Interview: The Rad Trads

After what was a full week of amazing music, it was nice to receive a breath of fresh air with a new band that seemed to be right up my ally. The Rad Trads were introduced to me with much pleasure early on last week. Happily, I found myself listening to much of their work throughout my days during this early spring here in New York City. Their song, Moonshine, was one tune in particular that gained my attention nonstop. The crew, Michael Fatum, Patrick Sargent, Sam “Tall Sam” Crittenden, Alden Harris McCoy, John Fatum, Michael “Big Red” Harlen and Jamie Eblen were kind enough to share their thoughts on their work to date and how they are masters at what they do.

Tall Sam started us off with an explanation on their passion for music. One of our favorite things about making music is live performance. Feeling the energy in the room, the adrenaline of being up in front of a crowd, the vulnerability that comes from sharing your music and by extension, a piece of yourself. Every show we play is unique and memorable. As we hit the studio to record this new album, our goal was to maintain that same feeling and energy of performing live. With the help of our friend Billy Aukstik at Dala Records, we decided to go old school and record to an eight-track tape recorder, a process that presents it’s own limitations and challenges… Throughout this process we found that these limitations actually created some of the most special moments on the album. The unforgiving quality of recording full takes means that inevitably there are going to be a couple of mistakes that give the tracks the excitement of live performance. The limited inputs mean that the horn section is all playing into one mic, or that the entire band is huddled around a microphone singing background vocals, playing auxiliary percussion, and mostly just goofing around. To us, these details are what infuse the recording process with the characteristics of who we are as a band and as really, really, really good friends… This album gives us another opportunity to share that energy with so many people.” Tall Sam is of course talking about their upcoming May 13th album, ‘Must We Call Them Rad Trads.’ 

John went on to talk more about the performing art as well as their new material. “We love being in the studio and love writing music, but we are most importantly a live band… We love playing for people, we love their energy, we love to get them dancing and make them feel good… For our recorded music, it’s more like having children. Each one is different and our effort or goal is to help it be itself to the best of its ability. There are little tasty elements to each song on the new record and our first EP. The Farfisa on Delilah is super fun… The backing vocals on Keith Richards and I sound like a female choir, but does anyone know who it really is? That’s Alden, our guitarist, playing sousaphone on the introduction to That’s Enough … and that’s our bassist Mike Harlen playing piano on his own song, At Ease Boys. We came up with horn line for Rosalie together in the studio singing the ideas back and forth right before we recorded it. So, each song has something special and enjoyable on our end… Our favorite moment is when we get to play the song live and experience it with the audience.” Sounds like their new album is going to be very interesting.

Since the members call NYC their homebase, their venue dreams are apply chosen. John and Tall Sam gave us some examples. I think we would all really love to perform at Central Park Summer Stage or Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park… There is a magic to those big summer concerts in New York, and it would be a dream come true to play that kind of homecoming show in the summertime, when we are normally touring so much… New York has played such an important role in who we are as band and as individual musicians. We all have really special memories of seeing shows on those stages and being captivated and inspired by whoever was playing. To be one of those bands up on that stage, wow, that would really be a special experience.”

Even though these guys are seasoned live performers, it has not all been easy in some cases. John elaborated, Performing can be difficult when the audience is entirely seated and we can’t see them. That being said, we always find a way to reach them… Usually by getting the horns to literally run into the audience… Our music makes you want to move, so seats can be restrictive, but we are never ones to turn down a gig or not want to play. We will make it work; we just see it as another challenge. What’s also very special about this band is no matter what is going on, we always have each other’s backs and are all trying to give the absolute best performance we can while on stage. There are certainly many wild stories to share, but we always persevere together and make the best of it!”

In the music world Michael Fatum gave his thoughts on their place within. “Well, it’s tough! It’s not an easy time to be a musician by any stretch… Since we tend to focus on the positives as a group, we will tell you that the challenges presented by today’s music world excite us. If there is a theme in the music world, it seems to be that there are [fewer] filters than ever, which means that there are more fish in the pond. So, sticking out amongst the pack can be a daunting challenge… We’ve found that with less filters, we have more freedom and opportunity to create opportunities for our peers and ourselves. For example, instead of needing to sign with Universal Records, our agency (ArcArtists) and record label (Dala Records) were both founded by close friends in New York that we trust and love working with. We have more creative control over our music and have developed strong and lasting relationships with presenters, club owners and festival directors all over the world. There has never been more music that is easily accessible as in this moment and people are listening to music more than ever as well! So, even as a growing group, we are able to find and connect with fans all over the world… Musically, we are able to learn and easily share music that inspires us with each other in the band, which has definitely contributed to the musical growth of the group. 

Music is not the only thing that keeps these men going. John gave some examples. I think we all have many interests beyond music. For instance, Big Red is an excellent cook and very into wine. Michael has always wanted to work with the Chicago Cubs in some way. John would love to work with films and intends to write children’s books at some point. Patrick is an aspiring yogi, Sam [has] a blossoming political career, and Alden…where is Alden? Has anyone seen Alden?” I hope they find him.

Influences range from all over the place for The Rad Trads. John shared some in particular. A lot of our influences have passed on or are not performing any more, but of those who are still going out there the variety is wide. We all love Taj Mahal, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. Of anybody making music closer to our age, we all love Kendrick Lamar and have great admiration for him. He is definitely the most inspiring young artist to us.”

The band remains hard at work and ended with their final thoughts on their music. Michael and Tall Sam gave their reflections. “Our music is constantly evolving… it’s one of the really interesting things about the band. When we started, we had an upright bass, Pat played soprano and only one guy sang. Now 4/6ths of the band sings lead, we are all electric and Patrick is playing tenor sax. Who knows what changes we might make in the next year? It’s just one of those things, we’re all such good friends and we all have such great respect for one another. When someone hears something they want to do, we’re all open to making it happen. That melting pot of ideas is such an important part about who we are and how we sound. It’s defined by all of us rather than just one or two.”

Catch these stunning musicians on the road and hear about some of the magic to come. “We are going to be on the road a lot this year touring the new album, but we always like to try out new things while we’re on the road, so it’s a safe bet that a lot of crazy stuff that comes out of the live show will end up in the studio when we’re back in NYC in October or November. Aside from that, it’s all about finding new places to play and new people to meet! At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about for us, the road that leads to new friends and new experiences is all right with us!” Go give these guys a listen; I think many of you will dig their unique sound. Better yet, go see them live!


Jam On.




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