The emo four-piece celebrates the release of its new EP with a Big Room Bar concert tonight

For years, Walker Atkinson was content to play the sideman in bands, usually as the drummer. But once the musician reached college, he started to grow bored with his role.

“I was like, 'Man, I want to make something more, and I want to make it from scratch,'” said Atkinson, who started playing drums in the school band in fifth grade, drawn to the sense of order the instrument offered. “Before, I’d always walked into something that was already mostly created and then add my touch to it, which was cool, and I don’t have any problem doing that. But I really wanted to feel what it was like to build something from the ground up.”

Atkinson didn’t have a shortage of material to explore, either, with his earliest songs arriving in a purge as he wrestled with a family member’s substance abuse issues five years ago. “I was struggling with this thing, and I didn’t know how to say what I was feeling, or deal with what was going on,” he said (the family member in question is now sober). “And I just hit this point where I realized I needed to write all of this down and not worry. So I had years and years of all this buildup and thoughts, and eventually it all came out, like I needed to make something of things rather than just sit with it.”

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Living amid these challenges, Atkinson said he would often retreat within himself — “A lot of times I would hide in my room, not talking to people and just sort of shoving it all down as deep as I could,” he said — but songwriting allowed him to address and eventually overcome these conflicted emotions in a way that felt more comfortable than talking through them. “It’s so much easier for me to sit down and write a song about something than to sit down with someone and be like, ‘Let’s figure out what went wrong,’” he said. “When that happens, I’m like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong.’ But then I write a song and it’s like I can start to figure things out.”

This approach has carried over into Mouth Movements, which formed four years back but really took off once the emo band solidified its current lineup — Atkinson is joined by guitarist Adam Fischer, bassist Daniel Simpson and drummer Will Ash — roughly 18 months ago. The band will celebrate the release of new EP No Colder Place with a concert at Big Room Bar tonight (Friday, Jan. 24), joined by openers Palette Knife, Circle It and 2019 Alive Band to Watch snarls, which just released the second single off its anticipated debut full-length, Burst, which is due out March 6.

While Atkinson wrestled with family dynamics on early songs, much of No Colder Place deals with the fallout of a broken relationship from three years ago, the frontman singing: “I never stop thinking of you”; “If I could count the times I fucked things up”; “I guess I’ll just drink you away.”

“I tend to write a lot about how I process relationships with people. I’ve written about falling outs with friends, breakups, those kinds of things,” Atkinson said. “These songs were written during a very strange time in my life where I’d just gotten to college and I was drinking a lot and partying and going crazy, and a lot of the music comes from that period, which is kind of funny looking back on now, like, ‘Glad you’re doing better now, man.’

“It’s funny having this come out so long after that [time] is over, to the point where I’d sort of forgotten those emotions, and now that we’re playing I have to channel them again. It feels good, though, because it’s not like I’m reliving it. It’s more like, ‘This was an important thing that happened, and it’s over now, but it’s cool that it’s still happening in this small way, with these cool songs that me and my friends get to play.’ If you’re going to relive something like that, it may as well be like this.”