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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Des Moines Performing Arts had the opportunity to hear from THE RAD TRADS, performing at The Temple Theater on Friday, September 21.


How did your love of music begin?

{John Fatum - Drums / Vocals} I think we all started from an early age, by listening to CDs or LPs. We all varied in how much music was going on in the house, but the one thing we all have in common is super supportive parents. We liked something that was good for us and they encouraged more of it. What a wonderful gift they gave us.

Who are your favorite music artists?

{Patrick Sargent - Keyboard / Saxophone / Vocals} - There are really too many to count. We’ve all been obsessed with music since we were in the single digits and have lived in New York for almost a decade, so we’ve been exposed to all kinds of music. We also all have unique tastes, and don’t necessarily all love the same music equally. That said, universal idols in the band would be Sam Cooke, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Kendrick Lamar, and pretty much all kinds of music from Brazil.  Sources of individual inspiration include Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Nina Simone, Patsy Cline, Anderson Paak, Rubblebucket, Mitski, Big Thief, and Sylvan Esso.  

Describe your beginnings as an unknown band in the New York City music scene?

{Alden Harris-McCoy - Guitar/Vocals} We started as a bar band cutting our teeth playing 3 and 4 hour gigs in beer halls around New York and North Jersey. We had all studied jazz music in college so it was natural enough for us to stretch out on the limited songs we knew to fill the time. There were also 8 of us in the band at that time (two drummers, an extra trumpet/vox, and trombone) and everyone was very type A. We all wanted to steal the show whenever the spotlight pointed our way. After a few gigs we worked one of my original songs "Check Cashing Day" into the set--soon followed by one of John's, "Moonshine"--and started down the path towards originality.

From Americana to Folk to Indie Rock and Soul, which is your favorite genre to play?

{Michael Fatum - Trumpet / Vocals} We end up with all these different labels for our music because we have to find a way to describe it for people who are unfamiliar with the band. And when we ask people to describe our music after concerts, they all end up smiling, shrugging and saying what we eventually say, something along the lines of "I don't really know how to describe it, it's just fun music!" Part of the confusion is that within any given song, we will touch on several different worlds. Patrick's song "Wishing Well," kind of blends the worlds of Rock and Soul, Mike's "At Ease Boys" blends elements of Rock and Americana, John's "Little Pie" touches on Jazz, Blues, Folk and Americana - and so even for us within a given song the influences and genres or combined. The most exciting part for me of it all is that in playing the original music that is written by Alden, Patrick, Mike & John, we touch on a whole slew of genres but somehow each song is unique to that songwriters voice and the band's sound. I love it all. 

How did you make the transition from instrumentalists to vocalists?

JF - That's a great question, and it was different for every band member- Alden started singing as a kid, John started in college with singing some jazz standards, and the other guys kind of all transitioned into it in conjunction with writing songs, and wanting to lead a band in a bar gig setting. Very organic, out of trial and error and making rent on bar gigs- it wasn't out of a "I'm gonna be a star" kind of sentiment, and I think that earthiness comes through in our sound. We encourage everyone we meet to sing- let your personality out- it feels good!  

Describe your songwriting process.

{Michael Harlen - Bass/Vocals} - Our songwriting process is unique because of the 5 of us we all sing and 4 of us write songs. So usually one member will bring in a song they've written, either for themselves or another one of the guys to sing, and we'll all work together to flesh it out, come up with an arrangement, and turn it into a Rad Trads song. Each song has a different journey but that's the long and short of it. 

What is your favorite thing to do on each tour stop?

MH- Our favorite thing to do on each tour stop is to take in the local culture each city has to offer. And by that I mean we find the local dive bar. Otherwise we love trying the local delicacies, we'll try to find the boujee coffee shop if it exists, and do laundry if it's in the cards.

What do you remember most about Des Moines from your premiere performance at The Temple Theater in 2016?

MF - So many things - first of all, it was a packed show and the audience was fantastic. It was our first time ever in Des Moines, so to have such an enthusiastic audience that was paying such close attention, you always remember concerts like that. I also remember hanging after the concert for longer than usual meeting people from the audience and learning about the community, their favorite kinds of music and simply connecting with folks. I'm from the midwest originally, so I felt right at home in Des Moines. On top of all of that, it was my twin brother John (drum/vocals) and my birthday at midnight, so we all went out to a really wild Martini Bar not far from the theatre and had a little too much fun. I can't remember the name of the bar but it was filled with hipsters all drinking different colored martinis ... it ended up being quite a wild night.  

Any favorite places in Des Moines that you’re hoping to return to?

MF - That bar with the crazy colored & flavored Martinis - of course!  

Do you have any advice for aspiring young musicians?

PS - I think there are three things I would tell a young musician to remember. 

  1. Never say no to an opportunity to play. When we were first starting out we would literally play anywhere that would have us. In your first 10-15 years as a musician there’s literally no gig you could play that won’t teach you something, so always say yes and get out there!
  2. Remember that it’s supposed to be fun! It’s easily to be overly self critical, and it’s important to practice hard and address your weaknesses, but at the end of the day music is something we play because it feels good and it makes other people feel good too. It’s easy to forget but if you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right!
  3. Never quit. Trying to make it as a musician can be alternately incredibly discouraging and incredibly rewarding, but at the end of the day your identity as a musician is something that will never change. It’s perfectly normal to have a bad gig or a bad day practicing, but if music is something that makes you happy, then remember you’re gonna be doing it for your whole life, and don’t sweat the small stuff. 

You’ve toured across the globe, released a successful EP, a hit full-length album with another arriving soon and performed or recorded with St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Jonathan Batiste, and Paul McCartney. What’s next for The Rad Trads?

AHM - Onwards and upwards!

We are looking forward to your performance here in Des Moines, Iowa on September 21. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to mention?

MF - Yes! Thank you for coming to the show, for supporting the band and the arts in your community. We are so excited to be invited back to the Temple Theater. The quality of programming that happens through Des Moines Performing Arts is really next level, so it's a real honor to be back in Des Moines. When we come to Des Moines, we will be towards the beginning of an almost three month long release tour for our new album - one we are really excited about. As we continue to hit the road and fight to realize a dream of connecting with more fans and bringing communities together through this music, we can't help but feel so so thankful for everyone that attends a show, takes the time to say hi, or sends a friend to catch us in another city. Touring all over with this band has been the opportunity and adventure of a life time and the greatest gift has been to chance to make new friends around the world. 

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