Sydney’s Dead Radio came up with their nom-de-plume in a set-up fit for psychedelia – communal listening to an underrated Australian legend. “There’s a Rowland S. Howard record called Teenage Snuff Film,” member Dave Couri says. “At the time we’d booked our first show and you know, hundreds of silly names were flying about the room and we were listening to Roland’s record. The song that happened to be on was called ‘Dead Radio’ and everyone just went quiet for a moment…everyone just tuned in.”
Four fifths of the band – members Shaun Donovan, Dave Couri, Duncan Harrex and Sam Scheding – came from Sydney shoegaze outfit The Prayer Circle, and after the demise of that band they kept right on playing.
“We were jamming with a fellow by the name of Matt [Neville] who plays drums. He was in a group that we gigged with a lot [Driftwood Drones] and we decided to keep jamming and writing new songs. At some point we got offered a show so, you know, from that point on we were a band.”
After making a few cameos on local compilations, Dead Radio finally released their debut EP Crystal Moth late last year, recorded in their own Ultimo studio. Crystal Moth isn’t as future-pop as Sydney’s Jagwar Ma and sidesteps the full-on sitar zone-outs of Murwillumbah’s The Otchkies or the straight 60s pop homage of Geelong’s The Frowning Clouds, instead picking up a country swagger that has them consistently compared to The Velvet Underground, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels. With such an eclectic neo-psych, alt-country sound, it’s difficult not to take a stab at what might be found in Dead Radio’s record crates.
“Our influences are pretty varied and wide,” says Couri. “Bands like Dead Meadow, The Black Angels. But we really like the 60s and 70s-inspired psychedelia, 90s Britpop, shoegaze…everything from country and folk music through to Gary Numan and The Cure.”
The support-network for the Australian psych scene is sizeable, with plenty of local love shared around by Dead Radio buddies The Laurels, Day Ravies and The Otchkies. With international superstars Tame Impala thrusting psych back into the charts, the revival has loudly droned its way out of the basement.
Couri believes it’s an inevitable return. “Look, it’s ‘the third incarnation of psychedelic music,’ I’ve heard somebody say. There’s just a natural cycle that happens in music. I don’t think this music’s ever gone away. Obviously through the late 60s and early 70s it certainly had a time, also in the late 80s and early 90s with bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Spaceman 3. But it really is having some kind of revival again at the moment, it’s probably just like twenty year cycles that music goes through.”
Dead Radio are making waves in the global psych-rock scene, and in fact are enjoying more success overseas than in their own backyard, selling more records in Scandinavia, Europe and the US than in Australia. But the band won’t be waiting long to melt faces locally and make more fans. Dead Radio join Gang of Youths, Shady Lane, Atom Bombs, Hailer and more local favourites at this week’s birthday celebrations for Brighton Up Bar, a spot which has long supported Sydney psych. “What they’ve contributed to the local scene in terms of putting on a really good venue has been magic,” says Couri. “So we’re really happy to go and support them.”
BY SHANNON CONNELLAN
Dead Radio play Brighton Up Bar’s first birthday with Atom Bombs, Shady Lane, Good Heavens, Gang of Youths, Hailer, God K and Bad Valley this Saturday, July 6.