Sunday, August 21, 2016

Loudini Interviews Mike Cykoski of A IS FOR ATOM

Critical acclaim, plum music school accreditations, and promising sideman gigs all validate art, but these accolades don’t always nurture and fuel the creative soul. 

Mike Cykoski, the man behind the arty, literate indie-pop project A Is For Atom, has had a distinguished career in the music business so far, but a few transformative events drastically altered his path. Now, he welcomes a new era of fevered creativity with a bold new aesthetic and a thrilling monthly singles release platform. 

“It feels like this is the beginning for me,” affirms the New York City-based artist. “I have so much freedom creatively. I can write different types of songs, and release them on my own terms.”

Mike Cykoski has always been a fearless composer, drawing inspiration from time honored pop-rock songcraft, literature, classical and avant-garde music to create a signature aesthetic that’s affecting, adventurous and accessible. He studied formally at NYU, earning a master’s degree in Music Technology, as well as Juilliard, and the experimental music center HarvestWorks and DJ music school Dubspot. His most recent EP, Song For You, garnered him prime visibility in the press and onstage. Mike has performed nationally and internationally, live highlights include shows in Ireland, Mexico City, Toronto, Canada for NXNE and Canadian Music Week, and shows in New York City and Austin, Texas. 

As a composer, Mike’s always been intrepid about his creativity. But his new material embraces technology into his color palette like never before. Here he uses drum machines to conjure the rugged grooves in EDM and hip-hop’s beloved 808 beats. He paints his compositions with bold synesthetic soundscapes using a DJ’s artistic arsenal bring to life his compositions. 

The moniker Mike chose for his music, A Is For Atom, is pliable aesthetically and conceptually to this fresh creative chapter. The name was pinched from a 1953 animated promotional short for General Electric. “There are a few layers to the name. For one, it references the 1950s documentary and its message of technology improving our lives. Secondly, it conjures the symbolism of atomic culture as doomsday. Three, it conveys a feeling of profound progression—change at the atomic level—that’s perfect for how I’ve moved onto a different creative model and release paradigm,” Mike explains. 

Mike’s epiphany came when his friend, a live soundman, invited him to check out some electronic acts. “These artists had guitars, computers, and their voice, and, witnessing that opened so many creative doors. It made me feel like I could finally produce what I heard in my head,” he says. “Sitting down with the recording program Ableton, it felt like being a sculptor looking at a marble chunk and seeing all the possibilities.” 

Mike is currently writing a clutch of new music. His future singles will be standalone entries, each inhabiting their own sonic world. He’s experimenting with poppy dance ideas, electronic compositions inspired by classic rock, and he’s toying with an electronic crooner track. These monthly singles will be available through the standard digital service outlets, and each will have an A side and B side. 

“It’s a better way to release music, for me. I can create freely without having to come up with a similar sounding body of work,” he says. In keeping with this spirit, he plans for the A sides to be more traditional and the B sides to be more experimental. 

As a bridge between his past and present, Mike’s first single will be unreleased tracks from the batch of songs from his well-received 2014 EP, Songs For You. This will include “Chasin’ The Night” and “Amsterdam.” The track “Chasin’ The Night” melds profound alienation with passages that evoke The Beatles and deranged classical music motifs. “That’s about a post-divorce loneliness where you’re out at night, and you want to connect, but you feel so lost, you’re chasing around this beauty you can’t have,” he says. The gorgeous organ and vocals on “Amsterdam” conjures a melancholy beauty befitting of its subject matter. “I was inspired by Scott Walker’s ‘Girls From The Streets.’ That song really moved me, it was so sad. I felt compelled put myself in the topic to try to understand what I didn’t know,” he says. 

Following these he will issue a 2-song single per month for a year. 

Thinking ahead, Mike says: “Initially, I was a little scared to take a chance and follow this fresh direction. As I began moving forward and learned a new model, so much became possible and I’m so excited.” He pauses pensively before saying conclusively: “Now I have to go start recording.”

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