As told by Rademacher
On the cusp of South by Southwest, excitement is building – stoked bands who’ve been awarded one of the coveted showcases, madly swirling PR campaigns, masses of fans and bloggers that descend on Austin, the parties, the mythical RSL Outlaw Roadshow…
For a band to play SXSW, whether by official invitation or sheer determination to land a gig somewhere on the periphery, is considered a badge of honor. The days of being “discovered” by a label and given a big money record deal are long gone, but it’s still a great music festival and a place to make connections. Musicians back in their hometown watch the flurry of activity and make their own plans to “get there next year.”
And then there’s Rademacher. A wonderful little indie rock band from Fresno, California – within close enough tossing range of L.A.’s Eastside to be considered part of that scene. They just released the third installment of their ‘EP triology,’ Baby Hawk, which tells the tale of a struggling indie band on the verge of great things, though just a hair shy of arrival – a day late, a dollar short, if you will. It’s a DIY primer, their musical autobiography.
The curtain opens on The Partisan in Merced. A band plays to what sounds like three people and the bartender. Through trials and tribulations, there comes massive change, spiritual collapse and rebirth, renewed hope and infinite possibilities. (“I’ve been having these flying dreams / Seeing things / Maybe that means something is happening, right?” – Exes for Eyes).
We’re taken back to Baby Hawk’s beginnings on the Eastside of L.A. They move in with friends, play shows around town and build a following, put out their own album, and pay their dues. Fragile and uncertain; a chance meeting at a Spaceland gig ends in a management deal, and they take that big leap of faith for the elusive shot at success… which ends in disillusionment (“Got beat up on the circuit / nothing seemed to be working / so we got back in that van / and headed back to L.A. / took an oath never ever to play another midnight slot in Eastside clubs on a weekday night.” – Baby Hawk). They continue to struggle for recognition, through personal difficulties and uncertainties (“Pessimist,” “Silverlake”). And just as they’re on the verge of greatness, there’s that moment of self-sabotage, pulling defeat from the jaws of victory (“One can only hope that when that rope comes swinging down / you got your game working on the ground.” – Phantom Power).
Maturing and jaded, confronting the seduction and lie of success, is where we find Baby Hawk midway through their journey (“Hope shaped like an arrow and a face like a fox. / Box full of lies, just some new exercise that you don’t understand. / It ain’t easy to land.” – Orchestra). They return home from a long tour and don’t recognize their old life; it’s that sudden perception of change, and a yearning for their anonymous but simpler past (“Magic Words”). They go from playing the game (“Honestly”) to the feeling of being in limbo (“Up In The Air”), to wistful disappointment (“Is this success? / ‘cause if so / we expected more.” – Success). At this point, we’re left wondering what is in store for our Baby Hawk.
Part III finds the band back at home with life’s simple pleasures, dealing head on with relationships, older and wiser. They decide to try again and do it right this time. With a more upbeat, sturdy and sensible outlook, there’s strength and salvation in the form of a new love (“That’s when I figured it out / and you figured it too / like how time and space both bend / it had boomeranged all back again / who knew love could come back to you?” – Who Knew Love).
The soundtrack is a closet full of beautifully constructed, form-fitting clothes for each chapter of the story. The musicianship is sophisticated and full of driving rhythm and aching prettiness, with chiming, percolating guitars and crazy keyboard lines that hint at the underlying madness. At the center is Malcolm Sosa, with his fragile, freshly hopeful, sweet and acerbic vocals. It’s poetic storytelling that seems simplistic but isn’t, with occasional “zingers” – those poignant observations and insights that fly up in your face like pebbles from the road. They’re playful, scrappy, dreamy and at times orchestral, in a wacky carnival sort of way.
Their story concludes where it began, back in L.A., with its dangers and delights – silly, tragic, romantic (“The violence in the air / has done wonders to your hair / dirty but pretty / like some boulevard through the city.” – Let’s Take Los Angeles). Baby Hawk, the young bird, unfurls its wings and glides over the chaotic city full of dreams.
Help Rademacher get to SXSW!
And here, dear reader, is where you can become part of the story. Rademacher has an IndieGoGo campaign (with just 4 days and $766 to go) to press CDs and vinyl of Baby Hawk, and get themselves out to SXSW. They’ve been given a showcase, but need your help! (they were invited to SXSW back in 2009, but couldn’t afford to go). There are all sorts of goodies available for different donation levels, so help out if you can, and give this story a happy ending!
[Postscript: What’s the morale of the story? Work hard, pay your dues, believe in yourself, be true to yourself, and press on, no matter what lies ahead on that long road.]