Admiral Radley Sing Their California Devotion
State pride isn’t a new phenomenon, but the amount of adoration continually grown in and thrown toward California is definitely something to be awed at. It’s a destination, an anchoring point and a wide sprawl of drastically varying landscapes, each mile more breathtaking than the previous. It really is the Golden State, and it comes as no surprise that Admiral Radley would dub their new album I Heart California to openly announce their love for this good western plot.
The four members (Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray of the straightforward alt-rockers Earlimart, and Jason Lytle and Aaron Burtch of former country-twangers Grandaddy) were all past-or-present dwellers of the Central Valley, a section of the giant sprawl of California that can be a bit quiet, creatively.
“There’s not a lot of rock ‘n’ roll coming out of there,” Espinoza said.
The two groups bonded over their similar roots and “geographically we made friends,” Espinoza said.
That topographic connection is what led to the eventual merger, later dubbed Admiral Radley. Grandaddy frequently toured through Los Angeles where Espinoza had relocated and would often stay at his home; eventually in return, Grandaddy began to bring Earlimart on the road with them, which created a stronger bond between the two.
“They were super kind enough to take us on tour with them a bunch, and we just became really, really close because of that,” Espinoza said.
After becoming better acquainted, and eventually somewhat of a tight-knit unit, Earlimart and Grandaddy began casually toying with the idea of creating one cohesive project. The collaboration wasn’t a forced decision, more an easy evolvement.
“It all just came together pretty naturally,” Espinoza said. “We all just decided, ‘Hey, why don’t we get together and basically drink beer and make some songs together for a few days,’” Espinoza said.
This was in 2004, at which point they recorded a few rough tracks, when they came across their name, taken from a chance encounter with the man/myth himself, Admiral Radley. The group was in Los Angeles, taking a break from a lackluster session in the studio. They headed to the Hammer Art Museum to check out a Heisuke Kitazawa exhibit, where they were approached by a suited, older man referring to himself as Admiral Radley. After a short bit of conversing–during which the foursome told him some names they were toying with for the band and Murray pulled a splinter from his thumb–he told them, with a prophetic sort of command, they should name themselves after him. They clearly took his advice. The story sounds a little odd, even fictitious, but “in essence, it’s all basically true, so we’re just trying to find him again,” Espinoza said.
While everything seemed to be falling into a kind of pre-aligned place, at the time everyone was waist-deep in their own musical endeavors and couldn’t find parallel pockets of free time to work on the project. Over the last few years, during which Grandaddy disbanded, the four began revisiting the material and eventually all went down to Los Angeles and remixed and added some new parts, resulting in their record, I Heart California.
“Next thing you know we’re in a van going to SXSW,” Espinoza said. “It’s been fun; that’s really truly what it is, it’s fun.”
That defining undertone of “fun” seems to be the lace tying the album together. Carefree songs like “Sunburn Kids” and “I’m All Fucked on Beer” keep a clean sound and consistent pulse, but a relaxed demeanor; the band’s alt-country pedigree is prominent on more ballad-esque songs like “Lonesome Co.”
The album begins with the title track, “I Heart California,” which the record incidentally became centered on. All the Admiral Radley members were born and raised in California, and with little exception have remained residents.
“We’ve always had this fascination with California. I think it is the best state in the country, all of the things it has to offer geographically–deserts and forests and beaches,” Espinoza said. “But on the other side of the coin there’s all this weird shit with politics, crime and homelessness. There’s definitely a seedy side to it as well. On that particular song, Jason’s kind of dabbling on both sides of the coin there.”
While it wasn’t always the intention to conceptualize the album as an homage to California, it just coincidentally suited it.
“It seemed so fitting that the song is such a flat-out great song, that we should sort of put it up front and let it be the poster child for the album,” Espinoza said.
While everyone continues with their own side musical undertakings, Admiral Radley isn’t a project that puts pressure on any one member. There’s no bulk of responsibilities on one person’s shoulders, no single band member in charge.
“There’s no true leader in the band,” Espinoza said. “I’ve never had that experience before. I think it’s cool, if there’s a question, I can legitimately say ‘I don’t know,’ and that’s OK, where as in Earlimart I have to have an answer.”
The album, I Heart California, is scheduled to release July 13, followed by predominately touring the West Coast, but making a few cross-country pit stops in monster hubs like New York. Beyond that, the future of Admiral Radley is unknown, but you’ll always know where to find them…