Straight from the pages of the brand new issue of RAGGED, enjoy an excerpt from our feature story with The One AM Radio here, and be sure to download your free PDF of the full issue here, for the rest of the article including additional photos from our shoot!
The Decemberists once sang that its “hollowness will haunt you.” Woody Allen declared that its “only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.” David Letterman joked that, there, it’s the birds—not the leaves—that fall from the trees. For its role as the world’s entertainment hub, Los Angeles is seemingly repaid as the butt of the joke—pop culture’s perpetual redheaded stepchild. The One AM Radio (songwriter and lead singer Hrishikesh Hirway, multi-instrumentalist Fontaine Cole and guitarist Scott Leahy), however, jump to the defense of their adopted hometown. “I think there’s this weird cliché in music about bashing L.A. or having a bittersweet attitude toward it,” muses Leahy, who first fell in love with the city while driving in two hours east from Twentynine Palms to see concerts as a teenager. “Like: ‘This is my home but I hate it so much!’ I don’t have any negative associations with it. I will defend L.A. to the death!”
Hirway—who relocated from Massachusetts to pursue a career in film scoring— is quicker to look past the punchline, evoking both director Michael Mann and the Ryan Gosling film Drive as signs of life in the much maligned metropolis. “I think the idea of depicting L.A. in a romantic way is an old idea,” he says. “I think it gets a bum rap from people who don’t know. There’s definitely a tradition and a heritage of looking at the lights and sunsets and everything about this place and falling in love with it.”
It’s that spirit of admiration that the band brings to their fourth full-length, Heaven Is Attached By a Slender Thread. An electro-pop love letter to the City of Angels in the vein of their 2004 effort A Name Writ in Water, the album is soaked in the spirit of Los Angeles—its sparse instrumentation and Hirway’s gentle voice evoking both the beauty and loneliness of a late-night drive. “I think the driving in L.A. part, especially on the highway, doesn’t necessarily have to be L.A., it can be in any urban area,” says Hirway, noting that any big- city dweller can identify with the cinema-worthy setting. “I remember that feeling in Atlanta. It was three in the morning, there’s this crazy set of highways coming together, all these junctions. That landscape, you can transpose that across so many different cities.”
But when it comes to the city itself, there’s another layer of symbolism—as Hirway is well aware of. “I feel like the conceit of L.A., the whole idea behind the city, is based on idealism,” he says of the album’s title and thematic through-line of approaching—but never reaching—perfection. “I think the thing that I noticed was a sense of disappointed idealism, being tantalizingly close to having the existence that you want to live, inhabiting a world that you can visualize, and having it be really close. L.A. is perfect for that. It inspires that a lot. Maybe even realizing it, and having some of those things come true, on either side; wishing for it or having it, realizing how tenuous all of that is. There’s never a feeling of safety, of time to relax, [of] ‘we’re good, we made it.’ It’s a feeling that I think about, and I’ve always thought about it in the context of The One Am Radio. It’s like right after you wake up from a dream. I think the title is about that, seeing that dream dissipate. If you take it more literally: the idea of seeing it detach.”
More than just present in concept, Los Angeles often feels like a fourth band member— its news anchors, autumn fire season, fast- food joints and streets all making recognizable appearances in Heaven’s lyrics. “I’ve been scared of the idea of being that specific before,” admits Hirway. “As I got older I realized there’s as much emotion in a warts-and-all approach to what you’re living. I think somewhere in that change, that’s when my lyrics changed to be more specific like that. Tom Brokaw is the anchor in my memory that delivered the news. The Wilshire Boulevard part of [“Sunlight”], there’s a specific part— right where Hancock Park ends, and before you get to Vermont—where there’s just this weird, dark, non-neighborhood. I could picture it, so it seemed like it would be going out of the way to not mention what the scene actually was.”
(Continued in the pages of RAGGED…)
posted by Staff