Meet Joe Robinson, vocalist and one of the founding members of Los Angeles based rock band Pacific Radio. As you will read in the interview below, Pacific Radio has an interesting history of its formation, gaining its members and how they have gotten to where they are now. Going from playing an outdoor barbeque to landing a spot on one of the most noteworthy west coast festivals, BottleRock, Robinson, Joe Stiteler, Kyle Baine and Hyke Shirinian quickly had their asses kicked in gear when they discovered they had an EP release deadline. Their relatable lyrics (typically pertaining to women who have scorned lead singer Joe Robinson in one way or another) accompanied by harmonies and advantageous rhythm section create a pleasurable listening experience, and an even more enjoyable live show. Moments prior to hanging up the phone with Robinson, he thanked me for taking the time to interview the singer of a little LA rock band, and I can promise him that there is nothing else I would rather be doing. Every single band that has headlined arenas was once the little band of their town, and with assurance I can say that Pacific Radio is on to something great.
How did the band start and when?
It’s been about four years since the initial ‘we should do this band’ but we didn’t really get moving until the last year and a half when we realized we were onto something, you know what I mean? But the group started, me and the bass player, were in a punk band here in the 2000’s here and that was high energy rock and roll, crazy punk rock. We did some decently cool shit, we got into a movie and some TV commercials and shit and that fell apart. The bass player and I were like ‘let’s do something’. He came up to me with some bass lines and I was like ‘that could fit this song’ and we started piecing songs together and finally it was like- ‘let’s play these’. And a couple years ago we recorded a demo with this guy and he was younger than us, he was this studio wizard guy and he was the guitar player a band. I’ve never been a singer in a band before so I kind of wanted to free myself up. I found myself bound to these pedals and this guitar and we were like ‘this guy plays guitar, should we have him play?’ and he killed it. He knew all the songs already so we were like ‘do you want to be in the band?’ and he was like ‘I’m in, let’s do this!’. And then his old bands’ drummer came along after our fourth drummer or something and he was nailin’ it and about a year and a half ago we got this producer on board and started recording these songs and that’s where we’re at now.
Yeah, yeah. It was just a really good response and we were like ‘we’ve got something good here’.
So you decided to go for it.
Yup. It went from a hobby and a fun thing to do to we’ve gotta take this seriously because people are diggin’ it.
And who are some of your inspirations musically?
Oh boy. I grew up on a lot of 60’s. I’ve gotta say that my personality and the love of music doesn’t have to be technically Rush style precision and all this crazy mathematical stuff. If you’re in it, that’s gonna translate more than you sitting there thinking about a math equation. But I do like the fact that say, a Brian Wilson, will take a chord and dissect it. Like, a Tom Waits will throw a weird lyric on top of something and I like that, but when it’s done with grace. Not overly thinking like ‘check out how crazy I can make this’.
Kind of making it good and simple, right?
I think the fine line that we’re trying to create with this band is that you can take three chords and make it into a song. People who are musicians and listen to the songs are like, ‘you did something cool with those three chords’. And the audience, even people who aren’t musicians, are like ‘this is catchy as shit’. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do. I’m from Minnesota so the music out there is basically just dudes out there plugging in and going for it, and then hanging out and partying with the crowd afterwards. It doesn’t matter if it’s a house party or a 4,000 people crowd- it’s the same show.
How would you describe your band? Like its sound and just how it is as a unit.
It’s very melodic, guitar driven and it’s really fun to watch. The best compliment that I’ve gotten is not on my performance, which is phenomenal. I’m kidding. But, you know, everything I look across the stage at the guys I just can’t stop looking at them. Everyone’s doing something, everyone’s active in their own world and together we’re just one. And then some guy came up to me the other day and was like ‘this is the third show and I’ve watched the drummer for half the show- he’s incredible!’. And I’m like, I can barely see the drummer cause I’m facing the crowd with the mic, and that’s great .I’ve heard that quite a few times now. ‘Woah, that drummer’s amazing!’ The stage is so active and so interesting and when you do notice him he’s amazing, it’s crazy.
And that’s important because the drummer always gets the short end of the stick; they’re almost always behind everyone else so when they get noticed that’s a big thing.
And that’s why they’re always big babies. Wait, don’t put that in the interview.
I would never.
I’m just kidding. No, but this drummer’s great. He’s super talented. He plays percussion in orchestras, like, he can sight read music. That’s a rarity in a drummer. He’s a thinker, a good guy to have around. As far as the sound of us, we’re getting a lot of 90’s alternative. I’m like…unintentionally, but I’ll take it. That’s when everyone started experimenting with, like I was saying, making things interesting. So I’ll take that. But any time you put guitar driven music in a thing like today where you’ve got 21 Pilots and a million tracks going on and electronic drums and synth bleeding through and you see someone on stage…you’re listening to how much of that are they actually playing live versus how much of that is coming from someone’s MP3 player in the corner.
All your stuff is live, right?
