Dave Munro took the literal approach to naming his band, having written and recorded songs after shifts at his former gig as a Navy air traffic controller. “I just entertained myself with my four-track,” the Malden native says.
On NORDO, Air Traffic Controller relates the narratives of an average life with such exuberant grandiosity that even the most monotonous aspects of a normal day seem worth celebration.
A band’s bio shouldn’t color one’s reception of the music too much, but you’ll be forgiven for grinning ear to ear while listening to the Bleu-produced second record from this Boston six-piece, imagining songwriter Dave Munro working in the US Navy as an actual air traffic controller and dreaming up brilliant little pop ditties while trying to land planes.
The Hottest Act in New England 2012
Nordo, as you are soon to learn, is a breakthrough effort and one of the very best new records released to-date in 2012.
What do you get when you cross a Naval officer with an acoustic guitar?
If that officer is Dave Munro, the results are the tasty and tactical tunes of Air Traffic Controller (www.airtrafficcontrollermusic.com), a local band that is quickly making its mark on the national scene. This month, their lucky hometown fans (and soon-to-be-fans) will have two chances to catch them before their friends do as ATC play the Brighton Music Hall June 12 and the Bull Run in Shirley on June 29.
WERS Presents Discover Air Traffic Controller: Exclusive 1st Listen Concert on June 7th at Emerson College. On June 7th, Air Traffic Controller came to Emerson College to perform their new album NORDO in a special intimate show for WERS listeners before it hit the store shelves!
Despite the heaviness of the content, Munro’s words glide over featherweight indie-pop. Air Traffic Controller’s sophomore record, the Bleu-produced Nordo, created via a $12,000 Kickstarter campaign, builds on the bouncy demos he first crafted while...
“I think indie film-maker Gavin Michael Booth and I formed an emotional bond the moment he heard this song,” says Air Traffic Controller frontman Dave Munro. “As you hear in the lyrics, I’m a bit of a busy body..."
“Pick Me Up” is an upbeat tune from Air Traffic Controller—the band of Dave Munro, who has actually done the job for real. Now a swinging six piece, the Boston-based band...
The WERS Artist Of The Week this week is Boston-based band, Air Traffic Controller! The group is currently gearing up to release their second studio album, Nordo, which features the hit single “Hurry, Hurry”.
Air Traffic Controller isn’t just some ironic band name—lead vocalist and guitarist Dave Munro actually served in the US Navy as an air traffic controller. This week, the indie rock band from Boston brings their powerful storytelling lyrics to MIT’s Walker Memorial Hall in collaboration with the Big Old Big One video blog that films acoustic musicians in off-stage locations.
If you are from Boston you will constantly hear complaints about the failing music scene found or 'not found' around town. (I'm looking at you Rob Potylo of Quiet Desperation) . People saying; it was better when the Rat was still open; it was better when the Abbey was still open; it was better when the Middle East didn't ........
"...it’s going to be hard to find someone else in the independent market whose music so naturally begs for mass consumption; this is big, hooky, surging pop music that readily deserves an audience just as large."
"The One is the best rock debut of 2010 - no questions asked."
"I may be old, but I love Air Traffic Controller" - Boston Mayor Thomas Menino
In December of 2009, Boston-based band Air Traffic Controller released their debut album, The One, and spent the next 12 months performing all over the Northeast. By late December 2010, a second issue of the CD was released by their indie label, Sugarpop Records, to meet an increasing demand. With an MTV nod late in the year for Boston’s Best Break Out Artist Award, the band also found themselves on the Boston Music Spotlight 2010 watch list, and after winning the 2010 Boston Music Conference, both college and commercial radio started to take notice. In the latter half of 2010, Air Traffic Controller became one of New England’s most sought-after acts.
Recently, the Noise caught up with front-man, singer, and songwriter Dave Munro at the Space recording studio in Lowell, MA, to talk about 2010 and what the future holds for ATC in 2011.
Noise: Before we recap 2010 and look towards 2011, can you briefly take me through your songwriting process?
Dave: My process is sort of, not having a process. It sounds unfair that I write songs without really trying, but there’s a down side: I can’t sit down and write a song like songwriters do! It’s a little scary; something has to really inspire a lyric for me for anything to happen. I guess this is why all of my songs are so personal and story-like, very little bullshitting.
Noise: In December 2009, ATC released its debut CD The One and while it sold well in the first part of year, it appears that in the last few months, not only are college radio stations across the country spinning tracks, but there are also a few commercial stations right here in the Boston area that seem to be finally introducing it to their listeners. Was this second wave of attention expected or attributed to something else?
Dave: The album was sort of self-released at first. As we developed a fan base, we were also developing a support system. Soon we formed Sugarpop Records, which is made up of a few passionate fans who initially just came across this music and loved it. I never expected anyone to get on board and help, let alone start a solid team like this. ATC may be a likable band, but without exposure, what good is being likable?
Noise: One of the more interesting tracks on the CD is “Bad Axe, MI,” and when performing this song live you often introduce it as a “break up" song about a band called Bad Axe, MI, from a place called Bad Axe, MI.” While the lyrics do tell a great story, how much of it actually true?
Dave: Every word. Call the Bad Axe chief of police, he’ll confirm my story.
