When we last saw Radford, the Los Angeles-based band was touring in support of its self-titled 2000 debut. Life seemed promising for the quartet: the record reviews were positive, their fan base was expanding, they had appeared on several film soundtracks, and spent a year on the road with the likes of Oasis, Lit and Vertical Horizon. But just when their buzz began to build, the band?s record deal crumbled under the weight of corporate restructuring. Reeling from shock and disillusionment, Radford split up.
?We had such high expectations,? recalls Radford lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Jonny Mead. ?We worked so hard and had just started to make some noise and felt really good and then everything was pulled out from under us. It was incredibly disappointing.?
The setback was particularly tough for Mead, who had formed Radford (the moniker is taken from his middle name) after emigrating to Los Angeles from his native Oxford, England in 1993. ?I really thought I was done with music after that,? he says. ?I remember feeling like I didn?t want to have anything more to do with the industry ever again.?
It took several months and what he calls ?the nasty breakup of a longtime personal relationship? for Mead to return to music. ?I felt as if I were riding this non-stop emotional rollercoaster ride of exhilarating highs and crushing lows,? he says. ?Eventually, I reached a point where I needed to channel my energies, so I slowly began to write.?
Locking himself in his home studio, Mead let loose a flood of emotions?anger, hope, frustration, regret, and ultimately, resolution?both personally and musically. ?For the first time in years, I wasn?t writing with other band members in mind or trying to please an A&R guy?I was just creating for myself,? he says. ?I hadn?t felt like that since I got my first four-track at age 17.?
For over a year, Mead did nothing but make music, sometimes spending as many as 18 hours a day penning songs. ?I took out the clock in the studio,? he laughs, ?because I hated looking up and seeing how much time had passed.? When he was finally done, Mead had 30 songs and a contract with Universal Records.
?To land a deal that way?with honest songs that I had written just for me?felt really good,? he says. ?It helped to restore my faith in music.?
Mead wrote, recorded and produced Radford?s Universal debut Sleepwalker, an exhilarating blend of sumptuous pop hooks, raw rock thrills and beautifully warm, open-hearted melodies about faith, hope and love. From the spare and compelling ?Fake A Smile? (about a relationship caught in meandering motions), and the life-affirming guitar romp of ?Beautiful,? to the vitriolic ?Someone, Somewhere? (a karmic warning to an ex), and ?Control? (about romantic redemption), the album feels like entries from a journal, with Mead confronting the fears and frustrations of a tumultuous three-year inner journey.
Against a stunning musical backdrop that draws as much from Bends-era Radiohead and Ride as it does from the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, Mead collects jagged moments and devastating conversational flashes that date back to 2000.
The label was so impressed with the sound of Mead?s demos, they let him produce Sleepwalker himself. He recorded the bulk of it in his own home studio with bassist Ric Markman (Chris Cornell) drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Guns N? Roses) and former Radford guitarist Chris Hower. Chris Lord-Alge (Goo Goo Dolls, P.O.D.) and Ben Grosse (Fuel, Filter) split the mixing duties equally.
How does Sleepwalker differ from the first Radford record? ?The band rehearsed the first album to death,? says Mead. ?We practiced for weeks and weeks and then did a few more weeks of pre-production, so it was all very safe. This time, I recorded as I wrote and experimented with a lot of different sounds and loops, which kept things very loose and raw.?
Asked about the album title, Mead says, ?When I look back at the events of the past few years, it all seems like a dream. Sleepwalker was a perfect fit. I remember listening back to the final mixes and thinking, ?This is a snapshot of the last two years of my life wrapped up in fortysomething minutes.? It?s like finishing a book and beginning a new chapter at the same time?and it feels good.?