The Pains of Being in a Band After Age 30

Radical Dads jammin on some 'za down at the Y

Radical Dads jammin on some ‘za down at the Y

“You don’t really start a band in your 30s,” Radical Dads’ Robbie Guertin says. “Well, you do, but the motivations are different.” Guertin knows what he’s talking about. A veteran of mid ’00s powerhouse Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, he’s recently started focusing on his other project, Radical Dads. Guering and his bandmates Lindsay Baker and Chris Diken are all in their mid-30s, all married, all facing down life changes like children, home ownership, and big career moves. Somehow, they all find time to practice and play in one of Brooklyn’s most exciting rock bands. Why exactly is it worth all the trouble?

It’s Friday night, and Guertin is throwing together a little dinner at his rent-stabilized Williamsburg apartment. “Sorry, but I forgot to eat earlier,” he says, standing above a sizzling pan of chard, rice, and onions. “We found this new farmer’s market and got a bunch of food, but totally forgot that we’re going out of town this weekend. Do you want anything?”

NPR is playing in the background, his wife’s old marathon bib from Wisconsin is pinned to the fridge with a magnet, and his old artist lanyards from his time in Clap are stuck to the kitchen cabinets; it’s a textbook scene of early 30s bliss. Guertin was in that band–one of the first indie buzzbands, one of the first to release their record by themselves over the internet, and one of the first to generally point the way to today’s fractured music business landscape–from virtually the beginning until last year, when he quit. Now, he’s waiting for his wife to finish her PhD in Sociology before they probably-but-not-definitely move out of the city for her to start her career as a professor.

Clap released its self-titled first record when Guertin was 26, in 2005. They were a phenomenon, playing television, touring the world, selling their album on their own. David Bowie was reportedly a fan. Yet Guertin still looks back and wonders if they could have done more, become more successful. “It’s never really been about money,” he says. “It’s just fun to advance, to make more people psyched about it.” When you start out at the top, though, it’s hard to advance. According to Soundscan estimates, the band’s second record sold close to a third of as many copies as their debut. Their eventual follow-up, 2011’s Hysterical, did even worse. Some of that had to do with the bottom falling out of the industry, but that didn’t make the numbers go down any easier.

All the while, Guertin, Diken, and Baker were working on Radical Dads. “I was having more and more fun doing this than I was in Clap Your Hands,” says Diken. It shows in the music. While Clap seemed caught trying to catch up to its audience, trying on new sounds in attempt to recreate their early success, Radical Dads have an easy vibe. Guertin laughs when I describe Radical Dads’ as loud, guitary, melodic noise “90s-style college rock,” as he met his bandmates at college in the 1990s. “We’re just doing the same thing we were doing, I guess,” he says. Today, all the bandmates live in the same building. Diken and Baker are married to each other.

Their influences include Dinosaur, Jr. and Yo La Tengo, and you can feel the pull of the classical period of guitar noise in other ways when you listen to them. “I’ve named so many different songs ‘The Sonic Youth Song’ while I’m writing them that I lost count,” says Baker. Diken’s AOL screen name was Pixies1.

Radical Dads – Serious Business on BTR [ep129]

Its members obviously feel extremely comfortable with each other and the music they’re playing. They’re also lucky in that their audience has caught up to them, with their style of fuzzy, backwards-looking alternative rock recently back in style. Still, getting to the next step seems difficult to them.

Part of the problem is not having the great asset of a band in their early 20s: a large group of friends who will come to anything you do. “In the early days of Clap, all of our friends who lived here would come to every show. I wasn’t even in the band for the first few shows, and I went to every show. Any friend who was in a band, you’d go to their show, and you’d know half the people there.” This isn’t the case any more. Guertin can barely get his own wife to come out. She’s started getting up early to do school work, and “After lunch, basically, she’s done for the day,” he said. “She wants to take a nap.”

