BEAT THE RADAR
To The City, From The Sea
Album released 09/11/ 2009 on Akoustik Anarkhy Recordings
If you’re starting to feel that indie music has lost its heart, then Beat The Radar may be the antidote to your malaise. BTR’s debut album, To The City, From The Sea, is packed with heart-on-their-sleeve lyrics, raw vocals, chunky guitars and big, pop choruses. “I know that mountains of other bands also say they have the above,” says singer Jonny Swift, “But I just think they don’t do it as well as us.”
The four Cumbrian exiles moved to Manchester to launch their band, reasoning that they’d be best placed in the home of their idols The Smiths, New Order, The Fall and The Stone Roses. But there’s more in Beat The Radar’s mix – a rich seam of US indie influences from Sonic Youth to early REM, Misson of Burma and Sebadoh. It’s a rag-tag sound, but they’re a rag-tag bunch – this is not your over-styled, too-cool-for-school indie band. “We actually spend time focusing on writing some proper tunes rather than our haircuts,” says Jonny.
Named for their move from the wilds of the far northwest coast to inner city Manchester, To The City, From The Sea was recorded with producer Tom Knott (Micah P Hinson, King Creosote, The Courteeners, Emmy The Great, The Ting Tings) at Airtight Studios in Chorlton.
The finished result is a proper, old fashioned debut album: plenty of upbeat songs, a couple of downbeat ones, and a brilliantly raw distillation of Beat The Radar’s raucous live shows. In keeping with the title, some songs are inspired by nights out in Manchester – Stars came from a night looking up in a city centre beer garden, Pretend You Play Guitar from watching a guy playing air guitar in a club – others come from those Lake District days, such as early composition By The Sea. Of those, there’s often a sense of escapism and frustration – 18,19, 20, 21, 22 reflects on lyricist Jonny’s formative years, and Passenger provides a contemplative counterpart to the album’s freewheeling spirit.
Beat The Radar comprise singer Jonny plus Laurie Hulme (guitar) Rowan Smith (bass) and Adam Featherstone (drums). Hailing from “the scummy edges of the Lake District,” they formed while studying in Lancaster, and relocated to Manchester in 2008. On arriving in the rainy city, the band were quickly picked up by Manchester’s Akoustik Anarkhy Recordings. Their debut singles Telephone Conversation (which appears on this album) and 18,19,20,21,22 were played on Radio 1 and 6 Music, receiving strong support from Steve Lamacq. They have also hit the live circuit hard, playing support slots for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Longcut, Nine Black Alps and The Answering Machine.
Outside of the band, Youth Work graduate Jonny works in the Manchester Deaf Centre as a volunteer co-ordinator (he’s fluent in BSL) and has volunteered in Russia four times – finding himself followed by the secret service when he did. Adam teaches drums and has previously tasted the touring lifestyle as drum tech for Pigeon Detectives. Laurie works as a guitar teacher, but reckons he can’t read music. He does, however, like Rowan, have a degree in politics and international relations.
Despite this, diplomacy isn’t a necessary skill in this band – they’re all in agreement about their mission. “We just want to write great pop music and get it across to as many people as possible,” says Laurie. “We're bringing back the big, anthemic chorus.”
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