Interviews > Sons of the Radio
Sons Of The Radio
Interview by Athena Schaffer

Heartstrings & Heresies is the self-released debut album by Sons Of The Radio, and if this is anything to judge by, this is definitely a band to watch as the future approaches. Aptly named, the band is influenced by and pays homage to AOR and Alternative Radio soundscapes. Their music is as timeless as it is Rockin’!

Hailing from Laurel, MD, Sons Of The Radio are: vocalist Gomez, guitarist and vocalist Mike Sullivan, drummer Jimmy Herberson, and bassist Tom Kravulski. The band is known best for their live shows in the Mid Atlantic region, and it’s only a matter of time before they conquer the world. Find out more at sonsoftheradio.com .

Sons Of The Radio’s signature sound is built on rock solid drum/bass foundations, soaring guitars, and crystal clear vocals. The album is downright catchy throughout, and impossible to sit still through.

The Crowgrrl recently caught up with frontman Matt to find out more!

"Heartstrings & Heresies" is a fantastic album! Any fun stories around its recording?

Recording the album took a long time: five months of working 1-2 times per week. We were trying to decide between clean and shimmering production, or more of a raw, live, lo-fi rock feel. I think we got a mixture of those things which works for this album, but I definitely want to experiment with a little more lo fi sound and vintage gear for our next record.

All the songs were pretty much finished when we started to record in spring of 2010, except that "Tomorrow's Wolves" didn't have lyrics. I wrote those while we were in the recording process.

What else----the engineer that recorded the album liked to get multiple vocal takes in various stages of inebriation. So I would do 1-2 takes of the song as best I could, and then he'd open a handle of Sailor Jerry and pour us both shots, and I'd keep interspersing takes and shots until I could barely get the words out. Not much from those later takes made it into the finished recordings, but there's a bit of my distressed drunken howling at the end of “Center So Vile”, which I think adds to the desperation of the song.

Also, while Mike the guitarist is a Gibson guitar/Marshall amp, British tone junkie, the engineer had him record some of the rhythm parts and textures through an old Soldano head. In fact, the head itself has history: it was Jimmie's Chicken Shack's Soldano head through which some of their famous songs, including "High", were recorded in the 90s. So that's a neat little piece of trivia.

"Suspicions" is my personal favorite song from it. Any commentary about its inspirations?

"Suspicions" was inspired by something very personal I was experiencing at the time. I wrote the chorus first, about the experience of receiving a distressed voicemail message from a friend that was in serious trouble. The rest of the words spiral out from that central idea, but it's meant to be the kind of song you can interpret and attribute your own meaning to.

"Get It In" is the first single? What makes that one stand out for you?

“Get It In”, for us, was danceable and accessible. It's immediate and people get it. Every rock band worth their salt has a song about a sultry temptress. What I think many people don't realize about the song, is that its actually a warning. We aren't glorifying the "vixen." We certainly aren't praising her when we equate her choices and behaviors to her "soul-side suicide." So while it's a sexy, fun song, there is a layer beneath.

We hoped people would hear this song, get drawn in, and then listen to the rest of the album, which is a little more complex and might take repeat-listens. That's what I think any good single is meant to do. I should add that our drummer Jimmy is fond of making up and using slang sayings, and he used to constantly talk about how we were going to "get it in," meaning really have a blast or have a killer performance. And eventually, we decided it needed to be in a song. So I wrote the lyrics around our drummer's slang commentary.

Tell us more about "Tomorrow’s Wolves".

"Tomorrow's Wolves": I'm personally really into fantasy lit and movies, and I wanted there to be a song that captured that, but in an interesting way. The song started off sounding very Doors-ish, so I thought maybe it could be a dystopian song, and then the mental image came to me of a lone wolf skulking among the frozen ruins of a modern city, and the line "Tomorrow's wolves will rule the day" came to me. The rest of the song is built on the idea of survivors after some kind of apocalypse and how they band together to survive. Or, if you ask my mom, it's about doggies.

"Just Press Go" is almost schizophrenic with its melding of two moods. How did this one come about?

"Just Press Go" was the first song we wrote together as a band. We were out every week playing cover gigs in dingy bars and the song that people loved to hear more than anything, it shames me to say, was “Crazy Bitch” by Buckcherry. “Just Press Go” was written to be fun, silly, and narcissistic. A rock star on top of the world, taking different girls backstage each week, thematically like a Buckcherry tune.

From my perspective, I figured I was just giving people what they wanted to hear, and I wasn't sure if we were even going to write other original songs, so the meaning was unimportant. When people loved it, and wanted more original music from us, and we started devoting more time and attention to writing others, I became kind of ashamed of the lyrical content of that song. But I think I made up for it with other songs on the album.

As for the changing moods, the band is really influenced by grunge, classic rock and punk, so I think/hope you're hearing the melding of all those styles in this song. The funky verse riff leads into the wall-of-sound punk chorus and then the crowd-chanting pep rally thing in the bridge. I think the song also features the best guitar solo on the record.

