Anthony Atkinson & the Running Mates Broken Folks Album Launch
Saturday October 18 — Gasometer Hotel, Collingwood
With guests Machine Translations + Duke Batavia + Amarillo
For more than sixteen years, Anthony Atkinson has been a stalwart of the Melbourne independent music scene — first as the frontman for The Mabels, and more recently as a singer/songwriter in his own right. His songs, with their roots in the narrative folk/pop tradition, bespeak an uncanny ability to cast new light on everyday lives; his eye for detail and ear for melody have won him a loyal listenership throughout this country and beyond.
Originally from the north coast of New South Wales, Atkinson relocated to Melbourne in 1995, and was soon joined by his fellow Mabels Kim Parker and Warwick Lobb. The band became an integral part of the Candle Records stable, regularly touring with labelmates such as The Simpletons and The Lucksmiths, and gaining fans with their particular brand of indie pop, tinged with folk and country influences and distinguished by vocal harmonies. The Mabels released their Caravan Park Girlfriend EP in 1997, and their debut album, Scenes from a Midday Movie, in 1998. By the release of The Closest People (2000), the band’s creative development was evident; their knack for a great tune remained, but Atkinson had forsaken much of the simple storytelling of his earlier work for a more nuanced examination of contemporary lives and loves. Drum Media pronounced: “Almost concept-like in its construction, The Closest People is a long and dusty road littered with perfect pop ballads that drag you in with their hooks and lay it on the line with their lyrics.”
In late 2000, Atkinson and Parker undertook a fourteen-date tour of the US east coast, performing as a duo. External pressures began to take their toll on the band, however, and over the ensuing years The Mabels’ performances became increasingly infrequent.
Breaking from his long-time collaborators served only to sharpen Atkinson’s progression as a songwriter — as his first solo release, Come Home for Autumn (2003) would attest. Freed from his band’s established parameters, Atkinson was able to explore significantly more diverse musical terrain, incorporating elements such as keyboards, beats and noisy guitars into a remarkable collection of intimate, understated songs. While Juice acclaimed it as “melodically stunning and beautifully produced”, Time Off noted his development: “Atkinson hasn’t stepped too far from his roots — he’s just shed some of the pop in favour of a measured, considered approach to songwriting that pays off more with each listen.”
Continuing to tour regularly following the release of Come Home for Autumn — including shows across Europe and the UK in late 2003 — Atkinson gradually gathered an established backing band around his new material. Guitarist Louis Richter (Mid-State Orange) remained from the album, but Stanley Paulzen was replaced on drums by Dave Rose (Joni Lightning) and Marty Donald took over from fellow Lucksmith Mark Monnone on bass. Perhaps the most obvious change, however, was the addition of pedal steel player Chris Baker to the line-up, lending a countrified edge and a welcome richness to the band’s sound.
The growing cohesion of the newly-christened Running Mates was obvious on Atkinson’s sophomore outing, Loyalty Songs (2006). Without sacrificing any subtlety, much of the sparseness of his earlier solo work was gone; instead, he and his band attacked these songs with renewed vigour. Recorded in the hills outside Melbourne, Loyalty Songs — the last ever release on the Candle Records imprint — was very much a “band” album. Atkinson’s range as a songwriter continued to expand: the album encompassed some of his most self-assured pop to date alongside noticeably darker and melancholic moments, lending it a fresh emotional depth. Erasing Clouds hailed it as “smart, inspiring [and] thoroughly rewarding," noting “these songs can be breezy and light, seriously sad, evocative of landscapes, thoughtful about contemporary life.”
Now in 2014, Atkinson delivers a new record Broken Folks and this time The Running Mates share the type set which serves to highlight the collaborative nature of the project and identifies this undoubtedly as a collection of songs conceived, created and performed by a band at the top of their game. Their confidence in their well-honed sound underpinning Atkinson’s ever-compelling narratives with a newfound urgency. Drawing on a diverse range of musical antecedents, from the classic country-tinged pop of 'It Radiates' and the trad folk leanings of the poignant 'Labour Day', Broken Folks tells fractured stories with a shimmering musical presence.