Portland’s best new band of 2012 is heading back to where it all began. The musical juggernaut that is Radiation City has been lauded by Willamette Week and its readers, who’ve been packing shows since the band’s inception. But this Friday, they return to San Francisco, where the band was conceived.
Founding member Cameron Spies was living in the city when the quintet got their start as “Rad City”. While on a Thanksgiving break, Spies began passing music back and forth with longtime collaborator Lizzy Ellison.
“This was our third project together,” Spies tells the Appeal, “We initially didn’t see it being much of a focus but it was just so compelling.”
One listen of their most recent offering, the Cool Nightmare EP, and it’s easy to see why the duo expanded Rad City in scope as well as name.
“We used Rad City as a descriptor and we liked it as a band name. It was more of a nickname, really,” Spies says with a laugh, “I saw ‘Rad City’ as being less serious and more of a trite band name. Like we’d be more of a dance band or something. We’re a bit more heavy and emotional so that [Radiation City] fit.”
The ethereal “Find it of Use” acts as one of the band’s strongest songs and most effective introduction. With a catchy guitar riff built around Ellison’s haunting croon, the snaps and percussion surrounding the soundscape push and pull through a cascade of cymbal crashes and synth. Radiation City draws from 60’s uptempo and post-rock grandeur. The combination is intoxicating.
Spies and Ellison are veterans of the Portland music scene as well as founders of Apes Tapes, a cassettes-only label that first put out Radiation City’s debut full-length, The Hand That Takes You.
“Apes Tapes came about as a combination of things we were nostalgic for in our childhood and as a cheap media to produce, especially in small quantities,” Spies explains, “I personally like tapes better as a physical piece of music. I feel like CDs are more disposable.”
There are multiple ways to enjoy their upcoming album, due out this year. Along with a digital release, the LP will also be available on vinyl and CD thanks to Tender Loving Empire.
“I feel like it’s [the new album] a progression of us as a band and songwriters of the directions we’d like to be in. It draws on the first two albums in terms of style and aesthetics but this new one has so many textures,” Spies says, “We really honed our skills with recording and producing.
“The last time we were here was at the Rickshaw Stop on November 3. We were opening for MAUS HAUS and they had an album release show”
“We’re also really looking forward to playing at the Independent. I used to go to that venue all the time. It’s amazing and it’s kind of full circle that we’d be playing it.”