All of our stuff is straight up live, just plug in and go. It’s weird because a lot of these venues we play, like the sound guys and engineers are refreshed- like ‘what? You guys are just clicking drum sticks to start? You don’t have to listen to a little boop boop boop and then hear the organ track come in and then this choir of a thousand women before you start?’ And we’re like no, this is just us doing our thing. And people are digging it.
As it should be. Now you only have out the one EP, right? The one that came out last year.
Yeah. Actually like, December.
Oh so that was really recent then.
Yeah we got that BottleRock show, which might be another question coming up.
You can talk about it right now if you want to.
The way that came about was that we got this producer for in the studio, this engineer and he’s a Grammy nominated engineer for like, pop artists but he’s raised in this studio down on Melrose. Melrose? Melrose and Beverly? I don’t know, but it’s one of the biggest studios in LA. He’s been a tech guy and engineer there for years, like he walks down the hall there and everyone’s like ‘oh my god it’s him!’ But he got onto our vibe and decided to record our album, but I didn’t know it’d be a yearlong endeavor. So he’s in the studio with us and he goes out and tours with these big bands but when he’s in town he’s like ‘let’s make the best thing we can do here’. This guy’s incredible. We started out, the first song on that EP was “Katie” and that alone was three months of us in the studio trying to learn what we have and trying new things, getting new guitars and pedals and trying to figure out if we could master or take it to a different guy in town and we’re still learning. But it’s this big cool effort where I look at him as a member of the band now because we’re working these songs together. But what happened with that was BottleRock. Somehow we went up and played this ‘Pork-a-thon’, it’s called, and a friend of a friend was like ‘I think there might be BottleRock people there’. So we went up and it was a barbecue with a bunch of people with their kids and a swimming pool with a lifeguard so the parents could get drunk- it was funny. But were standing outside playing rock and roll for these people and they’re digging it. And then we’d go back and smoke a cig behind the garage and there’d be a couple dudes back there in suits and they were like ‘hey you guys are great, have you ever heard of BottleRock?’ and we were like ‘…yes…’. So we went up there and schmoozed but it’s not like we asked to get us in or anything. I had a friend in town who was in that old punk band I was telling you about and he was the manager for ATA and he moved up to work on the festival because he had a kid and didn’t want his kid in Hollywood and he calls me up and’s like ‘your band’s Pacific Radio right?’ and I was like yeah. And he’s like ‘your band is like, the only unsigned band to come across my desk three times this week. I don’t know why but you’re doing something right’, and then about a week later he was like ‘you guys are playing BottleRock’.
No shit! That’s great.
He was like ‘I can’t tell you the headliners, I can’t tell you this and that’ and about a month later he tells me it’s Tom Petty, the Foo Fighters, Modest Mouse and somewhere down on the list is us- congratulations! But first you need to finish an EP and create content because you’re rolling with some pretty heavy hitters. So we were off to the races and that was our finish line, the BottleRock announcement, so when people look at the lineup and ask ‘who is Pacific Radio?’ we’ll have something to show. Now that we did that and we knew that we finished the songs- they’re finishable. That was the end game of that. We can do this, we don’t have to take three months on a song. We’re capable of intensely over analyzing these songs in the studio in a month and doing everything we need to do…saying we’re done and moving on. It’s like a big grown up way to look about it. I still look back and think ‘oh it could have been better here’ and ‘maybe we should have done that’ but it’s a cool thing to say that it’s done and we can move on.
So, I love songs that are named after chicks. I couldn’t tell you why, but I do. On your EP there’s a song called “Katie” so I’ve gotta ask if there was a real life Katie that that was written after.
She isn’t named Katie. She isn’t, and she is a culmination of a couple people in my past. They’re very real traits and very specific traits of very real people. By the way, I’ve got a song called “Jenny”, I’ve got a song called “Angie”- it’s funny. Someone was joking around about me and asking when I was going to put out the album of names.
You should have at least one on every album so you’ll have a collection at the end.
Right, and then the greatest hits album will be just an album of all girls.
You just put out the EP in December, are you guys working on anything now?
We’re finishing the album.
Yeah, twelve songs is I think what we’re gonna shoot for. We’ve got five of them right now that we’re working on and prerecording the demos for- like the drum demos so we can go in the studio without wasting any time recording drums there. That’s a whole process. We’re hoping by May or the summer to have that done. Now that we know the whole process and we know that we can do it, we’ll put out a good product. Let’s do this. It’s kick starting the whole process.
Are you guys going to try and tour on it when it comes out?
Yeah, absolutely- if we can do the right thing with it. We’re all down and excited to, last weekend we went up to San Francisco and Napa and did a show for a winery that’s a main sponsor for BottleRock, and it was great. The whole city of Napa came and the guys from that barbeque came and were like ‘you guys are doing it! We knew you guys could do it!’ And then we went to San Francisco and got a great response, like the bar owner came up to use after the show and was like ‘I’ve got some bands for you guys to play with because it’s pretty incredible what I’m witnessing’. Like, we’re getting this crazy response so we do want to put that out there because our live shows are so unique and energetic. It’s definitely worth a tour.