Interviewin’: Brent Rademaker of Beachwood Sparks
Filed under: Interviewin' | Posted by: Bryan
It’s been eleven years since we’ve been able to say there’s a brand new Beachwood Sparks LP in the bins, and nearly four years since we last saw the band onstage – their L.A. reunion show at the Echoplex in late August 2008 was one of that year’s highlights for When You Awake’s very own Bryan Thomas, who has been a fan and friend to the band since practically the beginning of their existence, going back a dozen or more years. In this recent e-mail conversation he catches up with bassist and songwriter/singer Brent Rademaker (B-Rad if you’re into the whole brevity thing, man).
When You Awake: Since it’s been eleven years since the last official release, I think a lot of your fans would like to know how the recording of the new album came about, and at what point The Tarnished Gold started coming together as an album, rather than a collection of tracks that you and the various members of Beachwood Sparks might have been doing over the years… I assume that the SubPop anniversary shows four years ago had a lot to do with it?
B-Rad: The SP20 anniversary did have a lot to do with it and there were a few false starts to the record along the way. All the songs were written specifically for Beachwood Sparks’ next record and we demoed some of them as far back as ’09. Mainly we were motivated by our friendship and our desire to make music together. You just look for signs that the time is right.
When You Awake: Did you guys originally share files back and forth and write the songs patchwork-style, while sitting in different parts of the country, or did you write the bare bones of the tunes separately and then get together in the studio and work on them after they’d already been begun? (The album was recorded in Eagle Rock, at Kingsize Soundlabs, and mixed at Thom Monahan’s WACS Studio in Los Angeles) Anything you can tell us about the contributions this time around from Neal Casal, Jen Cohen, Ariel Pink, or your brother, Darren Rademaker?
B-Rad: Farmer Dave, Chris, Jen and myself gathered in Los Gatos at Chris and Jen’s house, face to face. I brought a small recording set-up and we worked together. Beachwood Sparks’ music is always done all together. Maybe our side projects could work more patchwork-style, but Beachwood Sparks is a band (that what takes us so long to get things together). Of the five songs I brought in, three of them were written in the week before I left Florida to come out to record the LP. A good deal of the lyrics for a lot of the songs were inspired by the sessions and our time together. Neal and Jen were pretty much around the sessions the whole time, switching off on piano. Neal played a lot of amazing classical guitar, sang a lot too. Darren stopped by a few times for support and sang on two songs — that was pretty special — and Ariel made his contribution in an astral fashion.
When You Awake: Any particular stories behind the lyrics or substance of any of the new songs that you’d like to share?
B-Rad: I think it’s best to let the listeners make their own stories up. I know you hate that. I think this is the first record where other members (beside the four of us) contributed lyrics. We tried to make it really communal. Again, we drew a lot of inspiration from within our own world, from the past to the present.
When You Awake: It sounds to me like there are probably certain albums you guys probably have grown up listening to — like the Byrds’ Notorious Byrd Brothers or the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle — that continue to resonate with the band after all these years you’ve known each other. Any particular recent influences you’d like to point out, from the last ten years or so, maybe something that we’ve missed? What new bands are you listening to?
B-Rad: Honestly, with this record, there was an effort to not let out influences guide us. Admittedly we could have made it trippier, more obviously psychedelic, cooler, whatever… but it didn’t feel natural to not let it be…natural. Non-musical influences abounded on this record: our friends, our lives all that jazz. We always owe a lot to ‘Notorious.’ Flying Burritos, David Crosby, the Grateful Dead, Jay Adams, Felt, Teenage Fanclub, Neil Young, J Mascis, Eric Gaffney, George Jones…I met and played with Joe Lala during my time in Florida and he had a big influence on me to really be myself and sing in my own voice, really leave the fear of being judged by anyone behind in the dust…it was there! New bands I listen to? Tomorrow’s Tulips, Lightships, Explorers Club, Comet Gain, Freddie and the Aztecs.
When You Awake: I remember the first time that I wrote about you guys [the cover story for a fanzine called Vendetta], I focused part of that feature on the fact that your music wasn’t that easy to describe – some journos still seem to rely on country-rock as the main sub-genre or they’ll drop in Gram Parsons’ “Cosmic American Music” but I’m curious as to how you guys describe your own music, and whether you have your own name for it?
