While riding the Montreal Metro system to and from Concordia where they are both enrolled in the electroacoustic program, Kevin McDonald and Karim Lakdhar would often discuss their love of creating music with their respective bands. It wasn’t until January 2012 that they finally got a chance to play together when they formed an impromptu band in order to play a show at a party organized by some friends from their program.
“We got together for our first show last minute – we heard about a party at Concordia and said, ‘Hey, this is our chance to play together.’
Within that week we prepped for a 15 to 20 minute set and performed it at the show,” said Lakdhar. “So I guess you can say that it was the basis for our band: it was super random but it just clicked so we stayed together.”
Since that first show, the band has strived to create music that they can proudly call their own. They enjoy the process just as much as the finished product as they each add various styles and elements to the band.
”We played that show and wrote some crazy music for it,” said McDonald. “Until then, with our individual bands, we always wrote music with a traditional formula: drums, bass, vocals. But this band has allowed us to evolve past that to something so much more.”
That first show included McDonald, Eric Shaufhauser, Lakdhar and Dave Palumbo. Months later, they would add Anthony Piazza as the permanent drummer.
In July of 2012, Atsuko Chiba released their first EP entitled Animalia: Several States of Being. Recorded live at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall and mixed and recorded by Gemini award nominee Matthew Cerantola, the EP was a great success and a strong start for the group.
“You can say that Concordia has played a big role in our development,” said Schafhauser. “We played our first show because of Concordia, and were able to record at Oscar Peterson. The school was available to help us when we needed a space to record and had a hard time finding one.”
The guys also recognize how their education at Concordia has influenced and matured their creative process. “You can say that a lot of our music has come out of what we learned in Electroacoustic studies at Concordia, from teachers to fellow students,” said McDonald. “We’ve learned a lot and we’ve been constantly developing our creative process and style.”
Although Atsuko Chiba does not currently have a vocalist, they are not actively looking for one as this allows them to each pitch in on the vocals of any given song.
“Even though we don’t have a singer and we’re instrumental we take turns adding in vocals because our music is very visual for us and sometimes vocals can help project the entire message,” said Palumbo.
The guys describe their style as “Western Space Groove”, a genre that includes a variety of styles and sounds to produce an experimental psychedelic post-rock.
“Our styles individually are all very different – in fact, the band was almost started with the purpose of going against what we knew completely, so we definitely step outside our comfort zone,” said Lakdhar.
Atsuko Chiba is hard at work as they are currently recording their next album, which is expected in early summer. Meanwhile, the band is still refining and evolving in style and sound.
“People who have an open mind will like our music most – not to say that we’re the most far-out band ever, but we sound different and so it means something when somebody comes up to us and tells us they like our music,” said McDonald. “We really didn’t take the easy route because our sound is completely different from most music out there.”
Atsuko Chiba plays Casa del Popolo on Friday, April 26 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.