Sounds Under Radio - Cinematica
In rock music, great power can be found in contrast, in opposites. It´s a musical truth that the members of Sounds Under Radio know well. That contrast—between light and dark, guarded and vulnerable, specific and vague—this is what the songs on the band´s debut album, Cinematica, are built upon.
Against a tidal wave of drums, bass and shag rug thick guitars, lyricist and frontman Lang Freeman laments a self-destructiveness threatening to unravel his life and the lives of those around him, and when he does, he rides that sonic wave to great effect as the band blisters through the various genres dotting today´s mainstream rock landscape.
"I don´t know who these Sounds Under Radio folk are trying to fool, but that is a big-time rock ´n´ roll band masquerading as some unsigned indie-emo whatsits," is how Entertainment Weekly put it when the band´s "Portrait of a Summer Thief" scored a spot on last year´s Spiderman 3 soundtrack, the only track from a then-unsigned band to do so.
Now freshly inked to Epic Records, the Austin, Texas, band is stepping out of the shadows, and bringing its knack for dynamics and a penchant for building stadium sized rock landscapes to an even bigger stage. "That ever present element of contrast in our songs really illuminates the dexterity of the band," says bassist/keyboardist/co-founder Bradley Oliver. "… it shows that we can express the music and the lyrics as two separate entities which also work together intimately as one really cohesive unit. It´s really important for us to communicate through that mode of contrast—saying something that is very personal and intimate and almost too revealing atop a musical landscape that´s aggressive, boastfully confident and driving."
The songs composing Cinematica, Freeman explains, are all in a way linked around "this sort of existential idea of how everyone is really in control of everything in their own lives, … yes there are all these peripheral elements that we have to deal with and take into consideration, but what it boils down to are the choices that we make on our own—on a day to day basis for ourselves. We are the ones who dictate our own lives. People often make the right choices and often knowingly make the wrong ones… this is just part of the human condition, part of LIVING a life and not just complacently existing."
"I am not your suicide … machines have brought you back to life… but you know, its all in your head" he sings on the album´s first single, "Sellout," which is introduced by pulsing, programmed synths, before being shot through with immediate, slicing, crunching guitar riffs. "Put those bullets back inside/Because everything is wonderful now/But they´re all in your head…"
"Most of the lyrics on this album are extremely personal and very specific to circumstance that I went through," comments Freeman, "But I tried to create these larger globalized themes around those moments that I had experienced… I didn´t want the words on this record to have just one meaning, I wanted everyone else´s interpretations of them to be just as valid as mine."
Through Cinematica, what emerges is a band that wears its heart on its sleeve, one unafraid of sincerity, of being completely sincere, says bassist/keyboardist/co-founder Bradley Oliver. "We´re four guys onstage that absolutely want to be playing every one of those songs in the way that we wrote them. We´re not writing pop hooks because we think it fits a new market or a new model, our goal was to write an honest record which we could walk away from at the end of the process with no reservations and no apologies… I think we accomplished that goal."
The band played its first show at the 2004 South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX, however the core of Sounds Under Radio began taking shape several years earlier while Freeman and Oliver were living in the same dormitory at the University of Texas in Austin.
After playing in several different bands along the way as side musicians, and not finding enough artistic fulfillment, they began writing songs together, a process that proved way more fruitful than playing other artists songs. Not long after, Freeman and Oliver took in a show featuring guitarist Doug Wilson and drummer Sonny Sanchez. "We immediately knew that these two were the exact players that we wanted for our project…´" says Freeman. "´The textures and landscapes that they created were perfectly akin to what we envisioned for the songs we were writing."
"Exactly," says Oliver. "When starting a project from the ground up, you always envision that dream band that you could put together, and we´ve been fortunate enough to make that dream band our reality: Sonny was and is this bombastic Bonahm-esque drummer that you can´t not pay attention to… while Doug creates these huge Johnny Greenwood style landscapes and writes these frighteningly beautiful melodies"
It would take time before that band could become a reality though, it wasn´t until Wilson returned to Austin after a stint in Los Angeles that Sounds Under Radio formally took shape, writing songs, touring, and then beginning the recording process with musician/producer Will Hoffman (Pushmonkey, Flyleaf).
The first recording sessions produced a three-song EP which the band quickly decided to expand into a full length album that would in time become Cinematica.
After a brief writing hiatus they emerged with the records first single "Sell Out" as well as "Portrait Of A Summer Thief" which was the first to be a pure collaboration between the band´s members and serendipitously the first song to garner strong national attention (with its inclusion on the Spider Man 3 soundtrack). So with the album finally in place, things began to quickly unfold for the band. The unreleased CD began circulating throughout the industry and amongst friends, finally ending up on the desk of an executive at Sony Pictures in Los Angeles, landing "Portrait of a Summer Thief" on the Spiderman 3 soundtrack.
On an entirely different front and an entirely different coast, interest began to spur at Epic Records in New York City soon thereafter as a copy of Cinematica began circulating through the offices, turning heads and peaking ears at every turn. It would just be a matter of time until that relationship was formalized.
Ultimately, Cinematica is an album of pictures; a mixture of light and dark, both equally important to creating and understanding the whole. Sounds Under Radio have found their niche in taking incredibly personal moments, surrounding them in beautiful chaos and creating a mirror in which everyone who listens can see a little bit of themselves.