Maps & Atlases are an indie rock group from Chicago, Illinois USA, equally influenced by alternative rock, folk and experimental music. In addition, they have been labeled as a math rock band.
The band has released three official EPs, two full length LPs and toured on the festival circuit in the United States, including SXSW and CMJ, as well as national tours with RX Bandits, These Arms Are Snakes, mewithoutYou, Foals, So Many Dynamos, Ra Ra Riot, Minus the Bear, Princeton, The Fall of Troy, Nurses, Pattern Is Movement, Good Old War, Portugal. The Man, Tera Melos, and more. Their song "Vampires" was featured in NBC's shows "Up All Night" and "Parenthood", and Nintendo featured their song "Daily News" for a Nintendo DS commercial.
Early Years and Self Initiative
Maps & Atlases formed in the fall of 2004 when the founding members met in art school at Columbia College Chicago. Bassist Shiraz Dada, drummer Chris Hainey, Dave Davison (guitar/vocals), and guitarist Erin Elders first came together trying to find a sound that was both technical and organic, in the same vein as their influences Don Caballero and Hella.
Dada and Davison are the only members of the group who were born and raised in the Chicago area. Chris Hainey is originally from Texas, Dave Davison from Crown Point,Indiana, and Erin Elders grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
The group recorded several songs during their early period which were more aggressive than their later material would become. A couple early songs even include Hainey screaming back-up vocals. Several of these songs appeared on an unofficially named EP, "Bird Barnyard" which the band never actually released themselves. Others appeared on a split EP with suburban Chicago band The Antenora. These songs are very rare, and the band chooses not to play them live.
Dada is a sound engineer and recorded all of the band's early material at their own studio/practice space.
Maps & Atlases gained critical attention from an article in Guitar Player magazine in their October 2006 issue. In that interview, guitar player Elders says "Our goal was to put existing technical elements in a new context, and create something artistically unique, but still accessible."
They gained a sizable local following through playing many shows around nearby Midwest states, as well as many underground basement shows in Chicago with similarly minded acts like Russian Circles, Matt & Kim, Karma with a K, and Rahim. Much attention was attributed to each member's dynamic playing styles, notably Hainey's athletic drumming.
The group was also featured in a Pabst Blue Ribbon advertisement in The Onion.
In 2006 the band self-released the EP "Tree, Swallows, Houses" (recorded by Dada) to overwhelmingly positive reviews by critics and fans. It was hailed as a brilliant combination of technical musicianship and pop-friendly songwriting. The band toured this EP for nearly two years and sold out of two pressings. The album would later be released on vinyl by Friction Records with exclusive artwork. Several pressings were made, and would eventually also sell out.
In late 2006 the band signed on with Sargent House, which was at the time strictly a management company. After the initial pressings of "Tree Swallows Houses" sold out, Sargent House issued a re-release in 2007. This release would lead to Sargent House officially releasing many more records from other unsigned bands that it managed, later becoming the de facto record label for many of them.
In December 2006, Maps & Atlases were the hosts of cable and satellite music video station Refused TV.
In 2007 the band began to tour nationally, and members also began work on new material for an album, as well as side projects. The band filmed a segment at that year's SXSW for MTV2 "On the Rise". Towards the end of the year tensions began to grow within the band and new material was coming slowly, so the decision was made to simply release a new EP rather than full-length album and take some time off.
In July 2008 Sargent House released the EP "You and Me and the Mountain" (again recorded by Dada) which took many fans by surprise due to its slower pacing and more folk-oriented songwriting. It was still, however, warmly received by fans and critics and applauded for its original songwriting style. This would later be issued on vinyl by Sargent House, with special etching artwork.
During a cross-country summer tour with mewithoutYou, Shiraz Dada pulled double-duty as he also filled in on bass for MewithoutYou as their bassist was unable to tour at the time.
In July, 2009, the band was listed by The Boston Phoenix as the best new band in Illinois in a supplement, "50 Bands, 50 States".
In late 2009, Maps & Atlases decided to part ways with Sargent House.
The band spent the majority of 2009 writing and recording songs for their long-awaited full-length album. These songs have all been recorded by producer Jason Cupp (Finch, Nurses, Good Old War) at various studio locations. In March 2010 the band signed with Barsuk Records, who released their debut album entitled "Perch Patchwork" on June 29, 2010. The album was released to critical acclaim, and achieved an ADM Rating of 7.8 on UK-based review aggregator website, AnyDecentMusic?
"Beware & Be Grateful"
On April 17, 2012 the band released their second full-length album, "Beware & Be Grateful." There were 4 promotional songs, 3 of them with accompanying music videos. First two singles were Winter, which premiered via Rolling Stone Magazine. Secondly, Remote and Dark Years. It too, was released prior to the album. The third single was Fever, and forth Old Ash.
In addition to the band, the members of Maps & Atlases have had various side projects.
Dave Davison created a solo outlet known as Cast Spells, featuring Good Old War, which has released music through Sargent House. Davison also contributes and tours with the collective Hey! Tonal.
Davison and Chris Hainey created an art-rock project known as Mountain Lion Mountain.
Erin Elders is a filmmaker. In addition he created a thrash-metal band called Skullzone, along with Johnny Miller and Ryan Duggan. Duggan is a Chicago artist who owns Hated Skateboards and Drug Factory Press and does much of Maps & Atlases poster and t-shirt artwork. Skullzone is currently on hiatus. Erin is now playing guitar & vocals for Wedding Dress.
Dada has engineered several records for bands including The Street Brats, and These Guys Are Built.
Dada and Elders have also been known to DJ at Chicago bar The Burlington on occasion. Elders has a strong obsession with spinning songs by Electric Light Orchestra.