Interview: Brent Rademaker of GospelbeacH

With songs that are pure west coast Americana, full of lush harmonies and soulful lyrics, GospelbeacH follow in the great tradition of bands like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Jackson Browne. Comprised of veteran musicians Jon Neiman, Jason Soda, Neal Casal, Ben Redell, Derek Brown and lead singer/songwriter Brent Rademaker (Further, Beachwood Sparks), the band is quickly making a name for itself.

I caught up with Rademaker as the band prepares for a European tour in support of their great new album, Another Summer of Love:

B: When starting a new band, even with people you have known for a long time, what’s the process like learning to play together and figuring out the dynamics that help you become a functional unit?

BR: Time is really the only thing that helps you develop as a “functional” unit…the process can be fun or a bit difficult but it gets you where you wanna go! Chemistry is something that’s talked about a lot but it’s very important…you have to surrender to the “process” or you’re doomed.

B: With GospelbeacH, how long did you practice and play together before you felt you were ready for your first shows?

BR: We were in the studio making the first album when we played our first shows so we were new. We don’t really rehearse a lot, we like to play in front of people and see what happens.

B: You previously played in the bands Further and Beachwood Sparks. What experiences from your time playing with them influenced how you approached GospelbeacH?

BR: Wow! Pretty much all of them when I think about it. What “not to do” really influenced me with GospelbeacH, but honestly all of the good things that I must’ve learned when I was young about starting bands or being inspired influenced me and guides me everyday with GospelbeacH. The one thing I really hate is when musicians use their past to influence the present or their future…everyday is different, you have to really be open to all possibilities.

B: Your style of music is often described as tied to your adopted home of California. When you hear the term “California music”, what does that mean to you? Do you like having your music so tied to where the band was formed?

BR: Well it’s a bit lazy, isn’t it? There’s the “Laurel Canyon” sound of the 70s that I think some folks think of when they hear the term California music and the Beach Boys/Jan and Dean obviously, but the West Coast does have a certain spirit running through from The Dead to The Circle Jerks or even 90s West Coast Hip Hop…it’s in the air out here. I don’t mind being tied to it…Further, Beachwood really put out that imagery both visually and sonically.

B: Amen. I would even say there’s a difference between California day music and night music (The Doors).

BR: Allah Las have both day and night versions of the California sound too!

B: Like the Beach Boys, you guys have really mastered harmonies and deep vocal arrangements. For those who are not musicians and probably take these for granted, can you talk a bit about the process of tackling harmonies and layered vocals, both when recording and live?

BR: On the new album Another Summer of Love, it’s mainly just myself and Jason dueting. We had some friends come in who had really good instincts for either creating something on the spot or singing what I had envisioned while arranging the songs; Sam from Mapache, Pearl Charles, Will Courtney and Miranda Lee Richards and some other incredible singers. Pat Sansome from Autumn Defense & Wilco. Keeping it relatively simple really helps when we play the new songs live because it sounds like the record J and I just belt it out! The harmonies on the first album were mostly done by Nelson Bragg from Brian Wilson’s band and those were challenging to get on tape and perform live. We are a little more punk nowadays. It’s more fun but probably less interesting to the harmony/Beach Boy aficionado.

B: There’s a warmth to your songs similar to 60’s and 70’s records, like early Byrds, Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon. Has it become more difficult to get that production quality with the way studio technology and recording equipment has changed?

BR: Not really because all of the gear we use is from that time…aside from the iMac.

B: When writing your new album, did you have any set goals for the direction you wanted to take it in, or ways in which you wanted it to be different to Pacific Surf Line?

BR: Major SONG GOALS. Even though I think PSL had a simple charm to it, the songs meandered in a more trippy way. I enlisted my friend Trevor to help me get more to the point…”Don’t bore us…get to the chorus” style. He was a Godsend.

B: What are some of the biggest challenges you personally have when crafting songs? What did the other band members bring to GospelbeacH that helped you improve your song craft?

BR: Keeping the lyrics interesting and not too one dimensional about just me…makes everything rad!

B: Love seems to be a major theme of the new album. Do you find it difficult to craft a sincere love song that stays true to what you want to express, while avoiding overly familiar lyrical tropes? Can you tell me a bit about your writing process?

BR: The first rule is not to care what anyone else thinks, especially yourself. By that I mean not to be afraid to say “I love you” if that’s what you mean. For some reason the songs and sound I was shooting for are viewed as “cheesy” or “guilty pleasure” you know, like FM rock from the 70’s or AM gold? I didn’t want to be ashamed about being in love or wanting to have songs that make you feel good. The writing process all starts with picking up a guitar for me. Rarely have I ever written anything good without having my guitar in my hands. I like open C tuning and moving the capo around to distract my mind and then if you’re lucky something comes to you…I never sit down to write a song. Sometimes I’ll go back and work out an idea that was such a small fragment. This time once I got the first verse and chorus, and then I stopped and sent it to Trevor or waited for him to come over and we finished most of them together. Except “Strange Days”, that was Trevor’s song that I helped him finish. “California Fantasy” I did all on my own because nobody had a clue what I was talking about until we got it all on tape.

B: I’ve always felt that albums can really be structured to take the listener on a journey. Can you talk a bit about the decision making that went into planning the album’s track order?

BR: Absolutely! I agree that the LP running order can take you on a journey. The songs just magically tell you where to place them. And so does the record company ;). Afterwards, it just starts to make sense. The Notorious Byrd Brothers is one of my favorite albums that always takes me on that journey, but I’ve learned since it was randomly sequenced. For ASoL, I thought about a book that begins in the present (“In The Desert”) and then goes back to tell the story…it’s loose but to me it makes sense and that’s all that really matters.

B: Your song “California Fantasy” addresses the escapist dreams that the West Coast represents. When you moved to CA from FL, did you have this idealized view of the west coast?

BR: Not back then. I had been out to Southern California on some skateboard park journeys in the 70s and to NorCal to visit my Grandparents as well. It was just another place to me as I thought Tampa, Florida and the friends and music scene we had there was the coolest, most fun place on earth. It wasn’t until I lived in California and dug deep into West Coast culture that I discovered the California Dream…it’s really the best place for me to live! I love being an ambassador!

B: What was the music scene in Tampa like? How has it influenced your current musical tastes and style?

BR: Orange Juice was the most popular band with our friends in Tampa… I didn’t burn out on the classics!

B: I see you have some shows in Europe at the end of the month and a show with the Sadies in October. What are the bands’ plans for the rest of 2017?

BR: We have 7 shows in the UK and 5 in Scandinavia..it’s a whole tour California Fantasy 2017. After that we play a show in Joshua Tree with Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde and then we got to Americana-Fest in Nashville for two shows. Then it’s San Francisco at the Chapel with The Sadies, one of North America’s best live bands and guys that I go way back with.

B: Sounds like an amazing tour. One last question: if your band could make one lasting impact or change to popular music as it is now, what would that be?

BR: Get kids off your laptops, like Liam Gallagher says, songs like that may be good for the weekend but you need a REAL band of people with guitars and real instruments and voices if you wanna have any soul. If GospelbeacH music inspired a young girl or boy to pick up a guitar and play some rock and roll that would be enough for me. Shit, any age really, just get that mainstream phony festival corporate jive taste out of the mouths of the nation and get real. I’m seeing a little swing in the right direction…but to be 100% honest the lasting impact I would want to make was that LOVE is real and rock’n’roll can save your soul.

“Hangin’ On” Official Music Video

More information about GospelbeacH and their upcoming tour dates can be found on their Facebook page.

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