AA: To me, artists are like the superheroes of the modern world. And every hero has their origin story. So what is your origin story, Atlantic Canyons?
AC: I love this question and how it recognizes how much our background and history drive us as artists.
I grew up as a second-generation Asian American kid. There’s an unspoken message that immigrant parents communicate to their kids every day, it boils down to this: “We sacrificed everything to come here and give you opportunities that we never had. Do not mess this up.” It’s a lot of pressure to put on the next generation! I think my origin story is one of following a path of expectations. I burned myself out trying to make my parents happy and I ignored my own needs. I worked hard as a kid to get good grades to please my parents. I wanted to study music at a conservatory, but when I graduated, I went to engineering school to make them happy.
After that, I went to law school to prove myself to other people. I got a job at a top-tier law firm. I had a great salary, but I began to realize I had put a price on my own soul. I was so stressed out that I had started drinking. I still hadn’t fully appreciated that I was killing myself trying to meet the expectations of others. It wasn’t until the pandemic started, and I was forced to slow my life down that I began to realize what I was doing to myself. It allowed me to focus on my own needs and reconnect with my childhood love for music.
In a way, I think my album, See the Hue, speaks to my origin story. I didn’t do this on purpose. I think I just needed to express the feelings of frustration that had built up throughout a lifetime of trying to please other people. The album carries these themes of isolation and external pressure and the emptiness of false success. Having released these feelings through music has healed me as a person.
AC: Why do you make music?
AA: For me, music is about self-discovery. When I write I have one rule: trust your gut. So everything I do musically is born out of my first instinct. It’s almost like it doesn’t come from me; it comes from my subconscious. But that’s also just as much a part of me as the rational voice in my head. So what ends up happening is that in my music I see another side of me. I don’t necessarily understand what I produce or write, but it’s honest. And I don’t know what’s going on in other people’s minds, but by exploring the dark recesses of my mind, I hope to connect with other people who might be feeling the same emotions I do. I think that’s a good thing. So people don’t feel alone.
AA: Where do you see your next project going in relation to your most recent EP: See The Hue?
AC: Oh, this is a difficult question to answer! It’s hard to predict. With See The Hue, I was able to get certain thoughts and emotions out and expel some past traumas. It felt good to express through art things that are difficult to convey in words. I think completing the album was therapeutic and healing for me. I’d like to think that I am moving on to my next chapter and that the next project will reflect that sense of hopefulness and inspiration.
AC: Tell me about the artwork for Project Dreams? (How does it tie into the Hero’s journey?)
AA: I love this question! Originally, in the midst of the pandemic, I had asked my sister to paint an idea I had for my artwork. I told her I wanted a yellow brick road, like the cover album for Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but with a purple spacey sky, so she painted it. Rudimentary, but there were cliffs and countryside with a purple night sky in the background. When it came time to actually design the cover for my album I commissioned the artist who made the artwork for my first three singles. She’s amazing. I showed her the painting and told her I wanted something that looked like an alien world. I gave her a picture of me and my dog to photoshop walking down the yellow brick road.
I see my cover art as an opportunity to visually articulate the sonic themes of my album. And I wanted people to be able to get lost in the world of my album cover—like I did as a kid when looking at book covers. Who are these characters? What are they doing? What is living in that world like?
AA: I like to think of my instruments as the side characters in my album’s story. Who are the side characters in your EP?
AC: I love the way you see things in a narrative format. Your theater background really shines through and gives you such a unique perspective, and I love that!!
My strongest performance instrument is the violin. Although the violin has never been the centerpiece of any of the songs, I have a lot of strings peppered in. But when it comes in it’s pretty noticeable— like a character that really speaks and has an impact. I fully appreciate the strings as a solid supporting character. Moving forward, I am thinking of bringing strings into a more prominent role in my music.
A surprising favorite for me was the tambourine. I never thought to use tambourine until this album. I used it in One More Minute and Sorry, and those are Alt-rock-type songs where it makes perfect sense to include it. That was how I first got it in my head that the tambourine should have a significant role. As I got bolder with including it, I added it to songs that I never would have expected to use it in, specifically, See The Hue and Haunted World. It became an inside joke between me and my friend/co-producer as we were polishing up the album that tambourine was the secret sauce to the whole thing.
AC: Are you an introvert or extrovert? What’s your Myers Briggs indicator?
AA: I’m an INFP-A. Just took the test! The last time I took the test, which was before going to college, I was INTP. Not surprised I changed given that I’ve become much more artistic since. While I consider myself an introvert, a lot of people who have met me in recent years or who don’t know me well think I’m an extrovert. In a sense, they aren’t wrong. I like to party, I go out, I am a performer, and my hair/fashion calls attention to themselves. I guess that’s because I’m also a Leo. But I see myself as a shy extrovert. I don’t necessarily like being alone but I’m comfortable with it. I much prefer to be around people, but I’m too shy to make friends easily, so I’m kind of stuck in this weird middle ground between extrovert and introvert. Maybe that’s why my music is the way it is.
AA: Let me throw it right back at you. What is your Myers-Briggs personality? And what is your astrological sign?
AC: I’ve changed over the years, but now I’m an ENFJ-T (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging – Turbulent). So, we are both Diplomat personality types! Diplomats are known for their empathy, diplomacy, and passionate idealism.
On the astrological calendar, I’m a Virgo. While I’m not big into mysticism, I have to admit that the Virgo profile describes me pretty well.
Arthur the Artiste*