ATMIG strongly flexes a new creative muscle.
The Detroit indie-rock quartet of Tobias Lipski (vocals, guitar), Drew Borowsky (bass), Dan Clark (guitar) and David Jackowicz (drums) demonstrates their musical prowess with a fresh lineup and a new tenacious EP, Avec Muscles, which drops Saturday.
“A lot of that comes from the current crew. Dave can do the things on drums, Dan can do the things on guitar, and Drew can do the things on bass that I like to hear in the music that I listen to and that I sure as heck can’t do myself. We get each other’s vibe, so it can actually happen,” Lipski said.
Throughout Avec Muscles, ATMIG, or After The Money Is Gone, seamlessly builds a robust sonic system from several digestible, multi-genre “proteins,” including shoegaze, indie-folk, ambient, post-punk, dream-pop and indie-rock. Each “protein” evolves into a mighty, cohesive listen.
“For Avec Muscles, I think we still have variety, but overall, it’s a heavier album. It’s not just hard rock, it’s not just shoegaze, and it’s not just folk. It’s just us trying to put forth what the band and I do best,” said Lipski, who formed the band in 2006.
A follow-up to 2019’s Wishes album, Avec Muscles also pays tribute to Majesty Crush, a highly regarded Detroit dream-pop/shoegaze quartet that formed in 1990. The band featured the late David Stroughter (vocals), Hobey Echlin (bass), Michael Segal (guitar) and Odell Nails (drums) as part of a regal lineup that released their final EP, Sans Muscles, before splitting in 1995.
“It’s supposed to be the reverse of the Majesty Crush EP, Sans Muscles, because ‘Muscles’ was Hobey’s nickname. That was the last EP they did knowing Hobey was leaving the band,” said Lipski, whose new EP, Avec Muscles, means “With Muscle.” (“Avec” is French for “With.”)
“The whole concept is that I’m a huge Majesty Crush fan, and maybe Hobey will play with us. And if he’s going to play with us, then why don’t we name the song and EP after him? Who knows? Maybe he’ll come out to the show and play some Majesty Crush songs with us.”
Flexing Their Avec Muscles
In fact, Echlin played chorus bass on the EP’s wistful title track and co-wrote the lyrics with Lipski. For that grand “Avec Muscles” collaboration, ATMIG and Echlin fuse melancholic acoustic guitar and noble bass with wailing electric guitar, tingly cymbals and stomping drums.
That mystical instrumentation provides a durable, shoegazy buffer for accepting life on someone else’s terms. Lipski sings, “Your terms are inelastic/You push back twice as hard/I feign my acquiescence/As though I drive the car.”
“Hobey got the instrumental, and he said it haunted him. He started saying what it meant to him, and I already had the hook of ‘I am not as strong, when there’s nothing wrong,’” Lipski said. “I meshed two ideas together, his ‘accepting life on life’s terms,’ with my thing of ‘not excelling unless there’s a crisis,’ so we both won.”
ATMIG and Echlin also win in the compelling new video for “Avec Muscles,” which features Echlin carrying a heavy burden on a sunny California beach and pondering life in a red-tinged living room. Los Angeles-based directors Darrin Decay and Curtis Leitch conceptualized, filmed and finalized the video with Echlin.
“I just gave Darrin the lyrics, and he did the concept entirely himself. The spin was I said, ‘Hey, I want to introduce you to this guy from Majesty Crush, and I want you to make a video with just him. Can you do that?’ He was like, ‘Yeah sure,’ so I introduced them. Two months later, it was done,” said Lipski, who previously worked with Decay on ATMIG’s “Trip” video in 2017.
While ATMIG acquiesces on the title track, they reject corporations’ deceptive sales practices on the folky, pro-consumer anthem, “Ah Hah.” Unsuspecting acoustic guitar, outspoken electric guitar, anxious shakers, booming bass, thumping drums and crashing cymbals signal the enemy’s unwelcome arrival.