Schedules are a larger issue. Baker is a teacher, and Diken works at a tech company. They practice after work, and tour in the summer when Baker is off of school, but can’t do much touring otherwise. “Every year,” Guertin said, “Lindsay’s like ‘maybe I’ll take a year off next year, and really do it and Matador will sign us.’ Now it’s like, OK, that’s probably not going to happen.”

So, the inevitable question: is the band just a hobby?

“That’s kind of how we justify a lot of the money we spend on it,” Guerkin says. “It’s like, ‘If this was just our hobby,'” meaning something like gardening or restoring cars, “‘then it would be totally okay to spend this much money on it.'” The idea, though, is that it’s not a hobby. It’s better than a hobby. It’s their band.

“I don’t know what I want,” said Guertin. “I just sort of want people to realize how good it is.”

Radical Dads played October 2, at 285 Kent, NYC.

Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt – review

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam. Photograph: Danny Clinch

Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt – Album Review
By Dom Lawson

Still flying the flag for independence of thought and movement while stoically avoiding getting bogged down in the music-biz bullshit that so plainly jars with their earnest motives, Pearl Jam have always been admirable, even when their music has fallen some way short of exciting.

Pleasingly, Lightning Bolt finds the Seattle quintet in a more bullish and spiky mood than usual, as exemplified by the furious, spittle-spraying punk rush of Mind Your Manners. On the similarly urgent My Father’s Son, they pull off the neat trick of sounding like Fugazi and UFO at the same time, as Eddie Vedder delivers one of his most intense performances to date.

There are still gentle moments here, of course: the plaintive shuffle of Sirens and the wonderfully fragile Pendulum striking the sweetest chords. Elsewhere, the title track nimbly evokes the surging spirit of Pearl Jam’s mid-90s creative zenith, replete with a euphoric frisson of Springsteen-esque bombast, while Let the Records Play lives up to its name with an infectious, blues-flecked groove. A few ponderous moments aside, this is a sturdy return to great form.

Published on Jul 11, 2013
Pearl Jam is back with their tenth studio album, Lightning Bolt, out October 15th, 2013. Pre-order the album here: http://smarturl.it/PJLightningBolt

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The 10 Best Concerts in New York This Weekend, 9/6/13

Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode

Featuring The Gaslight Anthem, Passion Pit, Depeche Mode, Bat for Lashes, The Allman Brothers Band

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and many others

Friday, 9/6:

Depeche Mode + Bat for Lashes
Barclays Center
7:30pm, $49.50-$129.50
The unlikeliness of Depeche Mode’s continuous existence colors their every move. Arguments about how the new gloom moods hold up against the deified ones miss the point: After 33 years, these U.K. synth merchants continue to mine rich worlds of longing, lust, misery, and addiction to create dark, potent hits that probably cost more to produce each than what you paid in rent last year. Savor them.

Charlene Kaye + Emmy Wildwood + TalkFine
Cameo Gallery
8:30pm, $8-$10
From folky singer-songwriter to someone who embraced her inner glam rock goddess, Charlene Kaye is a surprising assortment of genres and styles who flows between them seamlessly. After an exciting year touring with Alexz Johnson and opening for Darren Criss at a few of his East Coast tour dates, Kaye is ready to debut a more electronic sound and bring herself into a new era. Joined by Tiger Blanket Records & Vintage Boutique owner and rising indie pop star Emmy Wildwood and synth-pop duo TalkFine, Kaye is not only delivering a proper debut for her new material but a veritable Williamsburg dance party.

Passion Pit + Best Coast
Pier 26
7pm, $40
Even though Manners once steamrolled every other dance-friendly indie-pop record on the market, moving to Columbia Records means that–strictly speaking–Passion Pit is now just pop. The wider exposure this brings is well deserved: Last year’s hazy Gossamer weaves its vocals and keyboards together so tenderly only to promptly squish them both with more aggressive percussion, and as such works as well for high-volume dancefloor applications as for intent headphone listening. Good luck doing both at the same time, though.

