CHAMPIONING a unique blend of blistering '70s stadium grit, Southern swagger, and memorable melodies, Atlanta’s Radio Birds have become one of the Southeast’s most exciting bands on the rise.
With the release of Contemporary American Slang in winter of 2015, the three-year-old band’s sound is fully realized. Recorded at Atlanta’s Southern Tracks, the iconic, world-famous studio that closed its doors just this summer, it’s a robust record, dynamic, hooky, and tight without boasting too much sheen. Born of Georgia clay and Atlanta hustle, fans of Tom Petty, Deer Tick, and The Allman Brothers will all find something to love in Justin Keller, Colin Dean, and Chase Lamondo’s arrangements.
The band returns to Savannah with Nashville folk-pop six-piece Charlie & the Foxtrots, who are set to release a new 7”, Jenny Lee, this month.
We chatted with Colin Dean about their latest LP, changing lineups, and working together to create a one-of-a-kind sound.
Contemporary American Slang has a strong '70s vibe and Southern rock lilt, but it's quite distinctive. How do you balance stylistic influences without sounding derivative?
I don't think we have stated goal to sound this way; this is what comes out when we play and write together. Our influences are already naturally present in what we do, so we just need to be careful not to limit anything before it has a chance to develop.
I think we would be at risk of sounding derivative only if we tried to force something, either towards a certain sound or away from it. We try to keep it natural.
What was it like recording Contemporary American Slang?
It was awesome. We recorded at Southern Tracks up in Atlanta. You go get your coffee, and Bruce Springsteen is looking at you. You go to the bathroom and see a list of the writers and bands that tracked there.
There is a room in the back with, seriously, 40 snare drums. And that’s before you even get into the main room. Being there felt like a combination Disney World, a museum, and a church.
We tracked the album quickly, and we really savored every moment.
What do you think distinguishes this new album from your previous EP?
The past year, year and a half, was the first time any of us had been in a band where touring is a real option. You started seeing songs that are about life on the road, the joys and perils of making art, maybe a little more darkness, and a much broader perspective on life. The sound is more diverse, but at the same time, we started focusing more on the things that are strengths of the band, tonally.
How have you seen your writing as a band grow in the past years?
Our writing as a band grows as we incorporate more of everyone into it. We are all so different that we grow by listening. Each song usually has one person who takes over the philosophy of it and drives it forward, whether that happens at the beginning skeleton stage or in the mixing room, but the end results are true, whole-band compositions.
I understand everyone in the band comes from varying musical backgrounds; what’s everyone’s musical history and how’s that diversity come into play in writing and performing?
When we were kids, JK wanted to be Alanis Morissette, I wanted to be Joan Jett, and Chase wanted to be Leonardo DiCaprio. Once we realized that those things were all unlikely to happen, we grew facial hair and started a rock band.
Really though, our influences are all over the place. I think it is really important to embrace and wrestle with your deficiencies rather than relying on what you know you can do. None of us is a virtuoso at anything. But we are creative and energetic, and that is what we use to keep everything moving forward.
You recently had a member part ways with the band; who will be filling in on guitar on this tour?
We have some real good buddies ready to step in. Great player Brooks [Mason] from a band from a band called the Georgia Flood will do a few at first, and then we have Mike Ford ready to step up longer term. He’s a real treat. You’re going to like him. Plus he looks like all of the Foo Fighters put together. Very handsome.
What’s next for the band?
We are focused on writing a lot of new stuff now in preparation for a new album. That is always what you look forward to. Not to devalue where we came from, but we want to have the next thing ready before the last thing is done. And of course, we will keep playing live as much as possible, because that is where the magic happens.