AMONG Los Angeles' most intriguing -- and quietest -- bands are The Radar Brothers, an Eastside group dedicated to a blend of mellowness and tension. They were once associated with fellow "slowcore" or "psychedelic depression" bands Acetone and Spain.
The Bros.' new album, The Illustrated Garden, comes out on Merge next week. (I especially like the song "For the Birds.") They're currently in Austin, at South by Southwest; on Friday (March 26) they play Spaceland in LA. I'm a longtime fan, but was surprised at how strong their live show, at Largo, was last year, opening for Lambchop: They seemed powered by a new energy.
We spoke to head Bro, Jim Putnam.
So it’s an all-new Radar Bros.? What happened, and how has it changed the band and its sound?
we finished an album called "auditorium" in 2007(?) and the other members of the band decided to call it quits. i considered starting a whole new project, band whatever, but i thought the radar brothers should keep going as a new incarnation, atleast to support that record. things went very well with new members be hussey and stevie treichel, so we cranked out a new record, and here it is!
You’re often described as being a slow band. Is this fair, and it is part of your vision for the group?
no. it might be fair, but it's not part of any vision. we've been described as slow, same tempo etc., for years. i hear other bands doing the same thing, but not getting as much flak for it. i think if we were from butte montana, none of that would exist...
You went to Cal Arts in the ‘80s – wondering if there are any other art forms, whether painting, architecture, the short story, etc, that have a meaning for you as a musician?
yes!!! i paint and draw all the time. our new record's artwork was a concept i had where i wanted it to look like a mentally challenged high school student made it.
i love oil paint! can't use it, though. my house is full of dogs and cats and a turtle, wouldn't want to expose them to the toxicities...
To what extent does Southern California or LA shape what you play, how you hear and see the world?
very much. i grew up here, and there's a lot of certain subtleties about this place. it's unpredictable. suddenly there will be a new pho restaurant where the sushi restaurant was, next to the thai place that used to be a taco bell.
drive 100 miles in any direction, and you will be in a stunning place. perhaps the beach, or the desert, or the mountains or farmland.
or just hang out in your own backyard, and you will be visited by many different types of birds...
i always thought this place was normal, until my parents took me on a trip out to the east coast. i thought the east coast was strange. eventually i realized that l.a. was strange...
You’re very serious about the production of your records and have a locally famous production studio. What do you try for when you’re producing your own band, or others like, say, Let’s Go Sailing?
i just try to make it sound good, and interesting. expensive studios can sound bland. my studio sounds interesting, i think.
For people who haven’t seen you play in a few years, should they expect the upcoming Spaceland show to be different than Radar Bros. shows of yore?
it's an all new band(except for me), so it will sound different. i really like the way we sound now. it's pretty full and complex, i think.
See you at Spaceland.
Notable San Francisco: 2/21–2/27
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