Frankie Knuckles
Cameo Gallery
11:59pm, $17-$20
One week after Electric Zoo brings the biggest names in contemporary house music–Avicii, Sebastian Ingrosso, Hardwell, etc.–to Randall’s Island, fans looking to dig deeper into the genre can pack into a much smaller venue, Williamsburg’s Cameo Gallery, hidden speakeasy-style on the other side of the Lovin’ Cup Café, to hear the genre’s godfather go to work. Long story short, after DJing around New York with his childhood friend Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles moved west to spin his take on disco and r&b at Chicago club the Warehouse, the venue from which the music takes its name. Tonight, he comes home to play alongside Chris Love & AB Logic of the Sullivan Room’s underground-leaning SOUP party.

Saturday, 9/7:

The Allman Brothers Band + Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
7pm, $25-$99.50
With guitars curling around the beat like whips around posts, the Allmans stitch musical textures that rival even Pink Floyd. Add to that a groove as hypnotic as early Santana and a bluesy home-cooked charm seasoned by over 40 years of tragedy and triumph, and you have a world-class live act. Greg Allman, Dickey Betts, and company have gone down into the realm of Hades more times than Odysseus–that original Ramblin’ Man–and they always return to the world with their undying songs that seem able to weave and unweave the very fabric of time.

Cher Lloyd
Best Buy Theater
7pm, $25
Not all reality show winners are created equal, and often, it’s the runners up who land on top. So was the case with the U.K.’s Cher Lloyd, she who finished fourth on the British version of Simon Cowell’s The X Factor. Expect a colorful, swaggering pop show that breathes new life into mainstream pop with the help of a few hip-hop leaning collaborations.

Fall Out Boy
Barclays Center
7:30pm, $35-$45
Like so many other great acts who got their start entertaining kids too young to drive to the record store, Fall Out Boy was never expected to last. Here we are though: It’s 2013, 10 years after their pop-punk debut, and the Illinois foursome, reunited behind the second chart-topping album of their career, are about to headline the Barclays Center, the same arena where Justin Timberlake recently accepted his VMA lifetime achievement award. That chart-topper, meanwhile, sold all those records for a reason: “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” is a stomping rocker big enough to compete with festival-ready EDM and ambitious enough to beat Fun., another band on Fueled by Ramen, at their own game. 

Mohsen Namjoo
Asia Society
8pm, $35
In 2009, this important Iranian singer-songwriter was sentenced to a five-year jail term in absentia for allegedly ridiculing the Quran in his song “Shams.” Namjoo’s apology was not accepted, and he currently resides in California. His most recent album, 13/8, is a brilliant hybrid of classical improvisation, Sufi poetics, and surprisingly effective jazz-rock accompaniment. 

Sunday, 9/8:

The Gaslight Anthem
The Paramount
8pm, $25-$65
The Gaslight Anthem disproves the general maxim that consistent, dependable guys finish last. Since 2006 they’ve churned out album after album of heartland punk and classic rock, the kind where Springsteen-style lonely guitar and reverberating, charismatic vocals swell into larger-than-life choruses. Brian Fallon’s reportedly been scribbling new songs in the back of the tour bus, channeling some Neil Young and Led Zeppelin into the mix, so expect a solid show.

‘Spy Music Festival’
Spectrum
7pm, $10
The usually unusual lineups that have graced the annual Spy Music Festival often range from the discordant to the dysplastic. This year’s is no exception: Saturday night’s headliner, Charles Gayle, plays fluid and amorphous jazz sax pieces that can be both free and frightening. Sunday night will feature Aa (or “Big A, Little a,” if you must talk about them), who regularly construct fraught collages of yelps, keyboard beeps, and augmented beats. Joining them over two days are Mystical Weapons (Sean Lennon and Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier), sometime Thurston Moore collaborator Loren Connors, Suzanne Langile, and eight other sonic head-trips.