RADIATION CITY'S first US tour has been plagued by its fair share of meteorological afflictions. In the past four weeks, the band has been rerouted by hurricanes, only to find their escape routes plagued by wildfires. They've been jarred by earthquakes and enclosed in atriums of lightning strikes: "We looked out at one point and there were bolts crashing all around us. We felt one hit the ground close to the van. I think the hand of God was coming down on us," says guitarist/vocalist Cameron Spies, with a laugh.
These natural disasters may have proven divine; their erratic behavior has allowed the band to seek refuge with friends and family in quieter places, far from the constant whir of the freeway. They spent a few days riding out Hurricane Irene in the North Carolina mountains with vocalist/organist Lizzy Ellison's family; they shacked up and shared meals with friends in New Orleans in the chop of a tropical storm; and they were last found unfurled in the lap of Sonoma wine country, killing time before a gig in San Francisco.
At each stop, the band has captured the spirits from their different locations of rest while steadily recording new material—nearly 10 songs—for their second recording. Their debut, The Hands That Take You, though recently re-released by Tender Loving Empire, has actually been circulating on cassette for over six months now—courtesy of Spies and Ellison's cassette-only Apes Tapes label. The lucky souls who have heard it have been privy to the band's take on '50s jazz pop as run through the astral power wash; the fluidity of Ellison's rich vocals fermenting in warm steel casks of reverb, and the glibs, glitches, pots, and pans uncut from the songs' liminal spaces.
While Radiation City is undoubtedly a polished act, it is with a certain spit shine that they obtain their luster. For instance, "Phantom Lady," a cautiously blissful track that finds both Ellison and Spies putting on their best post-apocalyptic lounge airs, was embellished with drums recorded at a music store. "That was our means of making beats, because we didn't have a drummer at the time," says Spies. "And we got these hand-sampled drums that sounded really gritty and blown out, and we sequenced them." It's this kind of ingenuity that will aid in Radiation City's longevity as they dodge the next round of obstacles; may they always find time to indulge their whims.