GOSPELBEACH: LOVE DOESN’T AGE
Brent Rademaker: Yeah. I mean, he doesn’t live there now. He’s moved up. Though he was pretty big then, too. He was super nice, man. He never complained about the noise. I saw him in an elevator in San Francisco when we were playing that festival they have in the park. [Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.] I said, ‘Hey, man, I used to live right next to you,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, Beachwood, yeah!’ ‘Man, I’m so sorry, I just want to apologize.’ He goes, ‘Man, we rarely heard you.’ ‘You have got to be kidding me!’ There used to be 200 people in that house. And Rex would be holding court, out there on the patio. Everybody would be there—I mean, the kid from E.T., Murph from Dinosaur Jr., Evan Dando … They would all be there, and Rex would probably be holding the drugs that everyone was waiting for. But he had a great way of making you wait for your line while telling you a story that was going to really blow your mind and help you.
Is that L.A. recognizable anywhere now?
Brent Rademaker: [Long pause.] No. It’s totally different. It was another time. It’s probably the same way these dudes [gestures to the Troubadour] think about the late 60s sometimes. It would be like if Chris Hillman suddenly showed up. He’d be like, ‘What the fuck?’ It was a different time. But it was crazy, and it was so fun. Nobody knew what we were doing, but there were people around. I can’t help but think Rex would really like the new GospelbeacH record. I hate to say that. I know that’s weird. But he heard the last one and he thought it was cool. I mean, he loved that—he’d know where it was coming from, you know?
He could see right through your intentions.
Brent Rademaker: Exactly. He loved that kind of music—FM rock. It’s a style, and it’s not just all about Styx and Foreigner and REO Speedwagon. I mean, I love those groups because I have to. Growing up, it’s what I knew. It would be like someone who grew up in the 90s saying they didn’t like Nirvana or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
That’s when I grew up, and I can’t deny the effect of a band like Radiohead.
Brent Rademaker: Exactly. I listen to that music so much still. I’m still discovering 80s REO Speedwagon and … man, I never knew. They were really cool, man. Their songs were amazing.
Do you think good songs are timeless?
Brent Rademaker: I think so, man. I mean, c’mon! ‘Keep On Lovin’ You’ or ‘Time For Me to Fly’—if Gene Clark sang that song, you’d be like, ‘Fuck, that’s amazing!’ But because it was some guy who doesn’t look that cool … That’s what made the bands that made it in the 90s so big—the songs. Even Radiohead. The only shit by them I ever liked was the bends, and that’s all about the songs. And production, and a really nice sound. That was really good. They must miss that. I don’t understand why people get weird when they get older. I’m getting so normal.
People get restless.
Brent Rademaker: I just don’t know what they have to prove. Why does Lindsey Buckingham have to try something avant-garde? Why can’t he just sing something pretty and cool? That’s where I’m at. I just feel like for those who care about me—which isn’t that many people—and for me especially, can I do what I like? But it’s always been like that. I felt like when some bands from England—Orange Juice especially, and Felt, and even Joy Division—reading the articles and listening to their music, I felt like maybe if we knew them, we would be friends, even though we were in Florida. It wasn’t like, ‘If I see KISS, I just want to touch the cape.’
Is this the first album you’ve made that was really just based around you—your singing and your songwriting?
Brent Rademaker: Well, both these GospelbeacH albums would be kind of like all my songs, even though I co-wrote most of these songs with Trevor [Beld Jimenez] from Tall Tales and Silver Lining. One of the things that made this record really different was I wanted to challenge myself. Come up with ideas of how I was going to make it. Trevor, I met him and his band Tall Tales and Silver Lining and I thought, ‘Man, this guy has got such great energy.’ These songs sound like Jackson Browne and Tom Petty, and he was really into that shit. We became really good friends, and I asked him to play a gig with us, and after the gig we were talking, and I told him, ‘Hey, I have this song, and I was working on it, and why don’t you come over and help me work on it in the desert?’ I had started writing the day we heard about my mom, and it was slow and sad. The spark came from her. But instead of writing a song about your mother’s death that’s sad, why not take the inspiration in the chords and make it about what you want it to be about? I wanted it to be about our house in the desert, and I wanted the music to be about rock, straight ahead. I wanted it to be about to be on the radio, on 96 YNF, the Rock of Tampa Bay. So Trevor came over and I played it for him, and he immediately just sang the next verse.
That’s ‘In the Desert’?
Brent Rademaker: Yeah. I have a hard time finishing things—I’m a procrastinator. I told him, ‘Come over again, dude.’ He comes over and we start writing. Some songs, he’d come over and write a verse, help me finish. Some songs, I was like, ‘Look, I have this idea—what do you think?’ We would write it on the spot. I’ve never done that before. Usually, it’s ‘I have this song, help me finish it.’ This was setting out to write—even though they were my songs—setting out to really write with somebody.
