There is a considerable history built into the foundations of Travis Atria’s music. From 2004-2013, he wandered through psychedelia and soul and a variety of other lush environments as part of Florida foursome Morningbell. After releasing six albums, the band dissolved when his brother and sister-in-law (and fellow bandmates) decided to start a family. He subsequently founded The Slims with Collin Whitlock, a side project that dropped most of the heady rock aspects of his previous band, though it did still bear a resemblance to the work he had been producing. During his tenure in those two groups, he performed at Bonnaroo, SXSW, and was commissioned to create a custom star show at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium to commemorate Morningbell’s 2013 record Boa Noite.
After a decade of touring and creating music, Atria decided to step away from music to focus on another of his passions: books. In 2016, he released a biography of Curtis Mayfield titled “Traveling Soul”, which was co-written by Mayfield’s son Todd. He then turned his attention to jazz trumpeter Arthur Briggs, releasing “Better Days Will Come Again” in 2020 – a book which detailed Briggs’ time in Paris making music as well as the four years he spent in a Nazi prison camp during World War II where he conducted an orchestra comprised of prisoners.
It was during this time that the sounds of Atria’s upcoming debut solo record Moonbrain began to grow in his mind. Adopting the moniker of Atria, he began to develop an intricately layered sound that would give voice to the social and political issues held close to his heart. Whether it was the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville or a devastating IPCC climate report, he found desolate inspiration in turbulent events and experiences, offering a landscape built around gorgeous strings, shifting organs and a wealth of other eclectic instrumentation. Moonbrain is a collection of warnings, pleas, and directions on how to maneuver through the volatile world we find ourselves in.
On his latest single “Lucky”, he takes a fairly scathing look at some of the tenets of modern religion. He explains:
“This is a take on the Beatitudes, and I guess religion in general. I didn’t mean for it to be so cynical—like another hero of mine, Kurt Vonnegut, I am not a religious man but I still think the message of the Beatitudes is beautiful and is something worth fighting for. But it’s also such a naïve way of thinking. It has nothing to do with reality. I guess I was trying to warn my niece and nephew: don’t take these things literally, because the meek will not inherit the earth, as nice as the idea is, and you’ll just end up with a broken heart. In the end, it comes down to power. And most of that comes down to who gets lucky.“
Blending the erratic movements of avant-pop with the fluidity of soul, he creates a song as wonderfully obtuse as it is charismatic. The shuffling percussion, jaunty guitar sparks, and whistling flourishes tangle together in a compelling mélange of cadenced activity and impulsively constructed melodies. There is a need for truth here, a want to discern the reality of our own motivations and those of the people around us. Can we trust what is given to us or should we personally vette these things which can have such an enormous impact on our lives? Atria firmly believes it’s the latter.