Sun Lo, a project of multi-talented Canadian producer ATTLAS and well-known British vocalist Richard Walters, is set to release their debut album Shapes in My Head. Bringing together two like-minded artists who have never even met in real life, the album demonstrates a synergy between the seemingly disparate musical worlds of the club, the orchestra, and the singer-songwriter.
Attlas and Richard Walters before Sun Lo
Jeff Hartford learned to play the piano, trumpet, guitar, bass, and banjo while growing up in Toronto. These instruments continue to influence his composing style today. He listened to Beethoven and briefly worked as an assistant for a Hollywood film composer but started releasing music as ATTLAS in 2015 after sending some demos to the Canadian electronic giant deadmau5.
He later rose to fame as one of the most well-known musicians to sign to deadmau5’s label mau5trap, releasing three albums and a string of EPs.
His second album, Out There With You, which was published in late 2020 during the height of lockdown, was one of his mau5trap releases. One of the record’s numerous supporters, Richard Walters, contacted Hartford on Twitter shortly after the album’s release and started a conversation that quickly developed into an intellectual discussion.
I think it was very soon after some of those first conversations that there were folders being sent to Richard – ATTLAS
Walters was raised in Oxford, England, and spent his adolescence performing with various bands. He started making music as a solo artist in 2007, putting out five successful albums and working with a variety of artists, such as Noel Hogan, the guitarist for The Cranberries, Simon Armitage, the British poet laureate, and even Florence Pugh, an Oscar-nominated actor and vocalist.
The folder that Jeff initially sent me was about 30 to 40 pieces of music. I could have written something to every single one of them. – Richard Walters
There was an instant connection between Walters and Hartford. They became friends because of their similar tastes in music, talking about artists like Talk Talk, John Hopkins, Moderat, and Neil Young.
We haven’t met yet. But I feel like I know Jeff really well, just through our conversations about music. – Walters
How the two formed Sun Lo project, their new alias
The ambient and club tunes that Hartford had handed him were the foundation of their creative process, and Walters started adding scratch vocals to them. They got into a discussion on Ishiguro’s book Klara and the Sun throughout their exchanges. Walters and Hartford created their own story from the perspective of an AI living among humans after noticing similarities between the AI’s isolation from the human world and life during Covid-19.
The concept gave Hartford the chance to explore a facet of his musicianship that isn’t frequently valued in the techno scene.
I was really fortunate to be able to do electronic music, but the real impetus for me getting into music was the singer-songwriter stuff,” he says. “I think that’s why the project was so exciting, because I got to flex those singer-songwriter intuitions that I had always preferred to lean towards, and then use all the technology and production tools I had learned after a bunch of years working in studios. – ATTLAS
Writing from a fresh perspective was enlightening for Walters as well.
The AI story arc was a gift. It allowed me to put an emotional layer between myself and the song. So the lyrics have ties to me and my life and my experiences, but they’re not so confessional or wrung out. – Richard Walters
The CD acts as a time capsule from the difficult days of the pandemic as well as a glimpse into a dystopian future. The lyrics of “Lately” by Walters express the irritation of lockdown as well as the plight of the AI protagonist: “Dreaming in monochrome and sepia / sometimes blue and red flood in.” But, the record also has a positive side, an upbeat aspect that portends a promising future for the interaction between humans and AI, as well as a successful collaboration between Hartford and Walters.