Early Lennon/McCartney style.
Brent Rademaker: Yeah, man. Or like the way Chris Bell and Alex Chilton might have worked. Or Tony James and Billy Idol. Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, you know?
Where they’re really chipping away at melodies together.
Brent Rademaker: Yes. My brother and I used to do that years ago, with Further. I’d bring him a song and hum a melody, and he would come up with lyrics. So I did that, and that’s another thing that makes this record different, and I think it makes it better. It’s not the Brent show.
The album doesn’t feel that way to you?
Brent Rademaker: No. It says ‘Songs by Brent Rademaker and Trevor Beld Jimenez.’ And it’s produced by Jason Soda, who plays all the guitar on it. Even my parts … he would grab the guitar from me and say, ‘Fuck it, dude, you’re not playing it right.’ And John, the keyboard player, is all over it. I wanted more, actually, but Jason said, ‘Maybe on the next one.’ [laughs.] So it really is a collaborative record. And look at all the people who came down—not, like, famous people. But Pat [Sansone] from Wilco came down, he has the band the Autumn Defense too, with [Wilco bassist] John Stirratt. They sound like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Pat came down and played on ‘In the Desert.’
Do you like Wilco?
Brent Rademaker: They’re another band that I didn’t really know at the time, but I love them now so much. Being There—I wish this new record had that kind of vibe. Do you know what I mean? Not like the new Wilco, because they’re so weird. I don’t know why they have to be so weird.
I love Nels Cline, but I don’t think it’s really working for them.
Brent Rademaker: Yeah! If we had an avant-garde guitarist with us, it wouldn’t work. But I heard ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind)’ on the radio the other day.
What a great tune.
Brent Rademaker): I remember that song, and I didn’t used to like it, but I love it now.
The old Wilco songs are kinda growers.
Brent Rademaker: Yeah, they’re great. ‘Box Full of Letters.’ They were probably thinking the same thing I’m thinking now, back then. I’m thinking very Midwestern on this, even though it’s a West Coast record. Contrary to what everyone says. I can’t believe people will even dare to mention the Flying Burrito Brothers to me. There isn’t one song like that.
I was surprised when I heard it, honestly. Not that I didn’t think you had the capacity for it, but it’s so in the mold of late-70s pop rock—it’s not what I was expecting.
Brent Rademaker: In Further, I had a song I brought to practice … we recorded it, it didn’t make an album, and it didn’t have a title. My brother called it ‘Petty Core.’ He said it sounded like Tom Petty, and that’s a good thing. We ended up selling it to that TV show My So-Called Life, and made money off it.
You met Tom Petty, right?
Brent Rademaker: Yeah—when I worked on the video for ‘Wildflowers.’
That’s a hell of a record.
Brent Rademaker: Oh, man. It’s sick. The one thing I do like when people listen to Another Summer of Love is … not everyone says it sounds like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but people say it sounds like 90s Petty, and that really makes me happy because that Heartbreakers sound from ‘Refugee’ and ‘Need to Know’—it’s just so signature. But the other sound is not—it’s about them straightening things out.
Did Tom Petty hear ‘Petty Core’?
Brent Rademaker: When I worked on that video, I brought him the CD—the My So-Called Life soundtrack. And I brought him a copy of Grime is Golden, one of the Further albums. He was so nice. He took the CDs and I took a picture with him. I still post it every year on his birthday.
What do you think about now in terms of your own musical legacy?
Brent Rademaker: I’m still holding out for the fact that I could break the mold. I don’t want to be successful, I don’t care about the money. But I want people to know about the scene we came from. I want people to know about Rex. I want them to know about the music I love. I want them to know about the label that would take a chance to put our records out. I want them to know about Greg Shaw and Bomp! because Alive [Naturalsound]—we don’t fit on that label. They’re a blues, punk label. Ever since they discovered the Black Keys, that’s their niche. Heavy blues shit, which I don’t like—it hurts my ears. But we fit perfectly with all the Plimsouls and Jack Lee and all the reissues they do. A lot of people say to me, ‘Don’t you miss Sub Pop?’ I mean, Sub Pop’s fucking cool. But I did as much for Sub Pop as they did for us.
Sub Pop was a label in transition when Beachwood came around.
Brent Rademaker: When you have the head of A&R saying that we are the flagship band for the new sound of the label—that makes me happy. Because back then it was a dream to be on that label. They were putting out all the best shit, and it wasn’t just the grunge—all that Singles Club shit.
They really were visionaries.
Brent Rademaker: Such visionaries. And just because Alive isn’t a ‘cool’ label like Omnivore—people always ask me what we’re doing [with them], and I say, ‘They believe in me.’ Everyone wants you to be on Matador or Drag City or whatever’s cool. And I’m, like, ‘They don’t want me anymore. This is the label that wants me, and they’re fucking cool.’
