Diaphanie finds something better

ATLAAS lead singer undergoes transformational rebranding

Heather Thomas, former lead singer of ATLAAS, has entered a new stage of her music career. Thomas, who was also a member of ukulele ’90s R&B covers duo Bunny, has re-emerged under the name Diaphanie with her new single and music video “Something Better.”

Diaphanie is a project two years in the making. Her original plan was to release music in the spring and tour in the summer and fall for the first time as Diaphanie. Then COVID-19 hit and, like many artists, her plans changed. 

“I got really depressed and uninterested in making music or being creative. I felt lonely, (like) a lot of people did, so I ended up reaching out to a couple of close friends who are also artists and were also feeling unfulfilled creatively and reevaluating art as a career,” Diaphanie says. “So I said ‘let’s play a game. Let’s make collaboration from afar.’”

Guitarist Matt Dirks sent her a guitar track, and she wrote a complete set of lyrics before she tossed them out, to write, as Diaphanie says, laughing, “something better” for Dirks’ track. In August, they dropped the single and released the music video. 

Directed by Samanta Katz, the whimsical video features Diaphanie collaborators Matt Dirks and Elessar Thiessen and their playful folky song. They shot the film guerilla-style in three hours, in a field of warming huts.

“It is not the new sound, but it is part of it,” Diaphanie says. She is inspired by Caroline Polachek and Rina Sawayama, two musicians who demonstrate a broad appreciation of genres in single albums.

“I don’t have to have a specific sound that I need to stick to. That was part of what made ATLAAS stifling. I wanted to explore different things, and I didn’t feel it was the place to do that,” she says. 

With Diaphanie, she wanted to embrace her feminine side, saying, “I chose (ATLAAS) because it’s gender-neutral and doesn’t necessarily bring forth the feminine or the masculine. I did that as a way of hiding myself. I’ve started this new project. I wanted it to be 100 per cent me. I wanted it to be focused on me as a person and less on an idea,” Diaphanie says. 

The word she chose to describe her new vibe was diaphanous, to which she added an “ie” to make it sound more feminine. She then found out that diaphanie is the art of recreating stained glass on translucent paper. “It was perfect,” Diaphanie says. 

The shift in musical direction also comes with a shift in management. ATLAAS was a self-managed project, but Diaphanie is managed by Winnipeg actor Jessina Cheffins. Giving away some of that responsibility has eased the stress of having a career in the arts off Diaphanie’s shoulders. 

“At a certain point, I was considering quitting music, because I was so exhausted, depleted and overwhelmed. I realized that I just couldn’t keep doing it alone,” she says. 

In the months ahead, Diaphanie intends to release more new singles. 

“I’ve let go of the fear that if I make something different than what I made before, that people won’t like it,” she says. “I’ve really loved people’s response to “Something Better,” but the baseline for me is making music that I’m really proud of and not worrying about what is going to happen after that.”

Diaphanie’s single “Something Better” is streaming on Spotify and Apple Music and available for purchase on Bandcamp. Her next single, “Crossfaded,” will be available on Oct. 23.

Published in Volume 75, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 8, 2020)

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