With multiple badass releases, two artist’s minds, and one phonecall, Shockwave Magazine had the opportunity to delve into the abyss of rock music. Don’t worry your headbanging noggin, as RadioBlack is here with the ropes to hoist us up from dark places and remind us there is light at the top of this canyon.
Shockwave Magazine: You are releasing all of your songs as singles for the new album, right?
TJ Courtney: Correct.
What thought process drove that decision?
TJ: We were trying to decide how we wanted to release the album. So many of our friends in bands just release it all at once, get some attention, then it would just fall flat after a while. People latch onto a song or two, but the album as a whole, we are just really proud of all the songs. We want each song to get proper attention. Also, I think for fans too, it’s less demanding to just give people one thing to try to latch onto. It seems to be working pretty well that way. By the time we come out with the album, hopefully some people will feel like they’re familiar with a lot of the songs and enjoy listening through the whole thing. So, it doesn’t feel like a chore, like if you throw it at them all at once. That was our general thinking with that.
It’s kind of a unique way to do it and I think I like it.
TJ: A lot of people do the single thing, but they don’t record the album first, so it’s not a piece of an album. Because I love albums, we were like, “How do we combine those two mentalities?” That’s just some brainstorming between Derek and I and it’s kind of what we landed on.
Do you celebrate each release?
Derek Gledhill: (laughing) We actually talked about that. That’s one of the hardest parts for us, as a band, because we’re so driven. We are always telling ourselves, “Okay, we need to go celebrate, take a moment, and actually be proud of the little hurdles that we overcome.
TJ: Yeah, I feel like we always talk about doing it, then we never do. We’re like, “We’ve gotta celebrate this.” Then, me and Derek are like, “Yeah, let’s get together,” and then we just end up, “Okay, what are we doing for the next single?” We have a hard time. We need to get better at that; stop and appreciate the moment.
One idea us rockers do for celebration is going to shows. Have you gone to any shows lately?
TJ: Yeah actually, we’ve been going to a lot of shows, which is cool. We went to Sevendust, that was awesome. Deftones, maybe a couple of weeks ago.
Derek: Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch. That right now, especially with rock, if you’re in the business of music you need to be going out and spending your money at shows rather than on things. If you go to one rock show, you’ll have a memory for your whole life. That’s what we want to spread as a culture. Get people going to shows to kind of bring that back. Everyone who doesn’t go to shows, when they do they’re like, “Wow, that was badass, I should go to more shows.” Gotta practice what you preach.
You should come out to Utah, there is still a rebellion with rock because it never went as mainstream as other places did.
TJ: That’s awesome, we’ve gotta get out there. It’s not too far.
Speaking of shows, who would be on your dream lineup to tour with?
Derek: Maybe, Led Zeppelin. We’ve talked about Foo Fighters. I think they’ve always done things their own way. The greatest rock bands stand the test of time. Bands come and go, trends come and go, but they’re just…just a band, and that’s what makes them one of greatest rock bands in the world.
Based off both of your answers, your tastes in music is very different. Does that affect your writing process?
TJ: I think we both have really diverse tastes within rock, but we have a lot of common ground. Actually, I think Derek leans a little bit heavier than me, which is definitely affecting how I’m writing. Like going forward, I’m wanting to get a little more riff-heavy. I’ve always been a melody guy, but that’s something Derek definitely brought me in that direction a little bit.
Let’s get a little personal. Aside from the tornado that wrecked your hometown, was there any other moments or experiences that made you want to write about materialism, as you have done?
TJ: Definitely living in LA is a big piece of that. You just see how focused people are on writing about materialistic things. Also, writing in a superficial way, like let’s get in a room and talk about a bunch of things thematically that are the same. Let’s just write a bunch of words down and make something out of that, which negates the natural creativity that I think we all have. I went in the opposite direction and tried to keep that authenticity in the face of seeing all that stuff in LA, which unfortunately is the biggest place for a lot of that. That definitely had an impact as well, seeing how things are out here. I’ve been out here for about three years now.
Two different worlds.
What’s your favorite track?
TJ: That’s a hard question.
Derek: I would say from what we’ve released, I actually like our “Wrong Places” acoustic. TJ brought it to me and it was like a completely different song from our first single. I thought that was just really creative. That’s kind of how we’re going to be working a lot of this record, by going and rewriting a lot of the songs acoustically. It’s obviously the same song, but it’s going to have a different feel. So, that’s probably one of my favorites out right now that I think a lot of people overlook. On the record? Oh man, I don’t know. Maybe a song called “Am I Awake” or “See Myself Out.” That’ll be coming out a little bit later.
