Like the musical equivalent of a Coelacanth, Sacramento’s RAD is a living, breathing, biting example of an era gone by. They carry on the fury, brevity, and humor of the mid-‘80s when punk and thrash were crossing over, but with totally modern sensibilities. A couple of months ago, I finally got to see them play L.A. (along with my friend and ace photographer Ben Clark, whose pictures from a Pyrate Punx house show are included in this blog) and followed up with some questions that follow.
RAD is Lory (vocals), Charles (guitar), Anthony (bass), and Craig (drums). I asked them a lot about their debut 7” but there’s already a cassette tape demo ready to drop as well. They play often–sometimes in basement shows with local bands as well as with old-school thrashers–so check them out when you can. But as the song goes, definitely cover your tits in the pit.
MW: “Rad” is a word that all of you use pretty often. Is it difficult to not use it when talking about your own shows, songs, or sound?
Anthony: Yes, it’s difficult because it’s so true. We are rad. I think we remind the audience of that fact at least twice every time we play. It’s quite an effective marketing tool actually. People say, “Whoa, you guys are rad!” all the time after they see us play, and pretty soon everyone believes it just out of sheer repetition. Because it’s also true, of course. We are RAD.
Charles: We originally wanted a name like “NARC” or “Bad Dudes” but settled on RAD.
Lory: Being a native Californian, I tend to say “rad” a lot. We do get to play a lot of rad shows. I think all of our songs are pretty rad. The sound we are going for… rad. The dudes that I get to play this rad music with… They’re all right, I guess.
Craig: Yeah, unfortunately the word does come up a lot. All of us spent some amount of our childhood in the ’80s so it’s just in the vocabulary.
MW: On your debut single, which is appropriately called This Is Rad, all the songs are about the pit and poseurs except for one that is about Battlestar Galactica. How did that topic slip in?
Craig: That’s not totally true. We do have a song seemingly about poseur-dom, but it’s really making fun of the Epi-Fat milieu of the ’90s. It’s less about posers and more of a joke about popular punk from that time. Yes, we do have two songs about the pit and a song about Battlestar. It slipped in because we’re dorks.
Charles: Bands/Artists/writer’s find inspiration in all kind of places. Chinatown is not just about water rights, right?
Anthony: I had no idea we had a song about Battlestar Galactica until you just mentioned it now. How embarrassing.
Lory: I’m so ashamed of Anthony right now. I can’t believe he didn’t know about “So Say We All.” We also have a song about hoarding and people who talk too much, so your question has been held over for a later time.
MW: Most of you have been in or still play with other bands. Is it difficult to pack in shorter songs? Like a novelist writing short stories or epic poet trying haiku?
Craig: Actually, we have more trouble getting songs to go over a minute. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing though. I mean, we could do another chorus, but we already did it twice!
Anthony: It’s not really that difficult to adapt. Some of our songs have just as many parts as a three-minute long indie rock song, except we are playing so fast the song is over in one minute. The main thing is you can’t really stop in between every song to chit-chat because they are so short, that would totally break up the flow. So you have to play the songs in blocks of 4 or 5 songs at a time.
Charles: The songs seem to end up as long as they are supposed to be. It kind of just happened.
Lory: I like to think that RAD’s songs are novels for those with short attention spans. We say a lot in 30 seconds or less. We’re very complex that way. You just have to know how to read us.
Charles: Really, music like this has to be taken as a whole. The volume, the velocity, everything. To me it makes more sense to run together eight exciting songs then try to force on long boring song.
MW: The seven songs repeat on both sides. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to leave one side blank? Was that for the kids? For the drunks?
Anthony: I prefer to think of it as an homage to the Reign In Blood cassette that I had in high school. All the songs were on both sides, so all you had to do was flip it over and listen to the whole thing again.
Lory: I really can’t say anything to top Anthony’s response. Slayer FTW!
Craig: We know you’re going to play it so much that we put it on both sides so you don’t wear it out. Actually, the cost of pressing records is mostly in making the plates so we just put it on both sides.
Charles: Sacramento Records, the label I run with Lory, uses one-sided records a lot. I guess it is kind of our “thing.”
MW: It’s awesome that you get to play with original thrash and punk bands on their reunion tours. Is it ever disillusioning?
Anthony: We have been really fortunate to get to play with some of the old guard, the lifers out there, like JFA, Reagan Youth, Poison Idea, Fang, the Mentors, etc. It’s a mixed bag because you’re not really sure what they’re going to be like 25 years later, you know? Like JFA was just terrific. So much fun. They still rock. Some others… Eh, not so much. Sometimes it’s a bit of a disappointment but sometimes a pleasant surprise.
Craig: Some have been pretty bad and some have been great. One of the coolest shows was with JFA. They played great, were really nice guys and we talked to the guitar player for a long time. He was very accommodating and let us nerd out and ask him all kinds of questions about shows they’ve played with over the years. On the other hand, we played a show with this fairly obscure but once great hardcore band and apparently 3/4 of the band quit the tour. The singer decided to venture on and performed with members of the band they were touring with. They did a sort of Spinal Tap-like, free form jazz odyssey. It was terrible, hilarious, and maybe genius.
Lory: I’m never disillusioned with the old dudes. I hope to be shredding hard and busting balls as much as they all do when I’m that age, which is pretty soon.
Charles: Its kind of novel. To be honest we’ve had more fun playing with current active bands like Outlook from Olympia, WA or the Bi-Marks from Portland, OR.
MW: You fly the flag for Sacto pretty hard. Is California’s capital as cool as you make it seem?
Anthony: We are doing our best to make it that way!
Lory: Sacramento has a long history of producing excellent bands. We have a unique community of close-knit music fans that keep the fire burning and pass on knowledge to new generations of musicians. Sacramento is also an amazing town full of interesting architecture, beautiful trees and fabulous treasures to discover on every street corner. There really is no other town like it. We’re lucky to live in such a fantastic place. Sacramento is RAD!
Craig: Sac is a pretty great place. The river, bike trails, Phono-Select Records, and a cool community of bands and music supporters making things happen.
Charles: I love living in Sacramento. I love the people and the town. Plus, I think everyone should feel good about where they live and/or try to make it the best place ever.