Beyond Your Geography: A Conversation with Rademacher
Those two up there (↑), the lass and lad looking you straight in the eyes... that's Greer and Malcolm.
Along with a rotating cast of accompanying musicians, they constitute the Fresno-based American rock band Rademacher ("American" here being a completely apt and not-at-all pejorative descriptor) (ditto with "rock"). I caught their set at The Echo in LA a few months ago, and fell for their earnest-but-ramshackle dynamic and the slanted & enchanted tunes that teeter between tight and discordant like a Pavement sans pretension.
I got the sense that Rademacher was at least in part a product of geography. The songs have a sun-squashed feel; I can't imagine any clouds floating above any of them. Instead, they evoke (for me at least) scenes of sweltering asphalt and yucca plants on the side of the road. I can't put my finger on what it is, but there is just something so tremendously Southwestern about this band. Yet at the same time, there is an element in this music of "reaching out" (beyond the provincial)—a brazen but humble ambition to find ears farther afield. Says Malcolm: “I would like to be one of the best songwriters ever. Not just good. Not just good ‘for Fresno,’ but kick-ass in your face, blood coming out of the stereo speakers and refrains running through your veins sort of good. Is that too much?”
To put it another way, in "What Happened To Your Friends" (downloadable below), he sings, "Over and out/Beyond the sea/Beyond your tropics and your capricorns/Your geography..." And with this restlessness—this cartographic indifference—Rademacher is heading out on that scorched pavement for yet another tour. They're sharing most of the bills with fellow literate California band The Airborne Toxic Event (nice reference to Delillo's White Noise, in case you didn't catch it). You'd do well to catch them if they cross into your town's borders (the dates are below). [Unfortunately, they aren't making it to the East Coast on this jaunt!]
We recently had a chance to chat a bit with Malcolm and Greer, and ended up falling further for the down-to-earth (West Coast, figures!) pair...
"Nico & Disneyland"
Yer Sweet Chimneys: Are you dog people or cat people?
Malcolm Sosa: I am cat person. I have a cat named Nico. She is grey. She likes to sleep under the covers like a person. I like her because she is laid-back, with her mind on her money and her money on her mind.
Greer McGettrick: I am a dog person. I have partial custody of a dog named Disneyland. He might be the cutest dog ever, and he has a terrible fear of words beginning with the letter "B". Like "B-A-T-H".
MM: Disneyland is pretty cool, but he isn't the brightest puppy.
GM: Yes he is! Really? You don't think he's very smart?
MM: You know what they say about acorns and trees...
"In A Good Way"
YSC: One of the things that really struck me when I saw you guys play was the dynamic between the three of you. There was something really forthright and honest about your interactions with the audience, but especially captivating for me was the interplay on stage—the little intimate gestures and glances and grins that passed between you. So, not to get inappropriately personal right off the bat, but what are your relationships outside the band? How did you all come together?
MM: Well, the band has changed a little since you saw us at the Echo last year. We have a new drummer named Eden, who is super cool and super sweet and talented like a mofo.
GM: Malcolm's my best friend and we're really comfortable with each other. After touring together for several years, in this band and in others, we can have conversations onstage without saying much. Does that sound gay?
MM: Totally gay. In a good way. To clarify, we don't "do it" together.
"Lord of the Rings & Shit"
YSC: Have you read anything really good lately?
GM: I read some Dave Eggers and I am revisiting Nabokov.
MM: I just discovered Kurt Vonnegut. I had read maybe one book of his a couple of years ago. The one where the people on the Galapagos Islands turn into seal people. I think it is called Galapagos. I just finished Jailbird. Before that I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time, that's by Ayn Rand, and then before that another Vonnegut book. The one where him and his sister are Neanderthals and he becomes President. Saying these plot lines out loud sounds absurd. I also spoiled myself with the some really cheesy fantasy fiction. Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist. Not his best work, but fun.
YSC: If your songs were books, would they be fiction or nonfiction?
MM: Fiction. Totally. Like Lord of the Rings and shit.
YSC: Did you see Wall•E?
"East vs. West," or, "Trade-Offs," or, "Skip This Section If You're From Boston"
YSC: I've spent my whole life on the East Coast, and the Left Coast has therefore always held this allure for me. I've always drawn a pretty sharp contrast between the two coastal mentalities. Do you guys feel those geographical distinctions when you tour?
MM : I went to school back East in Poughkeepsie, NY, and then I moved to Brooklyn, then Queens (Astoria). Including school time, I was out there for like 6 or 7 years, so I feel pretty at ease back east. I would say there is a larger distinction between rural areas of the U.S. and urban areas then there is between the West Coast and East Coast. But maybe I'm saying that because I am a laid-back West-Coaster now. Maybe you East Coast folks should just chill. Let it go, man.
GM: I haven't spent much time back East, but I haven't noticed a distinction. The weather in the West is better for traveling. I've never really thought about it. Good question. Dude.
