- Radiation City (spy Spies far right)
Portland quintet Radiation City makes folky soul rock with doo-wop vertebrae. They do a very good job at it, and for the past few years, they've been touring the country making the Northwest proud. They happen to be playing Sasquatch! this weekend, and as such, we thought we'd get in touch, and shake some knowledge out of them—about music, basketball, broken arms, and even hummingbirds. We caught up with guitarist Cameron Spies over the phone at his home, in the early stages of a laundry run.
Stranger: Where are you now?
We're at home. We're just actually about to go to the laundromat and do some laundry, because our washing machine is broken. It's really exciting stuff.
Did your washing machine meet the same fate as the keyboard (piano) in your music video?
We have a series of home appliance destruction videos we're gonna put out this year.
Have you guys been on tour recently?
We actually haven't…we've done a few one-off things. We went up to Everett last weekend for the Fisherman's Village Festival.
How was that?
Amazing, actually. I don't know if I'm getting crotchety, or what, but I'm loving these small festivals that have great lower-to-mid-level bands, as opposed to the big headliners. I feel like the music's better, and people who are there are there to see the music. It's just cooler stuff, better vibes.
Have you ever been to the Gorge before?
I've been to Sasquatch! three times as a fan.
Are you all Portland natives?
Two of us are from Portland—born and bred—and another of us, Lizzy [Ellison], went to high school here, but was born in the Midwest. Patti [King]'s from the Midwest, and Matt [Rafferty]'s from Olympia.
Are you basketball fans? You have a heck of a basketball team down there.
Yeah, we were pretty stoked about the playoffs, aside from the San Antonio series, but it was a good start considering how shitty we've been for so long.
I feel like a lot of people from Seattle kind of adopted the Portland team, and directed their love of the Sonics toward the Blazers.
Right. I was growing up in the '90s, where the Sonics and the Blazers had a heated rivalry, and during that time, I was always a Seahawks fan, because we didn't have a football team here in Portland. So I feel that, adopting another city's team.
Going on that: There are five members in your band, just like on the court.
We're like a basketball team.
If you could liken your role in the band to a position on the court, what would it be?
Man, that's a really good question. I would say maybe a shooting guard, or maybe more like a power forward [laughs].
So either way, you're scoring.
Yeah, I'm gonna get really cocky, and say I'm the [LaMarcus Aldridge] of this band.
Do you guys have a good sixth man ever? Someone who comes through in the clutch?
We sure do, and in fact, he's going to be playing drums for us this weekend at Sasquatch!, because our drummer broke his arm.
Yeah, but the crazy thing is, Randy, who's our regular drummer, broke his arm, but we have a Doug Fir show tonight, and he's playing tonight, and tomorrow night. He's still playing drums. Go figure, but he's definitely not at full power at this point. So Riley [Geare] will be playing drums for us on Saturday. Riley is an amazing drummer, he plays in Unknown Mortal Orchestra, so it will be fun. He's also a just delight to have on tour.
That is an interesting story. How did your regular drummer break his arm?
Playing basketball, actually. It's come full circle.
I saw you guys when you came through Seattle a couple times ago. It was last year at the Tractor.
That was a great show.
It was a fun show. There was an encore and everything. What's changed about the set since then?
I think that we were probably playing a couple—I think that was before our album release of Animals in the Median…it's all a haze, man. I think we were playing a couple new songs, but not a full set of new songs. This next set, we're actually going to be playing four brand new songs that haven't been recorded yet. Testing them out on the audience.
Anybody else at Sasquatch you're excited to see live?
Outkast, obviously. I've never seen Outkast play live. Kind of like seeing the Beatles. The Beatles of rap.
Any records you've heard lately that are pretty urgent, that have been on your mind lately?
Yeah, I really dig the War on Drugs record. That's probably no surprise; I think that thing is going all over the place. I recently heard this band, Oliver Wilde—I think it's just one dude—but he's got this textural dissonant sample-y background, and this hushed indie-pop aesthetic over the top, which I think is really cool. What else? We were listening to the La Luz record a little bit on the way back [from the show]. We recently caught—just to blow up Seattle a little bit—sets by Kairos and the Comettes, and both sets were incredible. I'm really excited for those two bands.
Where does the doo-wop-y influence come from? It's one of those strong points that you guys fall back on a lot.
That comes from listening to oldies, especially Lizzy; listening to oldies was her go-to station growing up. When oldies [radio stations] were actually playing oldies, not stuff from the '80s—
And making us all feel super old.
Yeah. That's kind of where it comes from, and our parents' record collections, just kind of crate digging.
Hello? You still there?
Yeah, there's a hummingbird like two feet away from me right now.
Just absorbing the nature.
You have that kind of command.
Yeah, I do [laughs]. I'm like Cinderella in the Disney movie.
You can do it all. I'll let you get back to nature.
Radiation City plays Sasquatch Saturday at 2 p.m. on the Yeti stage.