Radio Free Universe is an indie-rock band hailing from the city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Their new single “She’s High Again” captures two perspectives of the same situation — the light and carefree chorus is the perspective of “She” and the dark verses are the reality of the situation played by the singer.
Listen to the new single “She’s High Again” now on Soundcloud and read the interview with Radio Free Universe.
Can you talk to us about the inspiration behind your latest single, “She’s High Again”?
The song is about my guitar player and best friend and his wish. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” kinda story. Some time after his break-up with a rising starlet, we were in our downtown loft making yet another record. He’d tried dating and messing around with girls, but he was frustrated. One night he just came out and said it, ”I wish a really hot girl would just walk in off the street so I wouldn’t have to bother dating.” Well ten minutes later, in walked our subject. They were married within a month. We were all naïve and had no clue she was on meth. We just thought she was “different”. He stuck by her for years through everything you could think of. I found it fascinating. Years later, like a good Yoko, she split up that project right here in Hamilton. When Radio Free Universe decided that this song fit this new project, all those years of observation combined with living in Hamilton to produce the finished product.
How has your community contributed to your success?
A lot of career musicians live in Hamilton. The city has a vibrant and dynamic music scene. It’s a blessing and a curse. The blessing is you’re always around incredible dedicated music professionals (players, producers, writers, and sound engineers). Mohawk College is constantly developing new young talent. A lot of young bands meet there. It’s a great city to be a musician. You can find live music worth seeing every night. We all get to know each other. We all learn from each other. The curse is simply the saturation of the local market. Listeners are so spoiled. You really have to work hard to get their attention. When artists start to expand their market out of Hamilton it’s amazing to see how well the rest of the world reacts to so much of what we do. I got to pick some of the best people to make this record with. From strings to the guys who joined the band. It’s very similar to living in California back in the day where you had a plethora of raw talent living close to a lot of production facilities.
What advice would you give other musicians?
Make great music. Make it so you can listen to it and be proud of it for the rest of your life. That’s really hard to do, but you have to. Make sure you connect with the song emotionally. If you almost can’t sing it sometimes because it makes you feel so intense that you almost lose the note, you’ve done it. Someone will listen to it and really connect with you and when they do you will have a listener for life.Next get a real producer. I’m a total hypocrite here because I was very involved in producing this record on every level, but I fully understand the equipment and the technical application of the recording process. Not because I took some stupid course, but because I worked alongside some great producers. Even with that I still know that I have to have someone who is pushing when I’m not. I have a co-producer for that — really important.
If you don’t know anything about recording, don’t start — just play your song and your instruments. Learn how to perform it perfectly then get a producer. Listen to music you like and start looking. If you hear something from another artist that blows you away, find out who they worked with and work with them. For many, thinking you’re capable of engineering and producing your own record is the kiss of death. Sure, you will eventually make something good but it will take you a decade or more. Save yourself the trouble and pay someone reputable to make your record — it’s your career. People pay $100,000 to go to school; you can pay $15k to make a real record. Figure it out. There is no easy way these days — you have to kill for it.
While you wait for that to happen. Just post yourself (providing it’s great) playing live or performing acoustically. Record it with your phone and get it out there. Build your fan base like that if you have to. Yes people really like live raw sounding stuff because they know they are getting that when it scrolls up their feed. These are distinct things.
One of my biggest problems is self image. I’ve always been self-conscious about that crap. Get over it and get out there. People will love you for being real as long as you’re great.
Describe to our audience your music-making process.
It’s voodoo. I mean after writing for so long it’s not changed too much. I get less impressed with myself, which has really helped. Songs can come in many ways but usually it’s a melody I hear somewhere. Like in my dream or driving, when I’m not doing music specifically it just hits. I always drop what I’m doing and document the idea. It’s like a whisper from the other side. From there I’ll go to the studio to bounce the idea off Mark (co-producer) or a band member and just start working our asses off. We aim for a track that carries itself with no production — one instrument and the vocal. Then the games begin. Once a song is started, we usually leave it up on the board until it’s done. (Yes I said board. Having a real studio with a full-frame class A console at your disposal is really the greatest thing in the world.)
How did it feel when you released this new music?
Amazing! I’m really proud of the songs on this record. I had to dig deep to make something I could listen to perpetually. That meant rediscovering basic things like what made me want to make music to begin with. We referenced our favourite music and tried to make something that could be played alongside it.
If you could collaborate with any musician/band, who would it be? And why?
I have gotten to work with some amazing people. I’ve been around some of my heroes and I’ve tried to absorb their “thing” and make pieces of it my own. There are a couple of people that I would die to work with. Dr. Dre. for one — I’m a huge fan. I would love to see his process and try to get my head around how he builds a track. I think I would get so much from that. I’m sure it’s very different than what I’ve already got in my bag. He’s so not hit and miss. He always nails his productions. I also want to work with Quincy Jones. Especially the younger version because I love the idea of working 20 hrs a day on something. I want to learn his process first hand. I think that would be humbling.
What first got you interested in music?
The vacuum. My parents made me vacuum all the time. And young — like 7 or 8 years old. When I heard the sound of it I would hum to it. I discovered dissonance and harmony and tone. I was able to sing well very early on. The very first time I sang in front of people, I was in grade six. From that point on I knew I would be a musician. It wasn’t even a question.