It’s been a little over a year since AMG’s Lindsey Borders caught up with Radio Birds lead singer and guitarist, Justin Keller. Now, a couple of days after the release of their newest album, Contemporary American Slang, we look back on why we fell in love with Radio Birds.
This interview was originally published on October 23, 2013. Radio Birds will be performing at The EARL on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 at 9:30 p.m.
Interview by: Lindsey Borders
With the recent name change to Radio Birds, lead singer and guitar player, Justin Keller, believes with the new name, there are better songs with a better band. Their singles have a melodic cohesiveness that is apparent amongst the band members. There’s a sort of ease and relaxation when they play and perform together, and the band wants to build upon that union. All of the guys are from a varied musical background, yet bring that together to “unite their passion for writing, creating and performing rock ‘n’ roll music.”
We chatted with Justin from Radio Birds about how the band came together, what motivates them for a performance, recovering from an on-stage flub, and future album release.
What encouraged you all to pursue music together, as a band?
Justin: We actually used to be a band called JK & the Lost Boys, and about six months ago we changed the name to Radio Birds. We’ve been playing together all at different times. Jaz, the guitar player, and I have been playing for 3 1/2 years. Chase, the bass player, has been playing with us for 2 1/2 and Colin’s been with us for about a year and a half. That band had changed so much from the original conception of it. I was the last original member of that band, so we just kinda been sticking with the name. We all really enjoyed playing together but we started getting this itch that in the last band it started as a singer-songwriter thing and we started transforming as we were changing members and got to where we are now. Now we’re all writing together and that was what really inspired us to get together and, more or less, change the name. Everyone started contributing to the writing and we were much happier with where it was going. The songs are better, the music is better, so that was what led to the name change.
When you guys get on stage, what motivates you or warms you up for a performance?
Justin: You know, I think the biggest thing for us is we’ll play every kind of show we can get, more or less. Wednesday, we’re really stoked about it. It’s going to be a great crowd, great show. Last Tuesday we played a corporate gig at the Hyatt broken down, so I think the biggest thing for us is that it’s fun when we get up there. It’s what we live for. It’s hard to say what motivates us every time because every show is different. Our motivation is that we just have a great time doing it. We love playing our music and trying to win people over. I know that one of my favorite things is going up to a hard crowd and trying to turn it. That’s what gives us motivation: putting on the best performance that we can and turning people. It’s fun and we enjoy that.
How do you recover if you accidentally make a mistake while you’re performing?
Justin: You know, that’s kind of one of those things you’re going to be your own worst critic. I mean, I think we all learned a long time ago that, first of all, 99% of the crowd hasn’t heard of us and, secondly, if we make a mistake they’re not going to notice or care. So I think once you get over that thing and learn not to show it, that is the biggest thing. Because if you don’t show it, people don’t know. We just really try to rehearse hard so those things don’t happen and, when they do, if you don’t act like anything happens, just keep rolling with it. It doesn’t bother us if people don’t notice, and we just never stop. Just don’t stop. [laughs]
Are there any plans for a future album release?
Justin: We’re already starting to work on new material. Our thing is, we’d really like to use this record as: although we were a band beforehand, we want to be treated like a new band. Luckily, it’s not like we totally had to start from scratch. We had connections from the last band, and had a little bit of a fan base. So, we luckily didn’t have to start totally from square one. We hope to use this record to really get the name out there and get the exposure that we’re doing something. It may be high hopes, but I’d really like to have record out by this time next year.
That’s not high hopes. That’s awesome!
Justin: Yeah! It’s always a financial time game, but we’re hoping to get back at it and use studio time around touring.
What is your dream gig?
Justin: Hmm…that’s a good question. You know, we just got booked on The Rock Boat. Those are the kinds of gigs we love to play. There’s always, of course, like the dream gigs – Austin City Limits or Bonnaroo or Jazz Fest or any of those festivals. I know at least from my standpoint and I think the other guys would agree, we really love to get up in front of crowds that don’t know us. With the last band we did a lot of headlining spots and things like that and we kind of got tired of it. It’s a lot more fun and a lot more trying. It tests you a lot more to get up in front of a group of people that doesn’t know who you are, doesn’t really care who you are, and then try to turn them [laughs]. That’s a weird term, I guess, but one of the things that gets us most excited is when you go into a song and you can see and hear people stop talking, turn around, they’re there waiting to see the band they came to see. And you see them turn a head or see someone quit talking – that’s what we really look forward to. So, getting to do that on a large scale, like The Rock Boat or even some of the bigger festivals. That’s what we really want. We want that trial to get in front of people who don’t know us and have no idea who we are, and who are there to see what we’ve got. I hope that we can continue to do that.
Check out their raw video footage of their casual performance at Mary Todd Hairdressing Company in Atlanta. The video is in the editing stages from film production company, Pride of Gypsies. You can check it out HERE.