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Rademacher: the Fresno Famous Interview
If you live, eat and breathe in Fresno, you've at least heard of Rademacher. They're those indie rock sweethearts who seem to have a permanent residency at Tokyo Garden. The foursome - guitarist/vocalist Malcolm Sosa, guitarist Brad Basmajian, bassist Greer McGettrick and drummer Taruko Asami - have been around, in some form or another, for about two years now. I say "in some form or another" because Rademacher has had a rotating door of members since its summer 2004 inception. I have photos to prove it. But we'll save those for another day.
OK, fine, I'll tell you now. Basically, I got bored one night and decided to drive down to Bakersfield to watch Rademacher play. In the process, I snapped a few photos of them (when Niilo and Brianna Smeds used to be in the band). But if you want the really interesting photos from that night, you'll have to ask Mike Burnett (frontman of Fresno indie rock outfit, The Batteries). He'll gladly show you snapshots of the cheesy face-painted metal bands that played on the bill that same night. It was ridiculous, yet cool. After the show, everybody went back to James Brittain-Gore's (of No Cello) then-apartment in the Tower District and got drunk. No Cello was also on the bill that night.
Anyway. To date, Rademacher has recorded three EPs: Rademacher, Ice Age and its most current, Heart Machine. All three can be purchased on the band's Web site, rademachermusic.com. As many of us know, Rademacher is no stranger to performing at Fresno venues like Starline and Tokyo Garden. They'll even pop in for a live performance at Meatball Magic every now and then. But they don't stop there. The band has also ventured on tour stints up and down the West Coast.
Following Rademacher's June 1st gig at Tokyo Garden (Art Hop night), the four-piece will begin a 15-date trek across the U.S. The jaunt begins June 2nd at Flagstaff, Ariz.'s Hotel Monte Vista and wraps June 17th at Las Vegas' Beauty Bar. Countless gigs have found Rademacher sharing the stage with bands like The Joggers, Earlimart, and Man Man. Hell, maybe someday we'll see 'em headlining Pitchfork's Intonation Music Festival in Chicago, or even Coachella. Actually, Rademacher would probably fit in nicely on the European festival circuit. Stranger things have happened, friends.
I've mentioned Rademacher countless times in my "Mitch on Speed" blog. I could talk about them forever. But I won't. This intro was for the uninitiated. If you've read through this and still don't know who or what Rademacher is, here's a hint: During one of the band's live songs (the tune's name escapes me), everybody in the crowd stops what they're doing and sings along. It's like a drunken pirate ship singalong. It happens at every show. Some of you know what I'm talking about. If not, I suggest you make a trip to Tokyo Garden tonight and see for yourself. Even if you hate indie music, fear not, readers: Rademacher's music will get better and better with each sip of a large Sapporo.
Interviewed by Mitchell Peters
Mitch on Speed: Rademacher... Is that German?
Malcolm Sosa: Yes, it is a German last name. It's also a name shared by a very famous boxer from Yakima, a mathematics genius and a Google programmer. Like all band names, it sounds pretty dumb if you think about it or explain it too much.
Fair enough. Tell us how Rademacher evolved from you playing solo acoustic shows to what it is now.
To be fair, our first two shows were electric as a trio. Then people started getting busy with other things. Shawn Covert was the first bass player in the band, and he was working on a record with his band Bel and the Dragon. Brad Basmajian agreed to play some of the songs with me at a show at Tokyo Garden one night. I was nervous about the idea of playing a whole set by myself. Solo sets are hard.
You and (Fresno Famous Editor) Jarah moved from New York City a few years back. Were you playing in any bands while you lived there?
Yeah. I was in a few different projects. None of them were really rock-type things. I had a band called Los Vinos, which was a weird avante-salsa sort of thing. I found one of the songs on Myspace the other day. I think here. The old bass player from that band has it streaming from his site. It is called Ya Era Tiempo. Which translates to "It was about time". I was also in a classical guitar trio called the "Morgan Stop Guitar Ensemble" with Jason Jones, another Fresno kid who lived in Brooklyn. So it was a little different than the stuff I do now. Basically, I moved back here and I couldn't find anyone to play avante-salsa or classical guitar with me, so I started a rock band. I was inspired by Pinkeye.
Since Rademacher has formed, there have been several members who've come and gone. Being the frontman, how do you manage everyone's schedule and keep the band alive?
It's kind of fun sometimes to have change. Like a breath of fresh air. Especially when you know people aren't leaving 'cause they think the band sucks, but that they are inspired to go out there and do their own thing. If that makes sense. Other times, it is a little inconvenient. The current line-up - me, Brad, Greer and Becky - played our first show together in Los Angeles (or maybe S.F.) with five days of practice under our belts. It was fun. I don't know if it sounded good, but it was exciting.
How do you personally define Rademacher's sound? Does everyone in the band contribute in the songwriting, or is it just you?
