Santa Cruz Good Times

Dec 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Living in the Shadow

music_PictureAtlanticPicture Atlantic tosses ‘that band that opened for Coldplay’ title, forges own path
When asked about the time his band opened for Coldplay, Nikolaus Bartunek deflects the question with a languid, matter-of-fact, “We won this contest,” then adds, “We were one of three final contestants, and Coldplay chose us.”

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Bartunek isn’t too-cool-for-school, or feigning humility. The singer and songwriter for Picture Atlantic, a San Jose-based alt-rock outfit, is concerned that he and his band are living in the shadow of the gig.

“It was a show,” Bartunek says of the 2008 performance at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. “At the time that it happened, it was great. I'm really glad we got to play it.” Then again, he worries that when his band's name is mentioned at a party, or in a bar or coffee shop, they will simply be that band that opened for Coldplay.

“I'd rather have the music speak for us,” he says. “A lot of really bad bands opened for Coldplay, we could have been one of those bad bands.”

It’s hard to believe that Bartunek is so wary of his band’s future, considering he puts everything he has into Picture Atlantic. Over seven years, Bartunek’s wavy croon has propelled the band through three EPs, one full-length, and more than four West Coast tours.

The urgency in his voice meshes well, both with shimmering folk strumming and the explosive, heaving whirlwind of electric guitars and electronics that Picture Atlantic adeptly navigates—maintaining accessibility even at their most tangled and spastic.

That accessibility may have helped persuade Coldplay in its decision to award the band. It also couldn’t hurt that, in his mellower tones, Bartunek is reminiscent of Chris Martin, and the piano-driven pop of “Parliament of Two,” off of the group's 2011 Amalgamash EP, wouldn't seem out of place coming from the British mega-band.

However, as Bartunek pushes harder, he takes on a psychotic wavering akin to Muse’s Matt Bellamy, until his voice begins to break up into something that sounds more like Jim Ward of Sparta. And as the band picks up steam, they can only be compared to more psychedelic groups such as The Radio Dept, Facing New York and Santa Cruz's own Mountain Animal Hospital.

Picture Atlantic lost its original drummer when he went off to college; and a few other members have rotated in and out around core members, Bartunek (who plays guitar in addition to singing), bassist Ryan Blair and keyboardist Brian Graves. But despite its fluctuating lineup, the band's persistence is another clue that none of the members think of themselves as “one of those bad bands.”

“We don't really make any money off of this,” he says. Nonetheless, Bartunek, who first dropped out of college and then later quit his 9-to-5, devotes as much time as he can to Picture Atlantic—teaching guitar lessons and picking up other odd jobs on the side.

Currently, the band is working on its next full-length, which, according to Bartunek, will focus on the “very strange digital age” in which we live. He hopes to have it done and available for fans in the next eight months.

There have been times when he has thought about going back to school, “but I think at the end of the day I really do love playing music with this band,” he says. “I don't think there is anything that I am aware of in my life that would make me stop playing music.”

Picture Atlantic plays at 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $8. For more information, call 429-6994.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location