GENRE IS DEAD! Interview With Sub-Radio

Washington DC’s Sub-Radio just wants you to dance and have a good time. Their newly released EP, Headfirst, is filled with upbeat, fun songs that give you warm thoughts of summer. It’s also a celebration of their newfound direction and of life in general, even if it is a downer at times. Sub-Radio’s Adam Bradley and Matt Prodanovich chat with GID about the new EP, how they stay upbeat, and the ever changing music industry.

GID: What inspired the songs for the Headfirst EP?

Adam Bradley: Last year we spent summer and fall putting a song every month. It’s been this somewhat exhausting process of constantly turning out stuff. After that, we took a few months to recuperate and listened to music that inspired us. Paramore’s new record [After Laughter] is what sort of pushed me towards this island-y thing that we got going on now. They kind have the same progression that we do. People know them as a pop punk band and they made this transition using cool synths and have this jungle vibe going on. That’s what we wanted to push ourselves towards. We’re exploring a new style and new way of playing. That’s why we went with the title and the album art of jumping into the unknown.

GID: Listening to the EP, it’s really fun, upbeat, and makes you want to dance. Then you have songs like “What Are We” that touches on relationship issues but you keep that same energetic, upbeat vibe. How do you keep that mood flowing even when it’s about a problem?

Matt Prodanovich: We generally have an upbeat vibe when we write songs. One of the things we all love to do is write music together. We just get into a room and jam out on a chord progression until we get something cool and then build up some speed from there. We usually have a happy vibe to begin with and then Adam will fill in some cool lyrics afterward.

AB: I feel like so much of the pop music I hear on the radio right now is really dark and low tempo. That’s not who we are. Even when we’re dealing with more serious things, it’s usually positive and upbeat.

GID: For this release, it seems like you guys wanted to go in a slightly different direction. What was the catalyst for this change?

AB: We feel ourselves getting more serious about this as art and a thing that we’re doing with our lives. When our last album came that was a different point in all of our lives. Now, we’re all getting more serious about ourselves as artists. The other thing is we don’t play with an acoustic guitar anymore and we want to play with more synths. That’s just opened up new areas of songwriting we didn’t have before.

MP: Yeah and textures are really important for that direction. I think we explored a lot of new stuff lately and we’re working towards going in that direction for the future as well.

GID: Songs like “Flashback” and “What Are We” sound like they were made for summer. What are your guys’ plans for the summer?

AB: We’ve got a ton of shows lined up for the summer. We’re hoping to play at least one pride festival in DC, possibly the one in New York as well. Those are the type of events we love where we get to be outside and sweating and having fun with people. The reason our music sounds like summer is that’s when we love to play. And I think that’s the vibe we’re going for as well. I can’t stand the winter. I get seasonal depression, I can’t go outside and I hate it. I don’t want to think about it, so instead, I think about my favorite season.

MP: Most of our plans this summer involves pushing this EP and playing to as many people as possible. So yeah, lots of touring. We’re gonna try to hit some new places too that we haven’t played as often.

GID: When talking about Sub-Radio your live shows come up a lot. What are you guys like are on stage?

AB: We have a very low attention span with our live show. We rotate things in and out constantly. I’ve played my own drum on stage and we had the inflatable arm flailing tube man on stage for a while. We’ve had party decorations, we painted our stuff, and we’ve had plants on stage. We’re constantly experimenting on stage which I love, so it’s almost hard to describe. What we try to do with our live shows is come off as authentic as possible which is pretty dorky, but we’re really into what we’re doing and having a blast doing it.

GID: With six of you in the band, how does songwriting sessions work?

MP: It’ll generally start with either me or Adam. We’ll either have part of a song or just a riff and we’ll bring it to the rest of the band. The real songwriting happens when we all get in one room and play through the structure of the song a couple of times and see what we like or don’t like. We develop it from there. Then when we have the skeleton done, Adam will take it back and work on the lyrics and craft the rest of the melody.

AB: We’ve been playing together since we were all in high school and our process is completely unchanged. We get together and pound out the same verse and chorus until something clicks with us. I know a lot of other artists write differently, like sitting at home by yourself, crafting something and then showing the band how to play it but that’s never been our style. We want everyone to write their own parts.

GID: You guys have been making music for a while now. What have you learned over the years?

AB:  I’ve learned the music industry is so much about relationships. We’ve learned over the years that building positive relationships with people even if you think you’re never going to see them again is super important. You can be as talented as you want, but if you burn bridges with people, if you’re hard to work with, and if you don’t take other people seriously then you’re not gonna go anywhere. Nobody’s going to respect you.

MP: Yeah, you never know when you’re gonna run into someone who you’ve worked with in the past. I also say start early. Even if you have an inkling of an idea, just start working on it and get going. I know so many people who want to do this, but keep putting it off. The longer you wait the harder it is.

GID: Why does it get harder the longer you wait?

MP: Waiting makes it harder because the earlier you start the faster you can learn and make mistakes.  We’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned from them as we’ve progressed. If you have the mentality that you never lose, you win or you learn, you’ll do well. I also think the industry moves quickly and the best way to get a hang of it is to just be in it.

GID: What is there left to learn?

MP: I think there’s always new things to learn in music.  I know all of the guys in the band are working to improve their personal music knowledge every day. As far as the business goes I’ll be the first to tell anyone that I don’t know everything about the industry. It changes week to week, so we’re learning new things every day.

GID: You guys are an independent band – self-managed, self-produced, self-funded. What are some of the ups and downs of doing things on your own?

MP: One of the things I personally love about not having a label is we don’t have to answer to any kind of creative influence from anyone but ourselves. If we want to do something, we do it the way we want to. We’re always happy with the products we get, especially in the creative atmosphere. The downside, of course, is a lot of what you do has to be self-funded. In this day and age, there’s lots of ways to go about making money. You just have to be clever about it.

AB: The internet has obviously changed music and the industry forever. There are fewer barriers to getting yourself in front of people, but there are still these enormous monetary barriers for basic stuff. We’re lucky enough to have the resources to do some of that. But even we can’t do some of this stuff without our own money. Stuff costs a lot of money to do it right.

GID: There have been differing opinions over whether or not it’s easier to get in the music business today. What are your thoughts?

MP: I believe it’s a lot easier to get started. It’s easier than ever to get recorded music; you can almost do that yourself now. It’s easier to get your music out to your friends. You can get first listens and have people talking about your music and come out to shows. It’s easier to book stuff and find out where to play because of the internet. You can even find the knowledge about what to do right. But the next level is a lot harder. There’s a lot of saturation out there because of the internet. It’s great in the beginning but after that the saturation is ridiculous. There are more people than ever out there doing music.

GID: What’s next for the band? Anything you’re working on that you can share with us?

AB: We have a music video for “What Are We” that’s coming out in a few weeks. It’s the first time we’ve had a videographer and a producer come down from New York to do this video with us. That was a totally new experience. We film most of our videos on iPhones, so that’s exciting. We’re playing a couple of release shows in cities where we know we have friends and fans, like New York, DC, and Baltimore. We’re just trying to play some new stuff for people that we want to hear it first. Then we have all kind of shows lined up in May, June, and July to get us in front of new people.

Sub-Radio’s new EP, Headfirst, is out now. Stream the release below and pick up a copy here.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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