How The Atomic Tanlines Went From Church Choir to Crawling Around in Broken Glass

The Atomic Tanlines received plenty of praise last year with their blend of punk, free jazz and soul. The Denton-based five-piece sat down with us at the Waffle House where they started to discuss their background in music. You can catch them this week at Le Bitch Manor on Thursday and at Dada on Saturday opening for Ty Segall.

See also: -Get to know the Atomic Tanlines -Instagram highlights of the 2012 DOMAs -My First Show archives

When you were growing up, was MTV -- in any way -- an influence?

Ally (vocals): No! Taylor (bass): No! Bill (drums): Not me, personally. Reece (guitar): Kinda. My parents watched a lot of it, so my earliest memories are seeing grunge music videos. Ally: I watched a lot of VH1 and the countdowns like "Best Songs of the 90s" and the "One Hit Wonders"! Pablo (guitar): When I lived in Costa Rica, my babysitter would play MTV. Madonna, Michael Jackson. That was the only real thing to watch.

So, what got y'all into music?

Pablo: That's kind of a tough question. Bill: I can answer that easily because my dad was a musician for 15 years. He quit being a professional musician right when I was born. My first drum set was one he had since 1972. It was kinda like I inherited being a musician. I don't play the kind of stuff he ever played. He was in a band that sounded like The Smiths or The Cure in the '80s in Austin. Then he did a rootsy thing, more or less, in the last few years he was playing music. Then he'd play punk, free jazz and weird shit. Taylor: I got into Jimi Hendrix when I was a little kid, and it made me want to play music. Ally: I always wanted to sing because my mom used to be really big into the choir. She listened to a lot of Erykah Badu and soul music. That was my dream: to be some sort of singer. Then I got into punk and I was like, "That's what I want to do!" Taylor: I didn't start playing music until I got into punk. I got into The Germs and Black Flag and then I really wanted to play music. Pablo: I played piano, saxophone, but I didn't really care that much until I got into punk when I was 14 and then I started playing bass and guitar. Ally: I wasn't allowed to play instruments 'cause my family is Church of Christ.

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Wow. Couldn't dance either?

Ally: Well, my mother wasn't that strict about it. It was more like, my grandmother. I didn't have any interest in it anyway. I mean, I didn't grow up around it.

Who were your gateway punk bands?

Bill: It's weird for me being in this band. I don't really listen to punk. I mean, I play it and I enjoy playing it a lot. For me, I got into no wave first. I was listening to The Contortionists before I was listening to Black Flag. I was listening to DNA before I was listening to The Ramones. Kinda did it backwards: got into the fringes of punk first and then started getting into [punk]. I like more straightforward punk bands now. I mean, fuck, I listened to the new Bad Religion album yesterday. It's pretty good for a bunch of 50-year-old dudes.

Well, when you have a drummer like Brooks Wackerman, you'll be OK.

Bill: Oh yeah!

What about you, Reece?

Reece: It's kinda similar, honestly. I didn't really listen to punk; I listened to no wave. I kinda came to punk. I still don't know if I listen to a lot of punk.

For me, it was hearing Henry Rollins read Get In the Van, talking about Black Flag. It just sounded so vivid and scary, that I was like, "I gotta hear this!"

Pablo: I read only half of Get in the Van, but I couldn't finish it when he started to get really depressed. Just like, "I hate my band" and all this stuff. Taylor: He talks a lot about working out and stuff. Bill: That's how he got his tortured, miserable feelings out.

Ally, what about you?

Ally: My very first punk band was the Bad Brains. I grew up on hip-hop and soul. In high school, I was just over it. I was listening to metal, like Motörhead-type stuff, and then the shitty music that my soccer team listened to. Then I met my friend Patrick and he introduced me to the Bad Brains.

Any record in particular, like

Rock for Light


I Against I


Ally: It was I Against I and then I went back to Banned in D.C.

Can you guys remember the first show that you paid to see?

Bill: Primus, "Tour de Fromage." They were doing all of Sailing the Seas of Cheese. They were doing a set of assorted songs and then a set of Sailing the Seas of Cheese straight through. This was 2003. I was nine. I was with my dad. Reece: I don't know if I paid for it, but it's pretty embarrassing so it's a good story: Iwrestledabearonce. It was in Plano. I don't know if I paid for it. It was a bunch of bands. Pablo: One of the first punk shows I ever went to was The Distillers and The Bronx at Gypsy Tea Room. It was gnarly. I think the Dallas Morning News wrote an article on it the next day and it was like, "Punk is still here to stay!" Ally: My first show is extreme, brutal and awesome. Besides local shows, I think the first show I paid for was Cro-Mags and Municipal Waste. Me and my friend Patrick were leaving Austin. We lived an hour away from Austin and I was 16. We couldn't get into any of the bars. We'd walk around, get really drunk and smoke weed in the car, and see what we could get into. Usually, we could find something to do, but that day, we couldn't. We're walking back to our car and we see this line coming out of Red 7. We paid and went in. It was, still to this day, the craziest show I've ever been to in my whole life. Taylor: When I was 13, me and a bunch of my 13-year-old punk rock friends went to see TSOL and DI in Long Beach. We saw them at a place called the Vault 350, which is not there anymore. It was the scariest fucking experience of my life. It was the first time I had seen a pit and I got thrown. This guy picked me up and threw me. It was brutal. It was fun. I will never forget that.

What do you remember about the first Atomic Tanlines show?

Ally: [laughing] Oh man. Taylor: [pointing at Ally] We were the only ones at the first. These guys weren't in the band. Ally: The very first show, we booked this show in my hometown. We officially proclaimed that we were going to be a band on January 1st, 2012. We practiced a couple weeks later. I went to my friend and I was like, "Hey, I have a band now." He was like, "Cool, I have a show for you." It was a week from that day. So I go back and we wrote a set list in a whole week. We go there and got there a day early. We saw my friend's house show and we got on that. We ended up getting on two house shows that night. We went to this house show and the guys didn't know how my stage character was going to be. They didn't really explain it to him. So they were like, "Whoah." Like, the very first riff, I lift my hand up and the ceiling was low and I didn't know that or I wasn't aware because I was kinda drunk. Glass just poured down on top of me. My immediate reaction was to crawl in it. So I'm crawling in it and everybody scoots back. I have a scar from our first show. Taylor: So do I. I got cut that night.

The Atomic Tanlines play Le Bitch Manor on Thursday and Dada on Saturday.

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