Feature: Jack Foley
BROOKLYN-based quintet, Radio 4, began in the spring of 1999
as the trio of Anthony Roman (bass, lead vocals), Tommy Williams
(guitar, vocals) and Greg Collins (drums), all refugees from the
Long Island hardcore scene.
Eager to expand their musical horizons, yet uninspired by the
indie rock of the time, they instead explored the period of unprecedented
experimentation that had immediately followed the late 70s punk
explosion, and named themselves after a Public Image song as a
signal of their broad-minded approach.
Roman recalls their thinking:"Let’s do something that’s
got a rhythm, and got a pulse to it. We were all really into Gang
of Four and Wire and scratchy guitar. We wanted to be as minimal
as possible, and we wanted to do something that couldn’t
be perceived as indie rock."
This is something Radio 4 achieved with their debut album, The
New Song And Dance, produced by Tim O’Heir and released
on Gern Blandsten Records in 2000.
The world did not sit up and take notice, but the trio began
hanging out in New York City dance clubs, where they met other
musicians, DJs, promoters and music fans all similarly frustrated
by indie rock’s sense of self-importance and its aversion
And Roman opened a small record store, in his Brooklyn neighborhood
(Somethin’ Else), where he sold dub reggae, post-punk, the
latest British bands, and newest New York acts.
Next door, was a cafe run by a former ska musician with a love
for house and techno. As the music from the two stores seeped
through the thin walls, it blended into one. And it was a revelation.
Radio 4’s next release, an EP entitled Dance To The
Underground, incorporated these musical and social influences
to devastating effect.
And its key point - that dancing can be a form of rebellion –
made perfect sense to people suffering under Mayor Giuliani’s
fin de siecle crackdown on nightclubbing.
Making a name for themselves as the production duo DFA, Tim
Goldsworthy and James Murphy signed on to produce Radio 4’s
That record was Gotham!,
aptly described by allmusic.com as 'half political rally, half
But it was much more than that. It was the sound of a chaotic
city at the start of a new Century. And, though of course none
of them knew it while recording through the summer of 2001, a
city on the verge of a calamity.
In the wake of 9/11, everything about Gotham! –
from album title down to songs like Save Your City and
Our Town - took on a secondary meaning.
None of which altered its core appeal as an angry rock record
that wasn’t scared to groove.
In this sense, it was ideally timed. As the city’s economy
collapsed, the bars and clubs were vacated of Cosmo-swilling dot.commers
and rejuvenated by a new generation: The Rapture, Interpol, !!!,
The Strokes, Outhud, Ted Leo, Le Tigre, The Rogers Sisters…
Radio 4 have no problems giving props to their peers. “Most
of my favorite bands right now are from New York,” says
Roman. “We come from a community of bands, and that’s
something to be proud of.”
Gotham! was picked up by City Slang in Europe; the group,
which finally realised its live potential with the crucial addition
of P.J. O’Connor, on percussion, and Gerard Garone, on keyboards,
toured the continent relentlessly, playing major festivals and
tiny clubs alike, winning acclaim wherever they went.
"It was very exciting for us because it was like: These
people are dancing to what we’re playing and listening to
what we’re saying."
Dance To The Underground was re-released with new mixes
in the UK and became a club anthem; in the US, Radio 4 signed
to Astralwerks, and had similar success with the remix EP Electrify.
But as their reputation in Europe grew, Radio 4 found themselves
constantly challenged for being Americans at a particular contentious
point in history.
On one occasion, they showed up to headline a sold-out gig in
Hamburg only to find a sign at the front door: "No Americans
allowed", (They played anyway.)
When it came time to write the new album, the group that had
previously focused on their home city felt it necessary to address
their home country.
Which is where Radio 4’s third album, Stealing Of A
Nation, comes in…
And for the record, Radio 4 is: Anthony Roman (vocals/bass/ keyboard);
Greg Collins (drums/ percussion); Tommy Williams (vocals/guitar);
Gerard Garone (keyboards), and PJ O’Connor (percussion)