Contrary to popular belief, the 90s were not ten years ago.
Interview, Text and Photography by Andy Gorel
Nevermind is 26 years old. Even the oughts are almost a decade out. AIM is shutting down next week. Seconds turn to hours, to weeks, to years, and next thing you know the computer has gentrified popular music. Of course there have been flashes in the pan with bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen, and some (still great) acts from a decade ago like The Wombats or The Kooks continuing to proudly parade their no-frills rock ‘n’ roll hits, but what about the kids? It isn’t sexy to start a rock band anymore. Herd mentality stomps toward the laptop – which is fine, and an art in itself – but naturally, as soon as the market appears to be cornered, nostalgia kicks in, and yesteryear becomes tomorrow. That being said, the rock band is poised for a comeback.
I recently caught up with Rad Horror for the inaugural installment of “The Fifth Wave,” a C-Heads exclusive piece on the return of bands, rock ‘n’ roll, and most importantly rockstars in pop music. Originally from New Jersey, but now based in LA, the five-piece consisting of Dylan Scott (Vocals + Guitar), Jack Gallner (Drums), Paul Kartelias (Bass), Anthony Purpura (Guitar), and Jonathan Brunner (Guitar), is fresh off the release of what is effectively their debut single, the heartfelt, post-grunge stomper “Dark Times.” Scott started the band a few years ago after his previous band, the acclaimed indie pop group “Young Rising Sons,” ceased to satiate his creative aspirations. After toying around with New Wave, the current lineup has found their niche in a modernized form of post-grunge that is both raw and accessible, and they could not be more excited about it.
Andy: Dylan you had been playing in the indie pop band Young Rising Sons for a bit, but what made you make the switch to start Rad Horror instead?
Dylan: I started that band when I was fresh out of high school. We worked for a really long time. We got to a point where we had some success, and it was leading into a direction that I didn’t really feel so comfortable with anymore. It was leaning more of a pop direction, and I’ve always been a rock kid at heart. So it was one of those necessary evils that I had to split off from the band to do my own thing, and express my own emotions with what I was writing.
Andy: How’d the rest of you guys all come together?
Dylan: I knew Anthony and Jon through another band they were in called For The Foxes. I knew them forever. When I was in Young Rising Sons we were always playing shows with them, and then once both bands took off we kinda split in different directions, but we were both touring constantly – always crossing paths at music festivals, or locally at home. Then Paul was actually dating my sister, and he was a musician, and he just started playing with me and the guys. And Jack we met in LA. We’re all originally from the east coast, but live in LA.
Andy: So when you started out, it was a bit more new wave sounding.
Dylan: Yeah, that was more of a solo thing actually. Right when I left Young Rising Sons, I was just doing stuff in my studio, and I was like “I don’t wanna be doing this solo project, new wave thing. It doesn’t feel like me.”
It took me a while after leaving the band to find out what I wanted to do, and a solo thing was never for me. Once I put the band together we talked about how much we love rock music, and the stuff we grew up with in the early 90s into the 2000s.
That was all the music that we were listening to, and we were like “There aren’t any new bands that sound like what we’re listening to. Like at all.” There aren’t any bigger bands breaking out and taking control of guitar music or anything of that nature. We want there to be a band that we would want to listen to. We want to find a new band and be like, “Shit this is my new favorite band.”
“There aren’t any bigger bands breaking out and taking control of guitar music or anything of that nature. We want there to be a band that we would want to listen to.”
Andy: That’s how I feel too. I’m big on 90s and 00s and I’ve been making these tunes that sound like the stuff I grew up on, and I can’t seem to find anyone doing stuff that I listen to. Who do you guys listen to that are 90s/00s?
Dylan: Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Oasis, Mazzy Star. There are so many. Even Goo Goo Dolls, Gin Blossoms, stuff like that.
Andy: I’m big on Third Eye Blind. They’re kind of the focal point of how I feel about creating music for my band, which is kinda weird to say.
Dylan: Third Eye Blind is fucking great. That first album is great.
Andy: But you’re right when you say there aren’t any bands really taking charge of guitar music right now. Which naturally you think would mean it’s poised for a comeback cause it hasn’t been big in like 10-15 years. Even the pop records in the mid-2000s were guitar led. Take a record like “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson. At the time that was pop, and now you listen to it and are like, “Yo this kinda fuckin’ rocks.”
Dylan: Yeah! “Hot ‘N’ Cold” by Katy Perry is another one.
Andy: I got into that album this year, “One of the Boys.” It’s become such a huge influence on my tunes because it’s like they perfected guitar pop and that CD was the outcome. Butch Walker, Max Martin, etc.
Dylan: Yeah, absolutely.
Andy: So, the next batch of songs are sounding more like “Dark Times?”