I don't think anyone else has written lyrics or brought in whole songs. But there is collaboration for sure. I think of it as a giant coloring project. I bring in some boundaries, an outline, and then everyone goes to work coloring with their own instruments. And then we tell each other what we like or don't like and then we erase everything and do it over and keep working at it until it gets to a point we're all comfortable with.
How has living in the Central Valley influenced your songwriting, if at all?
I was thinking about that today. I don't know if the music from here has really influenced me as much as music from say - New York or the U.K. - but the mythology of bands like Granddaddy and Earlimart sure has. The little things like the fonts on their album covers. Song titles. The pictures of them in magazines. More important than that though has been the musicians in town and the bands that haven't been on MTV - like Gypsy Cab, Pine Marten, Pinkeye, Panty Lions. Other things that I think have influenced me are the way people from Fresno talk. The way people in Fresno feel about themselves and see themselves in relation to the rest of the world. Those things come through more I think. In the lyrics and vocals.
Who came up with the idea to wear jumpsuits and headbands as seen in the Rademacher press photos? It seems like classic indie rock.
Uhm. It was a rad idea. That picture gets used a lot in the press we do. It has been in the SF Guardian, The SF Weekly - people love it. I don't know how that came about. We wanted to sort of dress alike, I think that was the plan, and Brad had a jumpsuit and I had a jumpsuit and Becky brought those waitress type dresses out of her closet. All of a sudden it was a party.
Ha. And what about this "Malcolm Sosa" alias. How did that come about?
Oh God. I guess I just made it up one day. It makes it easier to talk about yourself in interviews if the person you're talking about isn't really you.
I've always admired the drive you have to promote your band inside and outside Fresno. With Rademacher, you've created press kits, demos, press releases - what role has self-promotion played in Rademacher's success thus far?
I like that you use the world "self-promotion." It seemed like the natural thing to do. After I learned to play a few chords on guitar I wanted to write songs. After I wrote a few songs I wanted to make an album. After I recorded a few EPs, I wanted to tour. I wanted people to hear this music that I had been working on. It would seem silly not to take that step after I had done all the rest of it. At the same time, I wanted to be good at it. I try to do it with a level of excellence that is comparable to what I was doing with the writing and the performance. Does that make sense? I don't want to sell myself short. To not do that part of the whole thing would be like making yourself the best cheeseburger in the world and then not eating it.
Your band has also gotten a lot of "ink" in various music blogs around the country. In your opinion, how influential do you think blogs are in today's indie music scene?
I hope very influential. But it is hard to gauge. It can't hurt none. I read them. A lot of them are my friends, so that may play a role in why I read them. I like getting free MP3s. My personal favorites are Sixeyes and My Old Kentucky Blog. And of course Stereogum. Oh and Indie Can't Dance. There are a lot of good ones.
In a couple days, Rademacher will embark on a 15-date nationwide tour. So far, the band has only toured up and down the West Coast. What are you hoping to gain from this tour?
We're hoping to find out how influential music blogs are.
Nobody really cares about a band's BEST SHOW EVER. So tell us what Rademacher's worst show has been.
Worst show ever ... Bakersfield. I think. Or Stork Club in Oakland. At one show the only people in the audience were wearing insane clown posse style makeup. At the other there were only four people watching us. And a dog.
Some would argue that Rademacher plays too often in Fresno. What's your response to that?
If the rest of the bands in Fresno would play more, then we wouldn't have any place to book shows, and we wouldn't play Fresno as much. I would love to just play Tokyo the first Thursday of the month and not play any more than that. But usually, people in town really want us to play with them. Because we have a good draw I guess. Also, bands we meet from out of town want to come to Fresno and it's one of those band courtesy thing - if they host us, we host them. And we play out of town a lot too, so there's a lot of favors we owe people. And between the two, we have a lot of shows. We'll stop doing shows once people stop showing up to them.
Do you ever want to be on a record label, or would you rather do it DIY-style and ship albums out of your apartment?
DIY makes way more sense to me. A label would be great because then we wouldn't have to work that hard at the promotion, the organizing and the planning. Or at least there would be someone there to be like, "That's a good/bad idea." We pretty much shoot in the dark most of the time with the way we do things and hope for the best. We're learning a lot about recording and stuff as we go along, but there are a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided. Plus, it would be nice to have someone else footing the bill. DIY works for us because we just really enjoy writing music. A label isn't necessary for us to do that.
What's your favorite current band and why?
I don't know. I like Mates of State.
Tell us a little about the new Heart Machine EP.
It is the best four songs that we have ever put together on the same disc. We recorded it with Matt Orme and Shawn Covert at (Fresno's) Gardenside over the course of a really long time. It took forever. Not that we worked on it that long, it was just months between recording dates - forever. I'm glad it's done. We're proud. Like parents. We love it, but we're ready for it to move out.
Rademacher's already conquered Fresno pretty much. Where do you see the band in five years or so?
Playing sold out shows in Vegas with Let's Go Bowling.