Do any of those have an emotional connection to you?
Derek: For me, personally, that’s really what drove me to the project. When I heard one song called “Runaway” from TJ, what drew me in was the lyrics. A lot of guys don’t listen to the lyrics. I think the lyrics are on the other side by girls, by women, but I also notice them because I think that’s half the song. A lot of times you’ll be singing a song and you’ll realize what their saying and you’re like, “Oh, I can’t say that. I can’t sit here with a straight face and sing this song.” My approach to drumming is my connection. When I play I like to sing along to all the songs and I like to look at bands and sing along to the song with them while I’m playing. I obviously do backups and harmonies and stuff like that. But, his lyrics, they strike a chord in me big time. Big time. One of the most surprising parts about the band is the lyrics. I think that’s something that is a bonus when you hear a band. I think we are actually built upon TJ’s lyrics. Which, I think is awesome because that is the message in the song. It’s definitely personal.
You’re a lyrically driven drummer.
Derek: Yeah. If I can’t actually sing the song while I’m playing I’m doing something too complicated and I’ll tone it back so I can keep singing.
TJ: That’s something I love about Derek too. He’s always thinking with the song in mind. He thinks of the drums as a support to the song. You don’t always find drummers that are that way. It’s pretty hard.
How did you find each other?
TJ: I recorded a couple songs at the Foo Fighters studio when I was just trying to start a band and I didn’t have members yet. The assistant engineer there, Vanessa, a cool girl that knew Derek as well, put Derek’s name out to me, “I think you’d get along with this guy. I think you are on the same page. He’s a great drummer.” So, I gave him a call and we immediately clicked. That’s how the band really started, when the two of us got together and jammed. We were like, “Dude, yeah, this is going to work.”
When fans hear your record in its entirety, what are you hoping they contemplate?
TJ: I want them to try to connect with the lyrics in much of the way Derek just described. I have to give myself the chills when I’m writing. Everything on the record, while they are all very different, they’re coming from a place, from somewhere. Some of them, I still don’t really know what I was trying to say, but I know the lyrics and the melody together were something important I was trying to express that maybe can’t be wrapped up really cleanly. That’s the meaning of music. You can capture some of that dissidence in your thoughts and your emotions. I guess I want people to have that same experience. I think that’s a deeper way of experiencing music that is lost a lot of the time now. I want the connecting of something you aren’t really sure why verses something with silly lyrics that panders to a large audience. There’s no central message I would want anyone to get out of it, but I’d want them to really dive in and feel that emotional resonance.
Derek: I’ve listened to the record and listened to it as a fan as well. When I hear the lyrics I can always put it in as, not hopeless, it’s hopeful. Its dark, but when you’re down and out it’s an overall idea that things can be shitty right now, things can be horrible right now, but just keep pushing forward. Don’t give up. You’re gonna get through it. There’s this hopefulness I like. That’s why I love the rock and roll genre because there is so many bands out there that have been able to do that. People have connected because of lyrics that can get you through a really hard time. “I was super alone and misunderstood, but for some reason your lyrics connected with me.” A lot of that is what people are afraid to talk about. They just want to talk about going out to the clubs, but no one wants to talk about the day after. When you go back to reality and you’re alone or how you’re feeling. When you’re going through a breakup or you’re going through the different things we all experience that TJ talks about. Know that there is hope. Know that you are going to get through it. That’s how I view the band. In a way, there’s positive light at the end of the tunnel.
TJ: It’s kind of like going into dark places and finding hope despite that.
Derek: Exactly, and that is why he writes the lyrics.
What I love about what I’ve heard so far is it’s relatable and direct, but abstract as well. It can reach a broad scale of people and connect to everybody in a different way. It brings up stories in your mind.
TJ: There’s definitely a level of abstraction. Those are the songs I’ve always loved, where you knew the emotion driving it but you weren’t always sure specifically what the person was talking about. That’s how I think you can connect with a lot of people in a lot of cool ways.
I’d actually call it brilliant and would call it my favorite of the year. Is there anything else you’d like the reader’s to know?
Derek: Hear the music, enjoy it, share it, and come to a show. Just connect. We aren’t playing live through December and it’s hard. We have this band to play with people we love and care about onstage and to connect with people offstage. Just make it a big community; a family. We want to be on the road and meet everyone, write us on Instagram and say where you are located. We want to know the markets where we’re big so we can meet the most fans.
Utah. You have to get to Utah. I want to see you play live.
Submerse yourself in the singles countdown towards the RadioBlack full album release and let them know where to find you. I’ll be here, waiting in my car, and ready for an announcement that they’ll be coming to my town.