MM: I would just like to add that I think Boston sucks. It is always cold and it isn't like that Cheers show at all, though I did buy some good sneakers there and my friend from Newton gave me my first Prince Paul CD. So it can't be at all bad.
YSC: Do you think you'd be making the same music if you lived in, say, New York City or Philly or some other East Coast city? Would you sound different if you lived where it snows?
GM: I think we're influenced by where we live. The Central Valley has a certain ring to it. It isn't like the East Coast or even other places in California. For the uninformed, I would recommend you listen to Grandaddy's "Fuck the Valley Fudge" off their Toddzilla EP. Applebees. Chuck E. Cheese. Pretty much somes up our neck of the woods.
MM: I like snow. Greer hates it. I think if I still lived in New York, I would probably be playing bad free jazz in a loft somewhere and lamenting the fact that I wasn't famous or successful. In short, I would be a much better musician, but I would never get to tour. Does that make sense? Trade-offs.
YSC: One of my best friends grew up in Visalia, CA, and he often reminisces about the citrus groves... What is it like in Fresno? How would you compare/contrast it with LA or other parts of CA?
MM: I have never been out in the citrus groves, but I have been out in the vineyards. There was a giant vineyard across the street from my old apartment, which was kinda cool, because you could always run across the street and pick some table grapes when you got hungry. But mostly Fresno is riddled with crime, drugs, dollar stores, tacos, mariscos, and great thrift stores. I think that's the best brief answer I can come up with.
GM: I can be briefer. The Central Valley is the Midwest of California.
MM: But way more Mexican. Because tacos in Omaha suck. In NYC as well.
"Come On Tokyo Garden, Comp The Band A Drink!"
YSC: What sorts of places did you play starting out? What sorts of venues do you feel most comfortable playing?
MM: In Fresno we always play at this place called Tokyo Garden, which is the oldest Japanese restaurant in California. There used to be number of Japanese farmers in Fresno before they interned them during WWII and took all their property. Tokyo Garden is small, kitschy, very punk rock. It is my favorite place to play. I just wish they'd kick down with some free drinks or something. I have played there like 100 times. Literally. And I have gotten no free booze. Stingy people. But fair. Greer's first show was in Visalia, right?
MM: Merced. Second show was Visalia. We played the Mainzer Theater. I feel most comfortable playing places where the people that work there are nice. Where they keep it real.
MM: Greer likes big rooms. Bowery Ballroom sorts of places.
MM: Well, you're a spoiled, spoiled brat.
"Tricks & Sleeves"
YSC: It looks like you've gone through a few different lineups. How has that evolution changed the sound?
MM: Well, I think we've gotten increasingly better as musicians and as a band. When Greer joined, we for sure got shored up in the rhythm section. Now we have a new drummer, Eden Davis, who is pretty cool. She brings a different sound to the table. It'll be interesting to record with her...
GM: Different. It is more dynamic, and we can't cover up our mistakes with noise anymore. It is a challenge.
YSC: When I saw you, it was a three-piece, and I was surprised by how full the sound was, and how dynamic it was with just the traditional guitar, bass, and drums. Are you touring with the same lineup now?
MM: Still a three piece, but now, like I mentioned, we have a new drummer and a few more tricks up our sleeves. We're dragging out a bunch of Casio keyboards and some fun effects, trying to get a little freaky with it.
Here's "What Happened to Your Friends" from Rademacher's new CD, RIP Gardenside, a collection of their first 4 EPs...
RADEMACHER'S FEBRUARY/MARCH TOUR DATES:
February 7 — Merced, CA — The Partisan
February 11 — San Diego, CA — Delta Room @ House of Blues w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 12 — Los Angeles, CA — The Henry Fonda Music Box w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 13 — San Francisco, CA — Bottom of the Hill w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 14 — Arcata, CA — The Green House w/ Geographer
February 15 — Seattle, Washington — Neumos w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 17 — Portland, Oregon — Doug Fir w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 18 — Vancouver, BC — Richard’s on Richards w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 20 — Boise, Idaho — Neurolux w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 21 — Salt Lake City, Utah — SHO w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
February 27 — San Francisco, CA — Noisepop @ Slim's
March 5 — Fresno, CA — Tokyo Garden
March 15 — Hollywood, CA — Space 15 Twenty
March 18 — Austin, Texas — SXSW : DIW Showcase
March 19 — Austin, Texas — SXSW : Schubas Party @ Yard Dog Folk Art
March 20 — Austin, Texas — SXSW : Gueros Oak Garden
March 20 — Austin, Texas — SXSW : Metropolis Art Apartments
March 23 — Tucson, Arizona — The Rock w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
March 24 — Scottsdale, Arizona — Martini Ranch w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
March 25 — Las Vegas, Nevada — Beauty Bar w/ the Airbone Toxic Event
March 26 — Pomona, CA — Glasshouse w/ the Airborne Toxic Event
March 27 — Sacramento, CA — Blue Lamp w/ the Airborne Toxic Event