Breathing Tornados; An interview with John Bradley of Dads
(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Ghettoblaster Magazine, issue #39.)
The lifesblood of an independent band is dependent on a variety of catalysts. Perhaps the most prominent of those is whether members of the band possess (or not) an unwavering dedication to touring, and living a largely transient lifestyle.
Dads vocalist and drummer John Bradley was prepared for this lifestyle long before his band ever materialized. The product of a military family, being settled in one place is a feeling Bradley rarely encounters.
“I am constantly moving around and I like that about myself,” he confessed. “I love being home, but after a couple months I need to be back on the road. I feel like if I didn’t have a band, I’d be driving a semi –truck or something.”
With a willingness to hit the road, and hit it hard, it’s easy to understand how the band have graduated from the smaller underground emo and indie circuits to higher profile tours and a growing, rabid fanbase that devours the duo’s thrilling live show.
During brief respites from the tour grind, the duo (which also includes guitarist/vocalist Scott Scharinger) have been calling Ann Arbor, Michigan their homebase, having relocated there from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to pursue romantic relationships. Bradley admits that the move was a well-timed and welcome one.
“I love (Ann Arbor) for a lot of reasons,” Bradley said. “I’ve always had a hard time finding complete peace with where I lived without wanting to leave and go somewhere else. Ann Arbor is the closest I’ve ever come to having a ‘home.’
“I think we’ve found ‘our place’ in Michigan, by accident almost. In New Brunswick there weren’t very many clubs that you could play with larger national touring acts coming through. We could go to Philly or New York City to play some bigger shows, but there were bands from those cities that we were competing with. Here, there are bands coming to Chicago and Detroit who are inviting us to play with them and there are a lot of other big cities that are within driving distance for us now.”
Another catalyst critical for success is having a trusted, almost familial relationship with all involved in band business. According to Bradley, Dads have just that with their label, 6131 Records, and tour management staff.
“We have a tight, close relationship with the label and our tour manager. When we are writing songs and demo them out we always share them with the team. We are a two-piece band, but we are always involving five or so other people in our decision making process. They always weighing in.”
Since September of 2013 the collective have been sharing and scrutinizing demos from Dads’ sophomore full-length, I’ll Be the Tornado. In fact, the label made several crucial decisions regarding the record, including selection of Neil Strauch (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Owen) who recorded the album at MinBal in Chicago, IL and Carl Saff (Dinosaur Jr., Guided By Voices) to master it.
“6131 said, ‘We’ll help pick the producer, just work on the songs for a couple months.’ They are the matchmakers that put us together with Neil who brought more of an indie vibe, a more mature vibe to the table.”
I’ll Be The Tornado is a departure from the moodier freshman material of their debut, American Radass. The effort demonstrates measured growth and showcases a band who are as likely to be celebrated by any fan of thoughtful dynamic rock music as they are in the indie and emo revival circles they already orbit.
“There was some commentary that American Radass was a sad record. But we aren’t a sad band. I’m a positive person. With the new record you won’t hear the ‘Oh, I’m sad this girl broke my heart’ kind of songs because in the grand scheme of thing there are more important things like family, dealing with death, dealing with people being sick and every other thing.
“These are my stories, but I want them to be relatable,” Bradley confessed. “Not everyone has a dad who has two fake knees. I want to be able to talk about that, so instead I say, ‘Your parents are sick but you’ve spent 25 years of your life worrying about girlfriends. Why didn’t you worry about your parents?’ I think that is something people will relate to.”
The band have already spent a good chunk of 2014 relating to fans face to face. They did a North American tour with Touche Amore and Tigers Jaw in July, and have tour dates with Tiny Moving Parts and performances at Riot Fest Chicago, Denver, and at The Fest 13 on the books for the fall. True to form, the band have no intention of slowing their pace.
“I am constantly looking for attention and want to be the center of attention. When I come home and my seven roommates are having friends over, I’m not in the right headspace. When we’re on tour it just works.”