Radio 4: Backstage @ Leeds 2003
23 August 2003
Anthony Roman, lead singer from New York rockers Radio 4, was preparing for the band's imminent appearance on the Radio 1 stage but he couldn't resist taking a few moments out to chew the cud with his favourite festival website...
Virtual Festivals: What have you heard about the Leeds/Reading festivals?
I've heard it's the big one. Everybody in the States knows about Reading. You tell people you're playing it and it's a real big deal. The only one we've done in England is Glastonbury a few months ago. I'm assuming they're pretty similar.
How was Glastonbury?
Exceptional. It went really well. So Leeds has got a lot to live up to!
How does playing the UK festivals compare to gigs back home?
They don't really do festivals in the States. The only kind they have are the moving ones like Lollopalooza. But just now in New York, we played the Siren Festival on Coney Island. Us, The Datsuns and Idlewild played to about fifteen thousand people. That's really the first kind of festival in New York in my lifetime.
Is it the case that loft parties are the big scene in New York at the moment?
Yeah, because you can't smoke now and stuff. So people are throwing parties as a way to enjoy their evenings. The cops shut those down a lot though. We've been to a quite a lot but haven't played at many.
Have you had time this year to work on any new material?
Yeah. We've just started. We just wrote a bunch of songs and we're going to do one today. But we don't think that a festival is really the right place to start bringing out all new stuff. There's such a big crowd and they just want to hear the album. If it was a New York show or something, we'd probably be doing some new stuff.
Have you found touring a hindrance to the creative process?
Without a doubt. Sometimes you see things and it'll give you an idea that makes you want to go home and write. In New York there's so much happening that you can basically go out any night of the week and get influenced by different things that are happening. Some people travel the world and use those extremes to write but mostly we write about New York. Maybe it'll be different now because we've spent so little time at home.
Didn't PJ (percussion) fall off a hotel balcony earlier this year whilst out celebrating the single's success?
Yeah - there was an incident and we're not allowed at the Columbia Hotel any more. Us and Liam Gallagher are the only people that've been banned from there so that's some company we're keeping. He claims he was 'over-served'. He had a pretty wild experience.
Have the whole band found touring to be fairly wild?
It's been crazier than I expected. You get so bored on tour and end up doing things that you wouldn't normally do at home. There's five people in the band, three are trouble and two are well-behaved. We've just been in Portugal and we had a pretty wild evening one night. It ended up with me and PJ giving a little piano concert at the hotel, about five in the morning, to six guests who did not want us playing music at all. We did some Bruce Springsteen and Clash. They finally said, "You've got to stop doing this!" and the piano we were playing was a really expensive antique.
Do the band take advantage of the numerous young ladies that frequent your gigs?
No - I'm married actually. That's never been a problem. It's the other things. Women are not the temptations that we have problems with...
You're playing an AIDS awareness concert in London next month. How did that come about?
It was after writing 'Start A Fire' which is about the lack of AIDS awareness in the United States. At one point it was in every paper you read and people were aware of the disease. Then it kinda fell off. We felt it was ridiculous that people wouldn't be aware of something that's potentially one of the most serious problems in America and all over the world. Consequently, after the song, a bunch of people have gotten in touch with us and we're donating all money from the 12" to charity as well as doing the show.
Whilst spending time in the UK, have any particular bands or artists caught your eye?
I haven't seen many of the smaller bands but I have seen quite a bit of the bigger ones at festivals and stuff. There's a bunch of bands right now in the UK. I think that the new Blur record is fantastic. The Libertines have a great record. It's an unfortunate situation with what's going on with them right now. That Pete fella, he wants to come along this weekend! It's like, "Invite me!" which is kinda funny. We're big fans of Primal Scream, Audio Bullies and The Streets. I'm really excited about hearing this Dizee Rascal. Everybody's raving about him.
What does America really make of very British acts like Blur and The Streets?
We were just having this conversation yesterday. The people that write specifically about London, if you were to take Ray Davies, Paul Weller, Damon Albarn, The Streets - they don't have success in America. Americans don't get it. They can't connect to it in any way and some of the people, when they get more broader in scope, like The Clash who have more universal themes - they seem to do really well in America.
Yet the opposite doesn't appear to be true. As New York bands especially are doing well in the UK at the moment.
Yeah, but Blur's doing much better than us in America. They don't have the kind of success in America that they do here. Weller and The Kinks were never ever able to make it really big in America like the Stones, The Clash or The Beatles did. It's kinda interesting. I'm trying to figure out what it is about these people - why it doesn't connect. It's a shame 'cos all the people we just mentioned are really talented writers and were influential on us. One of the things we were thinking about was those people when we were writing about New York. About how well these people did writing about what they know - specifically, getting into their city stuff. To me, you get something like Waterloo Sunset - that's perfect. It's hard to do that.
Finally, what does the next 12 months hold for Radio 4?
Hopefully, another record. We go home on September 1st and then we should record the album by the end of the year so it'll come out in Spring of next year, with any luck!
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Article by: Wayne Hoyle
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Carling Weekend - Leeds Festival 2003