Interview: Admiral Radley
Admiral Radley isn’t necessarily a supergroup, but as far as the indie rock world is concerned, it might as well be. Made up of members of two staples of the scene—Grandaddy (Jason Lytle and Aaron Burtch) and Earlimart (Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray)—the foursome has been together since the tail-end of last year but possesses a past which goes far beyond that. So it only makes sense that a conversation with any of the members is destined to be rife with inside jokes, nostalgia-tinged recollection, deep-seated history and a rare energetic sort of optimism.
It’s 10 a.m. in California when Espinoza gets on the phone. He’s yawning, and admittedly, it’s too early for the both of us. Minutes later, Lytle joins the conference call and before I know it, the two are regaling me with hyperbolic tales of the trade—which may or may not be true—and giving me a hard time because I was daft enough to admit that I was born and raised in Modesto, Calif.
The story behind how the band got its name varies, depending on whom you ask and how much that member has had to drink. But the basic gist is this: the four were in Los Angeles conversing over French fries and wine when a strange man approached them, and asked Murray to remove his splinter. As she worked at it, he listened in on the quartet’s discussion of music—namely, the issue of coming up with a band name—and by the end of the encounter, suggested they name the band after him, which they did.
As for the now-removed splinter? He gave it to them as a token of good luck.
“We kind of trade,” the band explained, when asked who gets to keep it. “It depends on who’s having a bad day or not.”
But as for the actual formation of the band prior to its naming, it happened a bit less serendipitously and a bit more organically.
Burnt out on playing in a band, Lytle decided to take a break a few years back to clear his head and figure out some things for himself.
“Grandaddy had just kind of run its course,” Lytle said. “We got to the point where we started to repeat ourselves and it wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. I just needed to put that thing to rest.”
So he got the hell out of dodge (Modesto, Calif.) and headed for the hills (Montana) to set about to writing music for a solo project.
But while the clean mountain air helped clear his head, he eventually realized he still wanted to write and play music, and who better to do that with than his friends?
“The whole reason we started doing [AdRad] was we just wanted to spend some time hanging out together and recording,” Lytle explained.
And even though not all the members live in the same cities or even the same states, they made it work for them.
“It’s not like you actually have to live in the same dorm room [and] sleep in bunk beds with whoever it is that you’re in a band with,” Lytle said, implying that the geographical distance between the various members doesn’t impede the songwriting process.
Yet all of a sudden, he found himself in an interesting situation. While he initially went on his own to get away from writing songs for a band, he suddenly found himself writing songs for another band, which even shared one of the same members. So how did that make it any different from what he was doing before?
Espinoza explained that it’s human nature to adjust to one’s surroundings and experience by acting slightly dissimilar in any given environment, depending on what each circumstance calls for.
“It’s kind of like you are the same person no matter where you go,” Lytle elaborated. “But whether or not you like it or not, you kind of act a little bit different in different situations.”
So while Lytle found himself doing the band thing again, the components varied, which made for a new musical experience, one which ultimately reflected the camaraderie of its members.
And the spirit of Admiral Radley is inexplicably a bit more lighthearted than that of both Grandaddy and Earlimart, something which the music communicates well on its own, with songs that emit the poppy, the folky, the ridiculously fun and the sweetly sad, in a heartwarming but non-committal sort of way.
“It’s kind of like Neapolitan ice cream,” Espinoza said, likening the combination of the members to the amalgamation of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
“The only time Spumoni comes into the songwriting [is when] we stay up really late and get drunk,” Lytle added.
Admiral Radley released its 11-song debut album in July, and recently returned from touring both coasts and the Midwest.
“So now we’ve completed the big circle,” Espinoza said proudly. “We’ve done the whole country.”
Next on the group’s list is a short stint with Band of Horses, after which the band will head to Japan for a few dates in October.
And overall, AdRad has received a positive response while playing live, although they lament not being able to play the song that “has like 35 f-words in it,” lest they get tacked with a fine.
Once the tour is over, Lytle said he plans on settling into his home in the mountains and working on more songs for the band, as well as his solo project.
“I’ve been working on stuff but I can’t really concentrate when I’m on a rock and roll tour,” he said. “[Luckily] it’s gonna start snowing here [soon].”
And in the meantime, the four make certain to make time for one another, not just as bandmates, but as friends.
“We like hanging out with each other, so that’s good,” Espinoza said.