When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
I can sum it up in two words…power chords. As soon as I heard the sounds coming out of bands like Cheap Trick, AC/DC, UFO, Kiss, and Van Halen I was all in. I was just blown away by the simplicity and complexity of their music and how it brought me to another world. There was something about that sound coming out of the cheap stereo in my bedroom and my car that was absolutely mesmerizing. Those sounds bring back great memories to this day.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
I see a lot of images and moods when I write. Certain chord progressions, finger pickings and riffs often direct me on how the song is constructed and then the lyrics start to flow. It’s a bizarre process but it works for me. I actually write a lot of my songs on an acoustic guitar. Even riffs such as the songs “New Revolution” and “Medicate”. I feel that if it sounds good on an acoustic then it’s going to sound even better when plugged in. I really explore the things and issues that are near and dear to my heart or affecting those that are close to me. "New Revolution" (https://open.spotify.com/album/4rgBmqnv7h3p5gYPGjiXfU) is my most personal and poignant project I've ever done.
Who has influenced you the most?
There are so many other bands that have influenced me over the years including Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Green Day and Cheap Trick. When I first heard Pearl Jam’s "Ten" album I studied it day and night and still study it to this day. It truly had an influence on how I write and construct my music.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Life as we see and know it. When you distill it down to the basics and just take a look around, you’ll see that it’s so dynamic and malleable. Things develop and change right in front of your eyes every second. The challenge and opportunity is to capture that energy and decide what you want to do with it. It’s literally an open book with so much to write about. The challenging part is how to capture it all and put it into lyrics and music. But that’s also the most rewarding part.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
We’re based out of the United States in Chicago, Illinois. We’re so blessed to live in such a rich and vibrant city with an incredible music scene. Rock, blues, reggae. The city is so versatile and filled with amazing musicians. Chicago produced rock icons like Eddie Vedder, Billy Corgan and blues legends such as Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. In fact, Chicago blues is what bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin modeled themselves after.
Where'd the band name come from?
The Simple Radicals more or less came out of the way my lead guitarist John Griffin and I look at life and music. We’re both somewhat non-conformists and non-conventional. We like to look at things differently. Stay simple. But think radical. Hence The Simple Radicals.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
I would love to write the soundtrack for a movie like “The Terminator”. It’s fast-paced, aggressive and pure rock and roll. Arnold Schwarzenegger if you’re reading this please contact us and we’ll write a kick-ass soundtrack for you.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
I’d have to pick “Corduroy” Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy album. Anything Eddie Vedder writes to me deserves further exploration. Just diving into how a turning a beat up old jacket that he got for a few bucks into one of their best songs and the emotions behind that would be a fascinating story.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
We were playing a festival in the Chicago area and the band that went on before us was dressed in a horrific combination of Kiss meets The Cure meets…I’m not sure. The crowd just stood there in total shock at this sight. Nobody moved. We had to follow that act and somehow turn it around. Thankfully we did. And without any makeup! Thankfully we never got lost trying to make it to the stage for a show. We haven't gotten lost backstage on our way to the stage just yet. But it's still early.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
We love to perform live and our fans know that. We feed off their energy and passion and try to give it right back to them in the way we play our music. We also try to interact with the audience as much as we can since our songs are so personal to many. There is nothing more rewarding than watching people lose themselves in your music. It’s intoxicating.
What makes a great song?
At the basic and most simplistic level you have to start with one that is really enjoyable to listen to over and over again. And to get deeper, a great song is one that elicits a reaction or compels someone to do something like sing along or turn it to eleven. If you can get
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
I’ve been writing for a long time and I can’t remember the exact song but I’m sure it totally sucked, it was corny and shallow, and had a really shitty title. I’ve definitely evolved over time thank goodness.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
The song “The Optimist” off our album “New Revolution” really hits home for me https://open.spotify.com/track/7pYMLIjV7HHKVxIOCn6ROv. With all the shit going on today in society and in our own personal lives, it’s a song about trying to remain optimistic about things and looking at the half-full side of life. The lyrics “I’ve got the rest of my life and I’m not going to stop ‘til I get it right” is a statement about not giving up when things look dire. There’s no rush. You’re in charge of your own destiny. Get it right the best you can. But just get it right.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Eddie Vedder is my musical hero. I’m mesmerized with his writing and try to capture the messaging, passion and energy that he does in his songs. If I can even come within a million miles of that I’d consider it a success. Pearl Jam’s “Ten” album was life changing. Probably the most talented, electrifying and inspiring band in the last 30 years.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Vinyl. I still love listening to the crackle of the stylus on the record. And I don’t even mind if it skips.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
Makers Mark Whiskey baby. Smooth and approachable with an easy finish. Aaaah.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
We’re from Chicago and you have to go to Reckless Records in the Wicker Park neighborhood. I think it was originally from London and they have a massive selection of vinyl including some rare gems.
What's next for the band?
We have a lot going on and coming up. We continue to push our album, "New Revolution" (https://open.spotify.com/album/4rgBmqnv7h3p5gYPGjiXfU) which has the guitar-God Vernon Reid from the band Living Colour playing lead on the track "Medicate". We just released a song and video called “Rich Man Wanna Be King” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehjT9RZdpe4) which provides a scathing lampoon of President Trump. It was just released on YouTube and it’s already racked up 120,000 views and climbing. Our video “New Revolution” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY7cm3-1m7E) has already racked up over 60,000 views and climbing. We’re about to release a wicked cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” where we collaborated with an incredible husband/wife team called Che-Val. We’ll be releasing a quarantine video to our song “The Optimist”. And, we’re about to release a podcast called “Music & A Brew” where we crack open a cold one with musical artists including Kenny Aronoff (drummer for John Mellencamp and tons of others), Todd Sucherman (Styx), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Daxx Nielsen (Cheap Trick), and Jackie “the Joke Man” Martling from the Howard Stern Show. And of course we plan to play live again once the apocalypse is over.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
We’re a retro-rock and roll band that combines sounds and styles from some of our favorite classic rock bands like Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Green Day and Cheap Trick. If you like those bands then I think you will like our sound. You can check us out on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/4rgBmqnv7h3p5gYPGjiXfU and YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2rmuHn02XI1CIphHvmh-Vg and follow us on http://facebook.com/thesimpleradicals, http://twitter.com/simpleradicals, and http://instagram.com/simpleradicals.
And please stay safe. Stay healthy. And stay Radical.