When asked for a description of ATSEA, Omar Prazhari, third-year Arts student and creator of the band, quickly responded with, “Five sad boys making happy music.”
These five sad boys feature Prazhari himself on guitar and vocals, Ogwaho Powless and Liam Dolan on guitar, Daniel Thow on bass and Matt King on drums.
“The way we play live and the way the songs are recorded are different because when I record, it’s just me performing by myself. And I bring that to the band and then they all have different takes on it,” said Prazhari. “We’ll try it out together and see if it works.”
Prazhari and his fellow band members of ATSEA are excited to have been chosen to perform at Shindig — CiTR’s annual “battle of the bands” competition. While Prazhari has performed for the competition before, this year ATSEA is in it to win it.
“We’re aiming for the gold this time,” said Prazhari. The prizes for winning Shindig include recording time and merchandise production — essentials for any band wanting to move forward in their musical careers. “We really just want to get some studio recording time.”
Prazhari began writing to express his first-year struggles. Many students at UBC will identify with the various emotions experienced when arriving to campus while also missing friends and family. In this regard, ATSEA’s music is personal, but also universal.
“I just started writing songs because I get pretty lonely in the dorm room and it’s cold outside,” said Prazhari. “I drew inspiration from hanging out with friends and being away from my old friends and my family. Especially that year, that was my first time abroad by myself with no one around. I felt very isolated, so there’s a lot of slower songs … which are about my parents.”
What makes ATSEA stand out apart from most Vancouver bands is the lack of lyrics.
“I didn’t like my voice, so I made the project all instrumental indie pop,” said Prazhari.
Like a smooth and fluid tide, Prazhari manages to incorporate soft electronic sounds to create a musical atmosphere of natural tones. Within the dream pop genre, he personifies the atmosphere of Vancouver through sound, which evokes the same emotions he feels when he is in a place or having a certain experience.
“I wanted to create this feeling of going to the beach. You can’t really focus on the scenery if there are lyrics going on. I don’t have the attention span of listening to lyrics and doing activities. I want to make ambient music with the sea vibes kind of thing.”
ATSEA’s next album, to be released in the new year, will have a medley of instrumental and lyrical songs. When asked about the shift to lyrics, Prazhari said felt pressure to add lyrics his music and is rising to the challenge.
“It’s because of my family,” he said. “It’s funny because this summer I went home and ... I had multiple family members asking, ‘Where are the lyrics?’ And then my mom was like, ‘It’s better if you put lyrics because people will remember the songs more.’ So I want to try and build that approach too.”
ATSEA is no stranger to the UBC stage. One of their recent and most memorable events was playing at the UBC 100 celebration.
“That was kind of a fun show … We had to sing Happy Birthday. We practiced it like 20 times right before the show to make sure everything was right,” said Prazhari. “We were so scared.”
“I really like getting together with my close friends to just play music. When we play a show, it’s always satisfying at the end of a set,” said Prazhari. “Even if it’s a bad show, I’m always glad we could spend that time together.”