The One AM Radio at Rickshaw Stop 8/3/11 [Interview]

I’m standing near the dimly lit bar in the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco when Scott Leahy, guitarist for The One AM Radio, approaches me.

“Want to come back to our green room?” he says.

I follow Leahy backstage and up a set of narrow old wooden stairs to the green room, which feels like somebody’s garage hangout. There is graffiti on the walls, some exposed insulation, a couple of couches and a table with chairs. A single over-head lamp lights the room. The vibe is laid back: Front man Hrishikesh “Hrishi” Hirway is eating pineapple fried rice and sitting across from him at the table are band members Fontaine Cole and Leahy. Also in the room with us is the man behind the opening act, Geotic, Will Wiesenfeld of Baths. We start talking about the creative process, what it’s like to be in a band, inspirations that are close to home, and what the future holds for The One AM Radio.

Photo by Elisha Christian.

You added two new permanent members before producing your most recent album, “Heaven is Attached by a Slender Thread,” which was released in April. Tell me the story of how you met.

Hirway: When I was on tour at home in LA, I got my hair cut, and Fon cut my hair. We started talking about music and stuff and then we just sort of became friends from there on. I was getting to a point where I had done a few long tours that year and every time I went out it was with a different group of people, and every time I’d have to change the arrangements of the songs and teach everybody how to play the songs again and change stuff, you know, it adds a lot of time and anxiety into the performance. I just wanted to feel like I was in a band, part of a team. I asked Fon if she wanted to play with me. So we started rehearsing and then I asked a friend of mine if he knew of anybody who would want to play guitar with us and he had played in a band with Scott.

Leahy: I don’t think he even realized how good of a fit it was going to be. We just gelled immediately. I met Hrishi and we got ice cream afterwards and it was basically just like “alright, you’re in the band.” Basically my whole future was playing music with Hrishi and eating ice cream with Hrishi.

Laughs from the whole band.

What’s your favorite ice cream?

Leahy: It’s like choosing one of your favorite children. The place that we go to the most is a really cheap but artisanal ice cream place called Scoops.

Cole: We hold a lot of band meetings there. I had never played music for, maybe, another human being before Hrishi. He had never heard me play music when he was like “How do you feel about playing music in my band?”  I was like “What are you basing that on? I told you I have a keyboard that I mess around with…” and he was like “I think you could do it!”

Photo by Brian Thomas.

You mention Los Angeles in some of your songs. How has living in L.A. inspired your music?

Cole: Hrishi wrote a song about my dislike of LA. I’m from LA, but he wrote “City Without Seasons” based on my annoying feelings about living in LA.

Leahy: There’s a mixture in this band because Hrishi and I are like LA transplants from other places, so it’s kinda like we gravitated towards LA because it was where we wanted to be, as opposed to Fontaine who didn’t really have a choice, she’s just from there. So it’s kinda a love/hate relationship.

Who inspires you?

Hirway: This guy. (He points to Wiesenfeld, who makes a goofy face.)

We did this thing with Will, Jimmy from Dntel, and I, right before we left we played a bunch of songs on dublab, which is our favorite online radio station down in LA.

Wiesenfeld: It’s like the online radio station, of the world.

Hirway: Yeah really. We had to pick songs to play, and I had to think very hard to pick a song that wasn’t by one of those two guys, because so much in my library is music by them.

Leahy: We had done a dublab DJ session before, for their charity drive, and I played Baths. I think at some point Dntel was played.

Hirway: That’s part of the thing that makes this tour super awesome for us; we have so much admiration for these guys.

Leahy: It’s mutual admiration.

Hirway: These guys are huge influences.

Wiesenfeld of Geotic during his performance. Photo by Brian Thomas.

How’s the tour going so far?

Hirway: The drive up today was fun. Jimmy taught us a game where you have to read each other’s minds. It’s pretty awesome.

I ask them to give me an example. Hirway counts down from three to one and he and Leahy simultaneously blurt out the first word that comes to mind. In this case the words are “beer” and “lamp.” They count down again and repeat the process with different words. The words grow in similarity with each attempt.

