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On Tour with The Radio Dept. – Interview and Photos

By ; July 7, 2011 at 7:00 PM 

All photos by Philip Cosores

You often hear the terms “great live band” or “great studio band” to describe an act that excels in one direction, yet implying some lacking in the other. So, deeming The Radio Dept. as a “great studio band” is a little unfair, as the three-piece Swedish dream-pop outfit are becoming virtual road warriors after breaking new professional ground by finally touring America after more than a decade as a band.

One of the seemingly obvious affects extended touring would have on a studio band would be that it would bring the bandmates closes together. Not so, in the case of The Radio Dept. “We always spend a lot of time together,” guitarist Martin Larsson notes to the amusement of his bandmates.

“We haven’t toured much in the past” Larsson says matter of factly, expanding, when asked, that the “obvious reason is that it is expensive.” But, Larsson also notes that the band is “kind of picky when it comes to sound,” and thus waited for the right opportunity to finally travel to the United States.”

This, of course, all changed with the release and relative success of Clinging To A Scheme, which saw critical success far and wide, including taste-makers Pitchfork, who slapped a Best New Music tag on the album. From there, it seems like a trip to the United States was an inevitability, but not something that went taken-for-granted by fans. “We didn’t have a booking agent before,” adds Larsson, “after Clinging To A Scheme, booking agents started to get in touch with us.”

When we caught The Radio Dept. in February in their first trip to Los Angeles, people had travelled from other states to catch a glimpse of the reclusive artists. And the band, likewise, seemed to bask in the reception, all taking some time to stare off into the blackness and realize that some form of success had come to them. At Sasquatch, things were a little different.

“It is kind of overwhelming, yes. We have done festivals before in other places, but not in this country,” (with the exception of their Coachella performance). And while they agree that some things never change with regards to festivals, the band couldn’t help but be taken aback with the beauty of The Gorge, with Larsson noting “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

When asked whether the fact that their initial U.S. tour saw people travelling to see them and this nearly tangible level of excitement went into their head when they were playing, Larsson is quick to note that “you shouldn’t think like that. You shouldn’t do things to please the audience too much,” clearly speaking towards artistic integrity, before breaking off to confer with songwriter/vocalist Johan Duncanson in Swedish, with Duncanson returning with this: “We spend most of our time recording, so it has been amazing doing this North American tour. We feel really lucky and have been flattered by the response that we have gotten. But also, because we have not only been touring here, we have been touring Europe and Asia as well, we are really keen on recording new songs now. The live thing is sort of taking time from that, so we need to balance it.”

“We are going to have some time off this autumn from touring, so I think we will spend all of that time just writing new songs and recording new music. We haven’t set a deadline or anything, because the last time we did that, we had to keep pushing it back. So, we’ll see how long it takes us to complete it, but we will definitely be recording soon.”

One of the major differences between seeing The Radio Dept. on their club tour and by seeing them at a festival is the likelihood that they are playing in the daytime at a festival. This is something the band acknowledges may cause difficulty in the live translation of their music, but it is a challenge that they are willing to face. “It’s a different beast. At a festival, we play in broad daylight and we don’t have a soundcheck. Sometimes, it is really good, though. But, sometimes, it is bad.” This plain truth causes an eruption of laughter from the group’s three members, notably the nearly-silent Daniel Tjäder.

Luckily, the Sasquatch set is the former and not the latter, opening with the moody standout “A Token Of Gratitude,” and making their way into some of their most upbeat numbers, eventually causing the increasingly large crowd to move and dance in the afternoon sun. Songs like “Heaven’s On Fire” turn into singalongs, casting light on the fact that The Radio Dept. have reached a broader fanbase then anyone might realize. And, the journey continues as they play next weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Sure, it will likely again be in the daylight, but the other likelihood is that it will be crowdpleasing, and memorable.


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