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In another serendipitous event, the band was approached by Simon Elkins, a brilliant and reclusive guitarist and singer in Fissure Mystic, with an offer to record five songs for a high-school recording project. The resulting recording and the act's burgeoning live show caught the attention of Dan Rutherford of Morning After Records, who set the band up with a pivotal showcase at South By Southwest at the famed Pure Volume after-party.
By the time Threlkeld, Andrews and company made it to Texas, they were a fine-tuned machine, thanks to having played as many shows as possible, in as many places as possible, and the quartet proceeded to absolutely wow everybody at the party, including a couple of people who later linked the group up with Stolen Transmission.
The Photo Atlas's time with Stolen Transmission, the Island Def Jam imprint run by Rob Stevenson and Sarah "Ultragrrrl" Lewitinn, was short-lived. Not too long after the label issued the outfit's first full-length, No, Not Me, Never — the follow-up to the band's auspicious Morning After debut, 2006's Handshake Heart- attack EP — in 2007, the group was back to relying on its own devices. After endless rounds of touring for the next few years, the Photo Atlas got the chance to record its next record with legendary producer J Robbins in 2009. By then, the lineup had shifted a bit, with Shirley moving on and drummer Nick Miles coming in. He later left the group, but not until 2010, a year after the Photo Atlas released the To Silently Provoke the Ghost EP, as well as a split with fellow Denverites the Epilogues, The Friendship EP.
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With Miles no longer in the band, the resourceful trio tapped into the local scene for his replacement. Frank Abbatecola of Monroe Monroe suggested Josh Taylor, his former drummer, who had been playing in Aloft in the Sundry. Taylor's versatile and powerful drumming proved to be a perfect fit, and he's been with the act ever since.
The Photo Atlas just put the finishing touches on its latest record, Stuck In the Honey Trap. "The title came about because I was looking up old mobster terms and the term 'honey trap' came out and it caught my eye," says Andrews. "It refers to when a girl would go in and seduce a mobster, sleep with him and rob him of all his stuff. And he would wake up in the morning, and the girl would be gone, as well as his wallet."
After working with Jeff Kanan and Nick Sullivan at John Macey's Silo Sound Studios, the Photo Atlas has emerged with a promising new album that sounds honed yet relaxed, with a sound that hasn't really deviated from the angular, dynamic, post-punk-inflected music of its earlier days. "The only way I think we've switched a little bit," Andrews observes, "is that we aren't sweating the details so much as doing what comes naturally at this point."
You can hear as much on the new album. The Photo Atlas sounds loose and more comfortable in its own skin than ever, but it's also focused and bursting with the same nervous energy that made it such a compelling band from the start.