Dylan: Yeah, everything we have is superlinear with “Dark Times.”
Andy: Are there any specific situations or circumstances you find are fertile for songwriting?
Dylan: Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s kinda just really spur of the moment. I’m not the kind of writer who’s like “I’m gonna write a song.”
“What inspires me the most is what’s gonna inspire another kid to pick up a guitar, and be like how are they playing that chord? Why does that sound like that? Why can’t I get that sound? And work for months on figuring out how to do that.”
Andy: Yeah I get that cause I’m the same. It works for a lot of people, but I don’t understand how people do sessions every day. I’m ok if I only write one song per month, as long as it’s a song worthy of being on an album. Cause then you’ve got twelve songs over the course of a year.
Paul: We have some songs too that we went back to, and a couple months later re-wrote certain parts, and then they came out sounding like we wanted them to.
Jon: It starts out with that riff, and you think of that riff when you’re playing it – what does this whole entire chord bring you? It’s not like it’s a typical power chord, we’re doing some weird shit. But what moment does it bring to you in your past? How does it make you feel? What do you picture yourself doing? How do you picture that one kid that you were when you were younger?
Dylan: What inspires me the most is what’s gonna inspire another kid to pick up a guitar, and be like how are they playing that chord? Why does that sound like that? Why can’t I get that sound? And work for months on figuring out how to do that. Cause that’s what I did. That’s what we all did.
Andy: That’s what I did.
Dylan: It’s a very lost art among computer music nowadays. It’s so easy to get the same sounds.
Andy: I’ve always said “Don’t pay for your kid to go to lessons. Buy them a record they really like, and a guitar.”
(Lots of hell yeah’s)
Jon: Inspire these fucking kids, and not teach them this bullshit.
“I write and produce for other artists as well. I understand that world very well, sessions and sessions and sessions. It’s very much a science in a sense. The thing about this band, and me as an artist, is I won’t let that be what defines our band. I want it to be stream of consciousness.”
Andy: Yeah honestly, fuck all the programming and over melodyned shit. I mean i love some of it.
All: “Of course,” “so do we,” (laughs, etc..)
Jon: It’s just a message man (laughs)
Dylan: Personally as an artist – I write and produce for other artists as well. I understand that world very well, sessions and sessions and sessions. It’s very much a science in a sense. The thing about this band, and me as an artist, is I won’t let that be what defines our band. I want it to be stream of consciousness. Like you said every month if a song comes out that’s fine, but it’s gotta be real. It’s gotta feel the right way, and get our point across.
Andy: Who are some big influences, songwriting wise?
Dylan: I really like Butch Walker, I know you mentioned him before. Big fan. He would be one of my favorites as far as writing for other artists. He bridges that gap really well with his own stuff as well. I aspire to have a career similar to his, I think he does a great job.
Great American songwriters like Tom Petty, Dylan, Springsteen. So many I could name off.
Andy: Any rockstar personas you really look up to?
Paul: For me Tom Petty.
Andy: I’ve been digging Liam Gallagher lately.
(Everyone loves Liam)
Jon: Morrissey is like my idol
Dylan: Morrissey is a good one for sure.
Paul: You know who we were listening to before, and talking about him earlier. He’s not really a rockstar but, Post Malone.
Andy: He’s a rockstar.
Paul: Dude, guy’s fucking great.
Anthony: I think Jared Leto is a rockstar.
Andy: I saw him this summer at Firefly. I was in my car, like back in the artist parking lot, and a helicopter literally landed right next to my car. Jared Leto got in and it flew away.
Paul: For me, why I said Post Malone was because obviously, he has these great hip-hop or R&B hits, but he can go play a Nirvana song, and sound amazing.
Andy: Well being a rockstar is a type of personality. You don’t HAVE to do it with a guitar.
Paul: Yeah! Of course.
Anthony: You can tell he’s just generally a great musician.
Andy: Do you feel there’s a certain time period Rad Horror fits best into?
Dylan: Right now. A lot of 90s and emo influences from when we were kids, but it’s 2017. We wanted to modernize the sound. We didn’t wanna sound like Nirvana. That’s why I don’t scream the whole time. It’s a blend, and it’s now. It’s guitar rock of 2018, 2017.
Andy: How does it feel to be an independent rock band in 2017?
Paul: A mixture of emotions.
Dylan: It’s pretty cool. Definitely a mixture of emotions. It’s awesome. I think we’re very fortunate to be a rock band on New Music Friday on Spotify. It’s great. We’re talking about a full guitar band. Not just a band with a guitar in it.
Andy: Like Liam said, there are a ton of bands with guitars who can be great right now, but they “wear it like it’s a fucking necklace.”
Jon: My favorite quote of his is when someone asked him “Do you have advice for any new bands?” And he goes (Manchester accent) “Yeah, stay the fuck out of my way.”