B-Rad: I remember that article, I liked that you wrote that. I gave up trying to name what we play. We used to say “psychedelic country.” Now, when someone I work with asks I’ll just say “Taylor Swift meets the Beach Boys.” I may just start saying we’re a “rock and roll” band . I mean, everybody — from the Beatles, the Velvets, to Orange Juice — played country and folk and they were just rock and roll bands. Musicians are just as lazy as journos. It’s funny when bands have a specific description for their music, but Gram’s “Cosmic American Music” rang true at the time, although he probably would have gotten tired of talking about it as well. I wish he was still around to see.
When You Awake: I see that in addition to a show at the Satellite, in Silverlake, CA, there are mostly left coast California shows that have been announced at this point – including the Gundlach-Bundschu Winery up in Sonoma, a show at the Catalyst Club Atrium in Santa Cruz, one at the Independent in San Francisco, and the “Freaks for The Festival” outdoor show on Saturday, July 21st at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, with Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Howlin’ Rain and others – can we expect to see more shows, perhaps a bigger tour for the Midwest or east coast? European shows?
B-Rad: We’re playing the Echo in Echo Park, CA on August 3rd. The Satellite thing is, unfortunately, just a release party. A few of us may jam on some Poco tunes, etcetera, but mainly we are going to DJ our favorite records in between spins of the new Beachwood Sparks LP and do some giveaways and some other festive stuff. The shows we have booked now are really the only ones that we are going to do, aside from one show in Los Angeles (to be announced). We’d love to go and play a show or two in US, the UK or Spain, but touring is not really something that’s in the cards for us right now, but as a friend once said, “life is full of possibilities.” The shows that we do have are going to be very special.
When You Awake: I was a little surprised that the cover art didn’t continue in the tradition of some of the iconic covers that were created for some of your releases, like the Make The Cowboy Robots Cry EP, which was one of the last ones, or that first self-titled LP. I particularly love that collage on the back side of the CD tray (seen here) from that first album. Any story behind the cover to this new CD?
B-Rad: If you line up the CD’s in your collection you’ll see the tradition continues. I really love the whole LP package, especially the double-vinyl. It was done by a skater kid at SubPop, Sasha Barr, who was raised around his father’s records by the Grateful Dead, CSN and The Band, and we gave him a few words of inspiration and he nailed it. Our lives are more natural and real we wanted the cover to reflect that simplicity of life. We have already represented the beaches/canyons/desert side of Los Angeles life. Look at the cover again, but this time think of Ben, Chris, Dave and the Spanish heritage in their families and this city we all live in…that’s tradition!
When You Awake: Do you think we’ll ever see a compilation of Beachwood Sparks’ odds and sods, tracks that were B-sides, songs on soundtracks or tribute albums, etc. all collected together? As you know, I’ve always wanted to work on that project!
B-Rad: I really hope so. I think the early years with Josh Schwartz, Tom Sanford and Pete “Sleigher” Kinne are really great, really innocent. Yes, Bryan , I couldn’t think of a better pilgrim for the job!
The Tarnished Gold will be available digitally and on such popular formats as CD and LP (double-LP at 45 rpm) starting today, June 26th. You can hear a sneak peek of two of the tracks here:
The band is also gearing up for a short tour around California. Come see the band at the following scheduled dates and keep an eye on their SubPop page for updates:
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 – Satellite, Los Angeles CA (Record release listening party! doors at 8:30pm Free Event!!!)
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 – Catalyst Club Atrium, Santa Cruz, CA
Thursday, July 19, 2012 – Independent, San Francisco, CA
Saturday, July 21, 2012 – Pappy & Harriets in Pioneertown, CA (““Freaks for The Festival” w/ Chris Robinson, Howlin Rain & Matt Baldwin)
Friday, August 3, 2012 – The Echo in Echo Park, CA
Just added!! Saturday, August 4, 2012 – The 3rd New L.A. Folk Festival at Zorthian Ranch, Altadena
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