind of excitement and sort of a different vibe.”

The band's writing weekends have been so productive that the members are planning to record again some time this year - though it remains to be seen whether their third release will be an EP or a full length album.

Risk-taking and the festival circuit

In yet another attempt to get out of their comfort zone, the band's started recording directly to two-inch reel-to-reel tape, instead of using digital recording methods.

“With that reel-to-reel tape, you only have so many takes,” said Kaul. “You have to go into it really knowing your song live, I mean, like, right now. You have to be tighter in terms of your preparation before heading into the studio. We ended up really getting into that process and enjoying the risk of it, and I think the sound is more consistent.”

That one-take recording experience will serve them well this year, as Subatlantic will be performing at two big Iowa festivals, starting with Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City. They’re playing Saturday, April 6 at ReUnion Brewery. If you can’t make it to Mission Creek, they'll also be at the Alternating Currents Festival in the Quad Cities in August. Everyone in the band embraces the moment, whether performing onstage or recording “live-to-tape” in the studio.

“Every time you step on the stage, there's a bit of butterflies and all that sort of stuff,” said Kaul “But if there weren't, I think we'd all be standing there looking bored, and nobody wants that. You want a bit of that energy and that goes for the recording process too.

“If you're absolutely in your comfort zone, you're not doing it right,” said Kaul. “You should always be kind of pushing yourself, and so that is a little bit, in a good way, sort of terrifying.”

“The risk factor definitely makes it a little bit more exciting, but it also spurns us to do better and to be better in the moment,” said Rice. “And we just have so much fun doing. It helps that we're all best pals, with none of the drama, and nobody's trying to upstage anybody. We've come to an age where we've just mellowed, and we just have so much fun.”

Subatlantic - Villains (IPR Studio Session)

Subatlantic is Studio One’s Artist of the Month for March. Their music is available on Bandcamp and major streaming services, and their Facebook page is regularly updated with upcoming news and live performances.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host