Radical Dads: Heart the ’90s

Music Features Radical Dads

Hometown: New York City
Album: Mega Rama
Members: Lindsay Baker (vocals/guitar), Robbie Guertin (vocals/drums) and Chris Diken (guitar)
For Fans Of: Sleater-Kinney, Dinosaur Jr., Yo La Tengo

The name Radical Dads might bring to mind an aging barbershop group performing Police covers at weddings, but it’s actually a group of hard-rocking thirty-somethings bringing back the very best of ’90s lo-fi.

A shared love of groups like Sonic Youth and The Pixies brought Lindsay Baker, Robbie Guertin and Chris Diken together back in college in the late ’90s. Baker was going to school at Brown University in Providence, R.I., and Guertin and Diken were attending Connecticut College, an hour or so away on a light traffic day.

“I kept getting lost in Providence, kept sliding down Interstate-95,” Baker says.

Guertin says he saw a poster on Diken’s dorm room door for Man or Astro-Man?, ‘90s surf rock group. “I had never heard them before, but it seemed like I ought to hear them,” Guertin says. “Chris doesn’t even remember having the poster.”

“Chris and Lindsay started playing together, and I got really jealous and I kind of wanted to play with them to so I started playing the drums so I could be in the band,” Guertin says. ”And that was that.”

“We just all really like a lot of the same bands,” says Diken, “and I think back when we were in college, it was kind of a self identifying thing where if somebody else liked the band that you liked, you could basically know all about that person without having to get to know them. So I think we all bonded together over music and over those particular bands and those formative influences never really left us.”

After a bit of time together as Made in Canada, Guertin, Baker and Diken went their separate musical ways for a decade. Guertin became the drummer for the much-beloved Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and he and Diken would also play in side project Uninhabitable Mansions in New York. That is, until Baker moved back to New York after some time spent in Los Angeles in 2008.

The three-piece picked up right where they had left off in the previous millennium and quickly began work on their first full-length album Mega Rama, a process that took about six months. With some help from Sean Greenhalgh of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, they left the studio with a fast-moving, ’90s rock revival record with only a few tracks longer than three minutes.

Baker’s expressive vocals hop gracefully over an electric guitar, bearing an eerie similarity to early Sleater-Kinney, who Baker says she spent 90 percent of college listening to. The five-minute track “Hurricane” could have easily been a B-side on Sleater’s 1999 release, The Hot Rock. Guertin jumps on to lead vocals for a couple tracks, giving the album an interesting twist. It’s a fast-paced lo-fi thrill ride, which would make Dinosaur Junior, Yo La Tengo and other acts the band considers influential incredibly proud.

“It has a lot to do with loving guitars and the sounds that guitars can make,” Baker says. “I think there are a lot of bands now that are doing that in very awesome ways so even though people are like ‘Oh, [this sounds like] ’90s rock,’ I think it just happened to be a period that was just really psyched about the electric guitar and its possibilities.”

That passion for experimental guitar will take Radical Dads far. They push the limit on Mega Rama and it doesn’t seem they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. The group is currently recording new material and says that they hope to be touring through much of the upcoming fall and spring. Keep watch for an upcoming 7” from the band. And don’t let their name fool you, none of the members of this group are actually fathers—at least, not yet.

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