5 Questions: France Has The Bomb blowing up the Turf Club with the Ponys Saturday
When Srini Radhakrishna moved back to the Twin Cities from grad school in Chicago a few years ago, he never intended for the songs he was writing to be much more than a recording project. Plans change, however, and three years later France Has The Bomb--currently featuring scene veterans Danny Henry, David Storberg, and Hideo Takahashi--have put out two singles, toured the East Coast, and are working on a full-length album. Their very first show in 2007 was opening for Matador Records' the Ponys, and they're doing it again Saturday night at the Turf Club. Srini took some time away from learning the fine art of financial risk assessment to talk to Gimme Noise about being the mastermind behind everyone else's side project.
Gimme Noise: You've done time in Chicago and the Twin Cities. How do you think the two towns compare?
Srini Radhakrishna: The Chicago music scene is much more segregated, genre-wise, than the Twin Cities. Garage rock bands play with garage rock bands, pop punk bands play with pop punk bands, noise bands play with noise bands, and so on. Skoal Kodiak and Birthday Suits would never share a bill in Chicago. I missed out on a lot of good Chicago bands because of that. It's also easier being in a band here than in Chicago. Affordable practice spaces are more plentiful here, and it's easier to get around the Twin Cities. It's easier to get shows. To be honest, I doubt I would still be playing in an active band if I were still living in Chicago. I do think of Sultan's Market at least once a week, though.
GN: You're opening for your old Chicago compadres the Ponys tomorrow night. What's the connection there?
SR: Jered [Gummere, singer/guitarist] and I both grew up in Bloomington-Normal, Ilinois. When I moved to Chicago, I joined the Guilty Pleasures, which was Jered, myself, and two other guys from Bloomington-Normal. The GP's was the first real band for all of us, in regard to touring, recording, etc. We were young, stupid, and inner-band relationships were really strained toward the end. I started playing in another band, and Jered started the Ponys. I remember talking to Jered at a party after the Pony's first show (with The Midnight Evils also on the bill), and telling him that he had something special and he should concentrate on the Ponys. The next week the Guilty Pleasures were done. I just realized that I deserve a bit of the credit for the Ponys success. Where's my cut of that Knocked Up soundtrack money?!??!
GN: How exactly did France Has The Bomb form? Did you have a specific style of music in mind from the get-go, or did that develop more organically?
SR: I wrote a bunch of songs which would eventually be FHtB songs while still living in Chicago. When I moved back to Minneapolis, I asked Danny and Brian Shuey if they wanted to help me with a recording project. We recorded three songs ourselves, and Brian came up with the name. Then Jered sent me a message asking us if we wanted to play with the Ponys at the Entry. I didn't really intend FHtB to be a band that played out, but it was clear at that point that I needed something to work toward if it was going to be anything. I quickly recruited the rest of the guys, and it all came together in less than a month.
As far as our "sound," I was listening to a lot of lo-fi pop stuff like the Clean, Folk Implosion, and Guided by Voices when I wrote the first batch of songs. I've always been influenced by 60's rock and roll, so that seems to come out unconsciously. That being said, I've never decided that we were going to be a garage band, or a post-punk band. I just try to come up with parts that I think sound cool. Typically, I bring the basic structure of a song to practice, and we arrange it as a group. Everyone comes up with their own parts, and it becomes a France Has the Bomb song, rather than a Srini and the French Bombs song.
GN: You guys have either been in or are currently in a ton of bands. Does that change the dynamic of how France Has The Bomb does things (for good or bad)?
SR: The other guys always joke that FHtB is my band, and I used to cringe at the thought of that, but over time I've come to accept it. Danny, Hideo, and David all have their main bands, and this is definitely their side project. It can be tough scheduling things because of everyone's obligations to their other bands. Recently, we agreed to play a local show even though Hideo will be out of town. It's the first time that we've ever done this. He's going to be touring a lot with Birthday Suits this year, and we just realized that the band lineup had to be more amenable if we were going to sustain any sort of momentum. The most frustrating aspect is that much of the time, we only have time to prepare for a show rather than work on new songs, and it's the writing aspect that keeps me excited. On the positive side, I am aware that a lot of the attention and bill slots we've received has to do with the fact that FHtB features x/current members of Birthday Suits, Awesome Snakes, Double Bird, Soviettes, Signal to Trust, and Sweet JAP.
GN: If rock and roll hadn't taken over your life, what would you be doing right now instead?
SR: I would be lying if I said that rock'n'roll ever really took over my life. Pragmatism is ingrained into your psyche when you're the son of Indian immigrants. That's why I'm studying for the actuarial examinations right now rather than booking a tour.
GN: Okay, bonus "Garage Rock Geek" question: Quick, pick one compilation of 60's garage rock: the canonical four-disc box set Nuggets II or the long running super-underground series Back From The Grave?
SR: That's a tough one, but I think I will go with Back From the Grave. A lot of those bands released nothing more than a single. They couldn't tune their guitars, much less play their instruments. These are qualities that I can really relate to.
France Has The Bomb are playing at the Turf Club Saturday night with the Ponys, Bombay Sweets, and the Chambermaids. $8, 9PM doors, 21+.