Andy: I wouldn’t care if his press tour lasted for twenty years. He comes up with new shit every day.
Jon: I love Liam Gallagher.
Dylan: Yeah, he’s great.
“I think the guitar sparks an emotion that is lost among this generation. They haven’t heard new bands playing a guitar in a way where it’s the forefront of the music along with the vocal. That’s inspiring to me, because when I was growing up, the guitar is what evoked the emotion in me.”
Andy: What draws you to the guitar?
Dylan: I think the guitar sparks an emotion that is lost among this generation. They haven’t heard new bands playing a guitar in a way where it’s the forefront of the music along with the vocal. That’s inspiring to me, because when I was growing up, the guitar is what evoked the emotion in me. Music becomes emotionless – I always say this. The computer was making our band ugly. It was making us worse than we actually were. It was taking away all the soul. I told these guys, If we’re gonna do this, my voice is going to sound like it does when I pick up an acoustic guitar. This is what this band sounds like. If this chord is formed this way, that’s the way we’re gonna play it. What you see is what you get. It’s not going to continue on and become this heavy synth driven thing. You can’t predict the future, but right now is what inspires us and what brought us back to playing guitars, and just guitars is the lack of what we wanted to hear.
Andy: Who are some current bands you guys are digging nowadays?
Dylan: I honestly think right now one of the best bands to put out music and be a very very talented band. Do something that is derivative, like our music is derivative too, so I won’t take this away, but I think The 1975 is probably the best band around in modern times. I think they set an amazing example for people – musically, sonically – everything is calculated in a way where it’s very true to them and what they do. Hugely respect that. I’d say that band does it the best.
Andy: I agree. I think – I’m a huge fan, they influenced the way I learned to play guitar – but they get so much shit for their fanbase cause it’s whack, but they’re an incredible band.
Dylan: They are a great band.
Anthony: The thing is, their music is so powerful, they’ve inspired those kids for their fans.
Andy: I mean, I’m young. I’m basically one of those kids, some of their tunes were the first I learned.
Dylan: That’s the thing. They get shit for their fanbase, but The Beatles, had the same fucking thing when they were starting.
Andy: People romanticize the past. Look at The Beatles now. That’s gonna be The 1975. I’ve always thought, people are gonna look back, and The 1975 are gonna be a Talking Heads, or Tears For Fears.
Dylan: Yeah, I thought so too. I think they’ve got the potential to be the next U2. I think they’re very very influential. I think people mistake that band. They’re very misunderstood, and I think that band is going to stand the test of time. I think they are the greatest band of right now.
Andy: How about new bands?
Dylan: I guess The 1975 isn’t that new, they’re fairly new. That’s the only band I can think of.
Jon: I love Highly Suspect.
Anthony: I like FIDLAR. State Champs. Neck Deep. Turnover.
Andy: Are there any pop artists that a listener wouldn’t expect to be a big influence on your songs but are?
Dylan: There aren’t really pop artists that are big as far as influence goes, but there are ones I do like. I think the song “Havana” by Camila Cabello is such a fucking good song.
Jon: I like Sky Fereirra.
Dylan: I’m actually a huge fan of all the Selena Gomez stuff. Post Malone I would say is another one as far as pop artists who is inspiring kids to think outside the box.
Jon: He doesn’t fake his inspiration.
Anthony: He does whatever he wants to do whenever he wants to do it.
Andy: I think any pop artist who is just doing what they want, like Charli XCX, The 1975, etc. To me is awesome.
Paul: And you can influence people. They’re just doing what they want to do.
Andy: Outside of the band, Dylan like you said you write for other people. Any projects any of you are working on that you’re really excited about?
Dylan: Rad Horror is the main thing for us. Other projects I have coming out – this band called Dreamers, worked on that album. Paul worked on a song with me. We have some cool stuff with that.
“I hope others follow in our footsteps, and it influences them to do it and not be afraid. I think other people are afraid to do it. Even though they love it, and they listen to it.”
Andy: So you feel the rock band is poised for a comeback in the next few years?
Dylan: We are poised to come this year. It’s coming. I hope others follow in our footsteps, and it influences them to do it and not be afraid. I think other people are afraid to do it. Even though they love it, and they listen to it. Especially us living in LA, we see it.
Andy: I’ve spent the past few years trying to figure out who I am musically, and I kept being drawn to the guitar. Chords, and good melodies. I kept trying to push myself into another direction, but finally I realized I just gotta do it. Like you said, it’s a matter of just standing up and doing it. If you’re “you,” there’s gonna be at least some market for it.
Dylan: Absolutely, that’s the thing. You have to be the truest form of yourself. That rock ‘n’ roll man, it always finds its way back home.