That’s what happened with Sub Pop, isn’t it? They were the right label at the right time, and it seemed to work for everybody.
Brent Rademaker: We turned down major labels to do that. We wouldn’t have been around a year. We would have been one of those bands, like the Thrills or something, that you just don’t see anymore. But we still play.
You’re doing Beachwood shows this summer, right?
Brent Rademaker: Just two.
When was the last time you guys played?
Brent Rademaker: I think it was at the Josh Schwartz benefit.
That was 2014.
Brent Rademaker: I think that was the last time we played. It’s hard. We tried to practice the other day. I mean, Beachwood has a thing, a sound. Farmer Dave [Scher] is totally integral, and he’s going through a lot right now. It’s different. With GospelbeacH, I play with these guys who are older. The drummer’s like, ‘Pay me $100 every time I come to a show.’ I’m like, ‘That’s new for me, but you’re good, so I’ll do it.’ We just turn it on and go. Ben Reddell from the Grand Ole Echo is our bass player. The guy is a fucking country aficionado. He knows everything about country music—real country music.
But the Beachwood lineup has stayed pretty static?
Brent Rademaker: Yeah, Beachwood is just the four of us. We had a thing where we had Neal and everybody, but we’re just trying these two shows as a four piece. We want to give people a little taste of 2000. Right before 9/11, we were poised to really be big. Shit, we were selling out the Troubadour, man. We didn’t even have a record out. But then something happened. I don’t even know what happened.
What do you think happened?
Brent Rademaker: It’s kind of a hard luck story, to be honest. We were talking the other day after practice, and I said, ‘Hey, why did we break up the first time?’ And someone else said, ‘Well, we thought you wanted to break up.’ And I said, ‘No, I just got addicted to heroin.’ ‘Why’d you do that?’ ‘I don’t know. I thought you guys hated me.’ And they said, ‘No, I just wanted to move to Seattle,’ or whatever. You know, after a tour, everyone hates each other. We had done this long U.S. and European tour, and we quit. It was really successful, and finally we made money. It was fun. People were at the shows. My God, it was like a dream come true. We played London and Kevin Shields and J Spaceman were backstage eating our food. I was so stoked. I know GospelbeacH will never do that, but I don’t think enough people have seen us and heard us. I talk to people all the time who are like, ‘Hey, what are you up to?’ I mean, fuck, I have two albums out. They just don’t know. I don’t think we’ll ever be that again. But, I think there’s a big chance for people to hear it and like it.
Speaking of Sub Pop, I thought [Beachwood Sparks’ 2012 album] The Tarnished Gold was the best Beachwood record. I love that record so much.
Brent Rademaker: It should have been huge, man.
I love them all, but that one has a special place for me.
Well, you know, now we get to have it forever. It still sells, and we make money off it. You know, it’s so funny, I was watching Fargo—do you ever watch that show? The new season is awesome. It’s got Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and she’s all grown up. You know, we had that song in that movie.
‘By Your Side,’ the Sade cover.
Brent Rademaker: That’s what made us even with Sub Pop. We owed Sub Pop so much money until that came out. People bought [the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack] just for that song. So we got even with them, and then we did The Tarnished Gold. Never in the history of rock ‘n’ roll has a band made a record for a label and not come out in debt, and made money right off the bat. Oh my God. We got the statement and it wasn’t in the red.
You owed them a lot before that?
Brent Rademaker: I made a record for Sub Pop in the mid-2000s [Frausdots’ Couture, Couture, Couture] but it was right in the middle of my nightmare. It was going to be an homage to the bands I was talking about … what they call post-punk now. I kind of fucked it up. I still get statements. I still owe them money on that. And I didn’t even tour, and it only cost $5,000 to make. I don’t know where all the money went to. I think it was one trip to CMJ we went on.
Brent Rademaker: I swear to God, we all stayed at these nice hotels, and I was scoring smack—I had never done this in my life, but I was a hardcore junkie, and really close to death a bunch of times. I am so lucky to be here. I’m not kidding, And I only tell this for people to know that there is life beyond this. This happened when I was in my late 30s. I was as hardcore as you can get. I have really gnarly stories. Stories you could make a movie of, easily. We went to New York for CMJ—we played a pretty good show, actually—but I remember being so close to getting busted in the park buying smack. I think it was the last straw with Sub Pop. I remember calling them and saying, ‘I need $500 for the drummer for the studio!’ And they were like, ‘OK, we’ll FedEx it.’ The money was obviously for drugs. So the guy said, ‘Hey, I just sent Brent $500 for the Frausdots project,’ and someone told him, ‘Wait a minute, that’s all paid—they’re not even in the studio.’ The drummer calls Sub Pop and says, ‘Hey, Brent said he was going to pay me for these studio sessions and he never paid me.’ And that was the last straw. I didn’t talk to them for years, until we did The Tarnished Gold. They had had it with me. I saw [Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan] Poneman at South by Southwest once, and I said to him, ‘Hey man, how come you didn’t promote my record?’ I was so fucked up. And he said, ‘Because you didn’t tour.’ I was like, ‘Oh, sorry, I just feel like you guys abandoned me.’ He just said, ‘No.’ He totally dissed me, and he was doing what he should have. It made me go home, and that was one of the things that made me really think about what I was doing. Before that, everybody was so nice to me.