Noise: In July of 2010 Air Traffic Controller and Bleu performed two sold out shows at Club Passim in Harvard Square. You delivered an acoustic set accompanied by a string octet, and for many fans, this was the first time they had seen this. Was this a one-time event or can fans expect to see it again in 2011?
Dave: The moment I stepped on stage with eight string players I knew it was something special and there was no way we could do it just once. We’re looking forward to returning to Passim in February—better get your tickets online now, that room is small!
Noise: With so many gigs last year, when you look back at all the band’s live performances of 2010 which one would you consider to be your most memorable? And why?
Dave: I can’t pick just one, sorry. ATC played at UMass with Good Old War and we pulled out all the stops adding the string quartet, etc. The audience was entirely college students and they were so good to us, you could’ve heard a pin drop just before we started. It made perfect sense when Good Old War unplugged their instruments and played the final half of their set in the audience! The crowd sang along to every song as if it was a Jimmy Buffet concert, except the music was awesome. It was like we were sent back to another time, like the ’60s or something, when music seemed to matter more. Maybe it’s all happening again. It was a very inspiring evening.
The other most memorable show was of course Club Passim with the Aquavia String Octet, not only because we shared the bill with our album’s producer, Bleu, and he wrote many string arrangements, but the entire experience; the intimacy of the venue, even rehearsing before the show, was surreal. Afterward, we all went swimming in a nearby pond until the sun came up—we didn’t want it to end! I’m playing Passim again February 19 with just the string octet. You might want to bring your ice skates in case of an after-party! I’m kidding ... wait, am I?
Noise: In 2010, one Boston media outlet called your record the best rock debut album of the year and the Boston Music Conference presented ATC with the award for the Best Indie Act of the Year. In the age of so many different musical stylings, how would you characterize the music of the band?
Dave: We get asked this question a lot because our album sound is sort of all over the place. One moment we’re rocking you to sleep and the next, we’re rocking you... into next week! [laughs] We’re fortunate to have great versatility with a string ensemble and rock band to showcase both the gentle and the energetic sides of ATC. Folks can see us play back-to-back shows that are completely different. I’m not sure you can put a label on our sound; some are calling it suburban-indie-rock.
Noise: ATC’s last live show of the year for 2010 was at the Loft in Harvard Square. At this show you performed quite a few songs that were not on the band’s debut. Have these new tracks been recorded, and if not, are there any plans to do so in 2011?
Dave: Yes. We plan to release an EP in early spring, and somehow we will record a full-length album this year as well. Stay tuned!
Noise: A few weeks ago, the band played Rockwood Music Hall in New York City and I noticed that, in the second half of 2010, ATC performed at Arlene’s Grocery and the Living Room, both in New York City as well as the Deepwells Mansion Acoustic Long Island series. How was ATC received with the New York audiences? And is this a market ATC will continue to target in 2011?
Dave: I am so impressed with the music scene in New York. Those people don’t sleep! No matter what night of the week or what time we play, the rooms are always full of enthusiastic music listeners. And there doesn’t seem to be any backlash when we tell New Yorkers we’re from Boston either. That may be due to the fact that we’re not playing sports bars out there; these venues are known for having receptive audiences and quality music.
Noise: Air Traffic Controller seems to come in many different forms; you perform as a solo artist, a four-piece electric band, you have done acoustic shows with a string quartet, and on some occasions, both band and quartet perform, making it an eight-piece act. Do you have a preference? And does the act tailor itself to fit the venue you’re performing in?
Dave: Exactly, I don’t have a preference, and it really just depends on the opportunity. Some people love being in rock clubs, others prefer intimate venues. We are lucky to have more than one way to play these songs and reach everyone. I must say, it is a thrill when both sides of the band and both audiences collide for all-out ATC show.
Noise: In reference to the previous question, I see three shows on the ATC February calendar; Club Passim on February 19, the Bull Run on February 25, and Tupelo Music Hall on February 27. Is it a safe assumption, based on your last response, that all three of these dates will feature a different look from ATC?
Dave: Yes, three different looks, and none of them are basic ATC shows by any stretch. Passim, as I mentioned, will be eight string players and me, Bull Run will be an all-out show featuring both the rock band and the string quartet, and Tupelo Music Hall, with Alternate Routes, ATC will be a campfire-ish acoustic trio, which we never do, but you’ll love it! I certainly wouldn’t consider anyone a groupie for seeing all three of these unique shows.
Noise: Is it true that Boston mayor Tom Menino is a fan of Air Traffic Controller?
Dave: He got onstage with us downtown when we performed at the Boston Arts Festival and said something like, “I may be old, but I love Air Traffic Controller.” So he’s either an ATC fan or a dishonest politician... I’ve always believed everything Menino says—well at least the stuff that we can comprehend.
Noise: If you had the opportunity to play/open for any act you like, which band would it be?
Dave: I’d have to say Guster. They started out not far from where I grew up, just outside of Boston, and I got into them a lot when I started writing songs in the Navy. Their song “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” has always been very meaningful to me.
Noise: What is in the immediate future for the band?
Dave: Rotation on WERS gave us a huge lead on college radio, and now that ATC is spinning on over 130 college stations across the U.S. and Canada, we’re playing more shows in new places to support this album as we prepare for our next release.