Wiesenfeld: The point is, they start from two arbitrary words, and they are trying to meet in the middle on the same word.

Hirway and Leahy make another attempt, this time blurting the words “dragon” and “banana”.

Hirway: Pretty close, dragon banana. There’s only one word to connect those and we can’t say it.

Everyone laughs.

Do you have any favorite spots in San Francisco?

Cole: I like Molotov’s. And The Little Chihuahua, I worked there earlier in the year, and I love that place. It’s a Mexican restaurant.

Your tour ends at the end of this month. What do you have planned for the rest of 2011?

Leahy: Just touring

Cole: And Hrishi’s getting married.

Hirway: And then we have more touring after that, no honeymoon. We’re going on tour. Tour/honeymoon that does not include my fiancé.

Leahy: We’re actually touring in Hawaii, on a cruise ship.

Cole: Don’t believe anything they say.

Hirway: No, we’re doing a small tour in the Midwest, at the end of September, beginning of October. Then we’re playing Voodoo Fest in New Orleans at the end of October.

Photo by Brian Thomas.

How long was the recording process for this recent album?

Hirway: It was actually really long and protracted, because there were a lot of little steps and evolutions. We started playing together in 2008, and one of the songs on the record was from then, but it changed a bunch of times from what it was when we first started playing together and what it ended up being on the album. So you could say it was like two years, from summer 2008 to summer 2010.

Leahy: There were so many permutations of what we were doing. Constantly writing and recording as we write, reconfiguring things. I had a lot of fun though.

Sounds like it beats working in an office.

Leahy: I still have to work. I think I’m the only one who has a job-job.

Hirway: For the first two years, we all did, which is part of what made it so slow. And then I quit my job so we could finish, and it sped up.

Leahy: I’m definitely more dedicated to this than my stupid job.

Cole: I think you have to be, you know? I think especially in LA there’s so many musicians, you would think it would be so easy, but there’s so much to it.

Leahy: It’s hard to get grown ups to join the circus with you. It’s kind of what you’re asking people to do when you ask them to be a part of your band. Basically you need to put a lot of obligations on the back burner.

Cole: There are a lot of people who would do that, but maybe they’re not the people you would want to spend that much time with, or not super responsible. Like, are you going to show up to practice on time? I live in San Francisco, and I fly to LA and I take the train all over the place. I’ve lived here for a year but I’ve probably spent more time, at least half of the year, in LA. It’s good, its fun. It means a lot to me.

Hirway: (passing his fried rice to Leahy): They forgot to make it vegetarian. There’s a lot of chicken and shrimp in there.

Leahy: Oh my god, that’s beautiful.

The One AM Radio performing at Rickshaw Stop. Photo by Brian Thomas.

How have you been working with the Dangerbird label?

Hirway: This is the first time where we had a label already in place before the record came out. So yeah, the folks at Dangerbird like to be involved.

Cole: But we’ve been really well off working with them through the drummer situation of going back and forth with drummers, and not having a live drummer. I think we’ve come to a good place.

Leahy: Dangerbird is really good too, they have opinions about stuff but they also have our back. Ultimately they give us creative control.

Hirway: And we’re interested in their opinions.

Leahy: We’re really close with everyone at Dangerbird. It’s more of a family thing.

Hirway: And the fact that this record is also made with Fon and Scott, everything was different than anything else I’ve done in the past. They became part of the ingredients that went into this.


The One AM Radio Official Website

Baths Official Website

Dntel Official Website

Geotic Official Website

Rickshaw Stop Official Website

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About Katie Kopacz
Blog Intern. Creative Writing student at San Francisco State University. When she's not busy with one of the aforementioned occupations, Katie can be found geeking out over good music, good food, conspiracy theories, cats, and well-written words.

One Response to The One AM Radio at Rickshaw Stop 8/3/11 [Interview]

  1. Great interview – did not know this group, good to get some insight, and see their music. Sounded like a great show.

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