Lipski sings, “On any given day/They’ll tell you, you need something, that will only take away/Every day at your front door is a smiling face hiding a predator.”
“It’s about being exploited, typically for the dollar. And when I was coming up with the vocal melody in the car, I was thinking about the pharmaceutical industry. I would have loved to have pitched that song to the music supervisors for ‘Dopesick,’” he said.
“Sometimes when I need some peace in my heart and my lungs, I’ll listen to ‘Ah Hah.’ Before I had finished rerecording, rewriting and remixing it, I actually didn’t feel that strongly about the song. Now, it’s just a nice, pretty acoustic at the beginning, and I feel like I can just take a deep breath and enjoy it.”
ATMIG flexes their last Avec Muscles on “By Now,” a whimsical, indie-rock response to a friend’s growing sense of entitlement. Gleaming electric guitars, buzzy bass, throbbing drums and silky cymbals coalesce into a stern warning about toxic, one-sided friendships.
Lipski sings, “So you set the stage in a welcome way/Though your burns had not healed/Though you sacrificed, it would not suffice/Oh you hoped they’d learn.”
“That’s about someone who has let you down, you gave them another chance, but they keep doing it over and over. They still feel entitled to be on your good side, and I feel like a lot of kind people can relate to that,” said Lipski about the EP’s closer.
“‘By Now’ is also the most recent (track), and it’s the least radio friendly. It’s the song for the musician rocker. For the longest time, the music that I wrote wasn’t actually the music that I would listen to. But finally on this EP, I would say, ‘Oh good,’ and it satisfies my limited attention span.”
Building Avec Muscles in the Studio and on Stage
With just six tracks, Avec Muscles runs a concise 26 minutes. That brief length also translated into ATMIG only spending two days recording the EP with engineer Jake Shives at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studio and Royal Oak’s Soundscape Recording Studio.
“I felt really good going into the studio and saying to Jake, ‘I have five harmonies to go here,’ and we knocked it out in 20 minutes. Jake and I spent the most time together, and we’d get to a point where we weren’t even finishing sentences, but we were communicating what to move here or there,” Lipski said.
ATMIG also invited Echlin to record his bass parts for “Avec Muscles” as well as Gavin Langley (cello, drums), Emily Paye (violin), Phil LaDouceur (bass) and Jamie Gawecki (drums) to collaborate on several other tracks.
“I had asked Hobey if he would be interested in having an interview with The Third Men Podcast … and I made the introduction between Hobey and The Third Men Podcast, who also asked me if I’d like to join the interview,” Lipski said.
“By then, I had already sent Hobey the Wishes album. The first thing Hobey said (in the interview) was Wishes is a killer album. After the interview, Hobey said something about coming back to Michigan for a party at his brother’s house. Then, the question was posed to him, ‘Well, while you’re in town, would you be interested in going in the studio?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’”
ATMIG’s collaboration with Echlin will transfer to the live stage Saturday during their EP release show at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply in Ferndale. Hosted by Audiotree Presents, the show also will include Weeknight Motion, Dirt Room and Mystery Math.
“We’re gonna play the whole EP, and we’re gonna play ‘Whale’ and ‘Pail.’ Hobey is also onboard to do Majesty Crush songs since we might do as many as three of those. We’re ridiculously excited to play some Majesty Crush,” Lipski said.
“It’s going to be such a fun show. You can’t ignore Weeknight Motion when they’re on stage, and we’re honored for them to join us. We just sort of stumbled upon Dirt Room and saw we had a lot of friends in common. With Mystery Math, we recognized those band members from other bands. Their music styles jive with what we’re doing.”
ATMIG Avec Muscles EP release show with Weeknight Motion, Dirt Room, Mystery Math & Hobey Echlin
Saturday, March 19 | Doors 7 p.m. & Show 7:30 p.m.
The Parliament Room at Otus Supply, 345 E. 9 Mile Road in Ferndale
Tickets: $13 (advance)/$15 (door)