Would you tell me one crazy story, at least?
Brent Rademaker: This one is hardcore. I feel like this could be a scene out of a movie. So if you’re a junkie, you have all these needles. I had a girlfriend who was germaphobic. She’s the one who taught me not to use your needles over and over. So, I have four Hefty construction bags of used needles. Not like they’re poking out … they’re broken off. It’s the syringes. All full of the stuff that could put you in jail. And I’m driving around with four of those in a car with no tags that a speed dealer gave me because he wanted to manage Frausdots. He was this scary guy in Highland Park who lived in this scary part of the neighborhood that’s nice now, but didn’t used to be nice. I went over there, and he said, ‘I’m going to get you off heroin. Smoke this.’ And he hands me a big glass pipe. First he hit it, and I couldn’t even see him with the smoke. Smoking speed. That’s the scariest thing ever. But I did it. And he said, ‘Take this car.’ The ignition was all hanging out. He said, ‘Oh, you don’t need the key—just use a screwdriver.’ So I’m driving around in that car with four bags of needles, looking for a needle exchange. And I’m scared that the cops are scoping out the needle exchange.
And you were high on speed?
Brent Rademaker: I was high on everything. I’d been awake for days, totally smacked out of my mind. And living in the grimmest situation. Grim. But surprisingly, no one was stopping me. That was the weirdest thing. I’m driving around with the bags, and I drive away from the needle exchange because I’m so scared the cops are going to bust me because I’m paranoid. I’m looking for a place to dump the needles. I end up somewhere kind of in Lincoln Heights, maybe. I pull over to what I think was an industrial area, and it’s like 10 in the morning. I run and I throw the bag in the dumpster. It’s a really nice garbage can. I close it, and I look up and I’m at an elementary school. I just went, ‘Oh!’ I got in my car and took off like, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead. They’re gonna find me.’
They’re going to dust the dumpster for fingerprints or something.
Brent Rademaker: Someone’s going to open it and say, ‘What the fuck is this!’ and look at the camera. These days, I never would have gotten away with that. Anyway, I was thinking of that story. That was the lowest of the low. That was in 2004. 2004 and 2005 and the end of 2003—those two-and-a-half years were bad years. But they have a lot to do with what’s going on now. It’s not just about addiction. I learned so much about being a person and being in a band and being in a relationship. It broke me down to nothing. Instead of being this insufferable guy on tour, like, ‘You didn’t help load the van, you fucking asshole!’ I was pretty insufferable in this self-righteous way in the past. In my relationships, too. Even though I meant well and had the right intentions, I know it could be kind of hard on the people around me, and I didn’t realize it. Even in the studio, I’d be like, ‘No, it’s gotta sound like Tom Petty!’ It doesn’t. I mean, it already does sound like Tom Petty! [laughs] I think those two years taught me a lot about my life. It’s not that grateful-to-be-alive kind of thing because I’ve had that—I’ve lived so many years where I didn’t care if I lived or died. I don’t know why, I just didn’t even face it, and it was really irresponsible because there’s something more to life than your own life.
Drugs can numb you to reality, too, to the point of not caring if you die.
Brent Rademaker: Right. And feeling that I made it through that and feeling pretty clear-headed and going into this project and feeling like it’s worthwhile—I like it. I hope people dig it. I dig it. I’m glad you picked out the thing about home because it’s true. It was the one thing after all that that I found that … that’s where it really is, man. There’s a song that didn’t make the album called ‘Home is Where the Heart Beats.’ There are two songs that are going to be on a 7”—‘Dreaming’ and ‘Change of Heart’—and they’re going to be mail order only, for the Bomp! people. And then there’s a Neal Casal cover—since he couldn’t be on the album, we decided to play one of his songs that Ryan Adams used to cover. I was listening to Ryan Adams’ new album and thinking it was forging a similar FM kind of thing too.
I can see the similarity for sure.
Brent Rademaker: Which is cool, you can see that. So I wanted to do a Neal Casal song but in the style of Ryan Adams. So we’re saving that for something special. And then there’s another song that’s all about what you were talking about. It sings about down south, it talks about being out here. Home is where the heart beats, you know.
Have you met Ryan Adams?