Grand Atlantic Recording / FilmingGrand Atlantic

They say all good things must come to an end. And so it is for Grand Atlantic, the much-loved and criminally under-appreciated band from Brisbane, Australia that made some of the strongest modern rock music of their era.

Formed in 1996, Grand Atlantic steadily and quietly amassed an acclaimed body of work. Their self-produced first album (This Is Grand Atlantic) showed their mastery of orchestrated,  Beatle-esque pop. It yielded almost-hit songs like “Coolite” and “Smoke & Mirrors”. Praised by reviewers and loved by community radio, it made powerpop aficionados worldwide sit up and take notice. While the influences weren’t far from the surface, the songwriting and arrangements spoke of a band with ambition, significant talent and a determination to follow their own path.

Grand Atlantic’s second album, ‘How We Survive’, was widely hailed as a power-pop masterpiece upon release in April 2009. This was especially the case in the US where the band made a significant impact at radio. Again, it was produced by the band, but mixed by Australian producer Magoo. The single “She’s A Dreamer” attracted airplay at over 50 influential US radio stations, which led to their first 15-date US tour. In March 2010, Grand Atlantic barnstormed across America and Canada after invitations to showcase at SXSW and Canadian Music Week. This followed extensive touring of the album in Australia and a growing call from the US powerpop scene.

Grand Atlantic - How We SurviveThe release of ‘How We Survive’ in the US prompted a glut of media attention and placed them on a bunch of SXSW ‘bands to watch’ short lists. They didn’t disappoint, with their high-energy live shows building a solid base of fans. Importantly, the band had stepped up to an international standard which they would maintain for the rest of their career.

After a frenetic 2010, Grand Atlantic could be forgiven for disappearing for a while. Tours of the US, Japan and Australia had gained them a swag of new fans, and their second album ‘How We Survive’ gained huge exposure and airplay. A strategic disappearance was in order.

Over the later part of 2010, around 20 songs were written and arranged by the band for their third long-player. The power-pop flavour of the first two albums gave way to a darker, more introspective set of tracks that tip the hat to the shoegaze sound of the early 90’s. Stripping back the arrangements to a leaner, tougher, more direct sound whilst also embracing the trippier elements of their previous work.

grand atlantic - constelationsIn early 2011, the band bunkered down in Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, an abandoned psychiatric hospital near Dunedin, New Zealand. With producer Dale Cotton they recorded their third album ‘Constellations’. As singer Phil Usher noted, “We had a few strange experiences while we were there—hearing voices during takes, strange sounds, and we also saw a microphone stand move like someone knocked it.” That strangeness, and the unease of not quite knowing where you are, informs the sounds and feel of the record.

‘Constellations’ was and is sophisticated, psychedelic and completely immediate, its beating heart urgent and undeniable. The band was content to let the music build and peak, unhurriedly and with tangible conviction. Intimate and inscrutable, these songs bend and fold, stretch out and explode. Guitar-pop mutated into a lush psycho-geographical map where the band’s headspace mimicked the manic contours of the equally beautiful and punishing New Zealand countryside where the album was recorded. The reception to the album was uniformly enthusiastic, with critics in Australia and overseas praising the new sound and attitude.

March 2011 saw Grand Atlantic return to the US for a repeat tour of both the East and West coasts. An appearance at SXSW for the second time, this time 17 dates in three weeks, and with bigger audiences and new markets. That tour cemented some significant licensing outcomes for TV use of their music, reflecting the band’s higher profile and commitment to the US.

2012 was a quiet period for the band, with songs being written and demoed, but no official output apart from the occasional B-side or remix. Shows were played but touring was rare. There were plans for another album, but nothing solid.

And so to 2013, where Grand Atlantic has decided to cease working as a band for the foreseeable future. No disagreement, just a sense that this phase is over and that new frontiers need to be found.

So to all those who supported the band in any way – radio, print, online, offering shows, whatever – we  sincerely thank you. And to all the fans who came to see us play, and bought our music and shared our dreams and helped us believe – we love you all.

Thanks – Phil, Sean, Morgan, Matt.

Grand Atlantic Band photo