INTERVIEW: The RTs (Formerly known as The Rad Trads)

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you for the warm welcome! This is Patrick Sargent here, acting as spokesperson for the band, and I’d say we’re doing great! It’s always a joy to use these opportunities to reflect on our own process, and hopefully offer up some useful and maybe even universal insight as well. That’s the platonic ideal of an interview so wish us luck!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “River”?

Yes! I think in an ideal world, this would be a great moment for the reader to press play and listen all the way through, maybe even a few times, then return here for context on what you just heard. Short of that I’d say it’s a song we’re very proud of,  and that we love playing live. Also if you need a groovy soundtrack to your existential dread and/or your next fall stroll, boy do we have the song for you. Stream HERE!

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The song was originally written at the end of 2016, which felt like the moment in an alien movie where the giant mothership parks right above the capitol and casts its shadow over everything. I know describing it that way is a real mixed metaphor no-no, since the song already uses the image of a river turning everything to cold, but in any case it’s about a feeling of foreboding and a sense of being engulfed by something terrifying and having no idea what’s coming next. 

But after all that, the upshot seems to be “I guess we’ll have to wait and see, in the meantime maybe we go to the beach?” The whole sentiment could just as easily apply to the COVID era, where fear and boredom and a desire for escapism all seem inextricably linked.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

The video is a live performance from a very special night, our first performance in NY since January 2020. So in that sense the filming was an ecstatic experience. You can hear some of our closest friends in the world heckling us, which I think is a magical thing to have on record. You can check out the music video HERE!

The single comes off your new self-titled album – why name the record after the band?

Well, we just recently changed our name to The RT’s from The Rad Trads, so a self titled album felt like a great way to commemorate that change. This album also feels much more mature and subtle than its predecessors, which is part of what prompted the name change in the first place. However, we’re considering exclusively using the acronym on all album titles going forward, so stay tuned for our next LP “Reticent Trumpet”.

How was the recording and writing process?

The recording was challenging but fulfilling. We set a goal with this album to record everything live,  so we had a month of intensive rehearsal heading into the studio. This arrangement in particular became very intricate, and I remember personally being quite nervous, but it all came together and we’re very happy with it. We’re particularly proud of how vibey and produced it feels, while actually being the sound of a band playing together in a room (with a few choice overdubs).

The writing process was easy, very much a “poured out in 30 minutes or less” scenario. After we recorded it there was a decent amount of hand wringing about the chorus melody and harmonies, which continues to this day. The way we play it now live is actually slightly different than the recording. But overall I would say this song was a 7 out of 10 on the painlessness scale, compared to other songwriting experiences.

What was it like to work with Chris Peck and how did that relationship develop?

Chris is our guru, a role model, and one of our best friends. We can’t possibly say enough good about the guy. If he’s taught us one thing, it’s to really tune out the world and tune into our own individual and collective creativity, and for that we are eternally grateful. Our current culture actively discourages that kind of insularity, but we’ve found that it’s the only process that truly works. Without Chris, I can honestly say this band may never have found its voice. 

We first met through a great folk singer/songwriter named Christopher Paul Stelling, who our bass player Mike literally met on the street in Brooklyn. We then played some horns on a few songs Chris was producing for Mr. Stelling, which led to us asking Chris to mix our 2nd album, and then to produce our 3rd, 4th, and 5th albums (the latter of which is nearing completion, the self titled album is our 4th). Every time we’ve worked together the band has grown and matured beyond what we thought possible, so we just keep coming back for more of that Peck magic.

How much did he get to influence the album?

Quite a lot. It was his vision to approach the album the way we did (performing live all together in the studio). In addition, he mixed the album, so he had an outsized influence there as well. Every band is different, but ultimately any great producer balances bringing out the artist’s voice with contributing their own, and Chris did just that.

What role does Brooklyn play in your music?

I would say we are very much a “New York” band in a broader sense, slightly more than we’re a “Brooklyn” band, which is a more recent phenomenon. I think of a great New York band as being raw but sophisticated, smart but fun, and incendiary when performing live, all of which we strive to be. A Brooklyn band might be a bit more categorically “indie” and slightly more obtuse but about the same, so in that sense it’s a square/rectangle situation. To answer your question more directly….Brooklyn is our spiritual home as a band, it’s the greatest city in the world, and if we could make music 1/100th as inspiring as this place we would be happy campers.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Ultimately we’ve found that great songs emerge from the subconscious to express a feeling or thought that has yet to be fully articulated. This album deals with themes of friendship, death, consumerism, existential dread, getting too high and locking yourself in the bathroom, love, guilt, and searching for acceptance, among others. Simply put, the lyrics deal with what was “on our minds” as we wrote the songs, not with what we set out to write about before we began writing. 

Sonically, I think we’re constantly waffling between a utilitarian approach and an aspirational one. Utilitarian meaning “this is what serves the song even if it’s not the hippest, sexiest sound in the world”, and aspirational meaning “I’ve always wanted to have an avant garde jazz interlude in a song and this is the moment, it’s gonna be so cool and unexpected and hopefully perceived as very boundary pushing and bad ass and not the least bit cheesy”. 

What else is happening next in The RTs’ world?

Our album is coming out October 22nd! Then we’ve got a West coast tour in December and an East coast run in January. We’re also finishing our next album, and will probably be previewing that material on our upcoming tours. Lots to be excited about!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

Check Also

INTERVIEW: Tom Bomb

Hi Tom, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? First off, thank you for having …