A British folk-rock group whose music walks a line between acoustic traditionalism and a contemporary embrace of electronics, Matthew and the Atlas were founded by singer and songwriter Matt Hegarty. Hailing from Aldershot in the Rushmoor district of Hampshire, England, Hegarty taught himself to play guitar when he was 15 years old, and he soon joined a band that specialized in heavy alternative rock such as System of a Down and Smashing Pumpkins. Hegarty was writing songs from the start, but began taking the process more seriously when he discovered the work of singer/songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Jeff Buckley, as well as contemporary acts such as Iron & Wine and Sufjan Stevens. Moving in a more folk-oriented direction, Hegarty picked up the acoustic guitar and the banjo and started playing solo acoustic gigs. While playing a show in Woking, he got to know the musicians who booked the show, pianist Lindsay West and multi-instrumentalist Dave Millar, and with them, he formed the first lineup of Matthew and the Atlas. The group's often shifting lineup became regulars at London's Notting Hill Arts Club, and they were recognized as part of the new folk movement in the U.K.
After Hegarty self-released 2009's Scavengers, a Matthew and the Atlas EP recorded using a 12-track setup in his home, the group became one of the first acts to be signed to Communion Records, a label co-founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons. The four-song EP To the North was Communion's second release; thanks in part to touring with Mumford & Sons as their opening act, Matthew and the Atlas soon developed a following, and another EP, Kingdom of Your Own, arrived before 2010 was out. In 2014, Matthew and the Atlas dropped their first full-length album, Other Rivers, in which the group showed off a more polished production style and judicious use of keyboards and electronic percussion. For 2016's Temple, Hegarty and his collaborators traveled to Nashville, where they recorded with members of the group Foreign Fields. That same year, the group also issued a variant version of the album, Temple (Unplugged), which included acoustic versions of the same 11 songs. By this time, Matthew and the Atlas had settled into a stable lineup, with Hegarty joined by Alex Roberts (guitar), Tommy Heap (bass and keyboards), James Drohan (drums), and Emma Gatrill (harp). ~ Mark Deming