What’s your personal favorite song on the new album?

My personal favorite song on the album is "Tomorrow's Wolves", but we rarely play it live because it's very moody, and kind of drags the energy down at a live show. It's definitely an album song. The layered vocal harmonies were my way of paying tribute to Layne Staley, who is by far my favorite vocalist of all time.

Any stories behind the cover art?

The cover art was designed by an acquaintance of our drummer that does design work for bands. There is a mild spiritual theme or symbolism throughout the lyrics on the record, though I'm not a spiritual person. There's also light and dark, so I got the idea of Heartstrings & Heresies - light and dark, love and spirit. The cover is an interpretation of that - a heart-shaped hole in a stained glass window. I never liked the string image, because I think it's too literal - I would have been fine if the hole was just empty. But it's fine.

Who does most of the songwriting for the band?

Our bassist and guitarist brought most of the initial ideas, but we develop them collaboratively in our practices, so we all throw our hat in creatively. I see my role as being the orchestrator - the band gets so far with a riff or lick, and then I help them get over the hump to stretch it into more of a song with dynamics, transitions and variety. I write all the lyrics and vocal melodies. We have been writing new material for our next album, and now even the drummer brings fresh new ideas to the table, so it is truly a collaborative effort.

Do the lyrics come first? Does the music come first? What is the songwriting process like for you?

Music comes first, and I take home a rough recording of the song and then write lyrics after listening to the song over and over. Usually, a line will emerge simply from repeated listens, and then I'll know what the song is supposed to be about - then the rest writes itself. It just sometimes takes a while for that first idea to emerge.

I know you do a lot of shows in the Mid Atlantic region. Any wider range tour plans?

As for touring, we wouldn't be able to tour until we had some more material, and it would need to be worth our while. 2012 and 2013 may see us stretch as far is New York to the north, North Carolina to the south - you know like regional shows/weekend trips. We aren't living the dream to be rockstars and get signed. We're having a great time doing what we do and taking our time!

Any upcoming shows our readers should know about?

We are playing live at the Ottobar on 5/11, supporting our friends in the outstanding local band Frenamie, a 3 girl/1 guy band that melds funk/soul and rock into this super cool energetic hybrid anyone can get into. All of our other booked shows for now are easy bar gigs and cover shows - because we're taking it slow while we write our material for the next record.

What is your live show like?

We're energetic live and like to involve the crowd. We have been playing together for 3 years now and are approaching our 200th live show, so we've gotten to the point where we're very tight together, and can play off one another. We like our fans to be part of something greater - our live shows are a tribute to them and they're part of a network. It's nice to look out into a dark audience - I can't see any faces but I can see the white radio towers from the front of our T shirts dotting the room. It reminds me that they're more important than us. They created Sons of the Radio by merely allowing for Sons of the Radio to happen. We just have to go through the motions and deliver for them. Not sure if that makes sense.

Does your live set list contain mostly songs from your new album, or covers?

Our setlist is made up of our 9 original songs and we sometimes throw in a cover or 2 as a frame of reference. We're planning for the next record to be longer, 9-10 songs maybe and 45 minutes is the goal. Plus we will have more songs that we've written that didn't get recorded for this cycle.

What kinds of merch do you have available?

We have several styles of T shirts, and our main "white tower" t shirt is available in several different color schemes. Standard black with the white logo, burgundy with the gold logo in tribute to the Redskins (we play a show or two each year at FedEx Field), and kelly green with white because our St Patty’s Day shows are a huge annual event. We have stickers and CDs. I really want to order hats with our tower on them, but I haven't looked into it much yet.

Any long-form DVD plans?

We don't have plans yet for a video - perhaps after the second record. We probably should have one at least for promotional purposes to help us secure gigs and opportunities. One thing at a time, though. We've collected a mountain of performance video footage so hopefully one day we'll have enough to make a music video or a live DVD.

How Hands-On are you with your Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace pages?

We're perpetually active on FB. All four of us regularly interact with fans there on a daily basis. We are irregular Twitter users. We don't have a Youtube page yet - a gross oversight I think. You can get a mobile app for FREE if you have an Android or iPhone, just download from the app marketplace. Here are links to our other sites:
sonsoftheradio.com
Facebook
Twitter

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you want to tell our readers?

Only thing I'd like to say to readers is to urge them to go and see bands play. Many places are getting deejays more often because it's cheaper and bands have a hard time getting people out, and closing their doors to live music. If you are in a band that wants to play, venue owners want you to be able to bring 50 heads with you or they won't hire you. It's FUN to see live music - if the band is great that's awesome. If they're terrible - that's FUN too, because you can totally judge them and tell all your friends later about how you saw this dreadful band that couldn't hold a tune to save their lives. Either way - go see a live band.