“Alison, please take good care; spread your wings and slip the air. California’s everywhere. Hold your head up to the sky; kiss the angels as they cry. California is somewhere.”
That’s a verse from the song “Alison California,”off of local pop-rock band My Radio’s most recent album release, “Tada IV.” It’s an evocatively written and beautifully recorded album that effectively captures the band’s vintage rock sound which features a heavy dose of classic rock and guitars.
The five-piece, which consists of local restauranteurs JP Powell (songwriter, vocals, keyboards) and Hunter Johnson (drums), along with Brett Lemon and Jake Zuckerman (guitar), and Jeff Hofmann (bass), originally formed in 2008 after Powell first met Johnson in 2006. Powell, a graduate of Salem High School, had spent a number of years in Boston where he attended the Berklee College of Music and was the front man for Chauncey, a popular indie-rock band whose first album was named “Best-Rock Album of 2002” by Boston Magazine.
Powell admits he was a bit jaded with music when he decided to leave Boston after Chauncey fell apart. He and wife Shaleen decided it was time for something new and found their way back to Powell’s hometown.
“I met Hunter at Mill Mountain Coffee in Salem,” Powell shared in a recent interview. “We hit it off and decided to start playing music together. I have a rule that if I don’t like hanging out with a person, I don’t want to be in a band with them. In My Radio, my best friends are people I play music with.”
In addition to their band, Powell’s and Hunter’s friendship also led to a collaboration of a different nature. In 2010, the duo opened Lucky, a farm-to-table restaurant located on Kirk Avenue in Downtown Roanoke, known for its craft cocktails and unique vibe. A few years later, along with Zuckerman, they opened a second downtown Italian eatery, Fortunato.
“As with our restaurants, the setting for our music is everything,” said Powell. “That’s what gives us the best chance for success.”
Choosing that setting was part of the inspiration for the first two songs recorded for “Tada IV.” The initial recording session, which doubled as bachelor party for Lemon, was in a studio in Hollywood, California, with Powell’s long-time friend and producer David Spreng. The result exceeded the band’s expectations.
“Going in studio is my favorite thing,” said Powell. “We didn’t really have a sound for this album until after we recorded those first two songs, which happen to be the last two tracks on the album.”
The band’s California connections aren’t something new. After the release of the first CD, “Give Us the Sun,” in 2009, the group signed with Ocean Park Music Group of Santa Monica, California. That led to some commercial success with the song “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” which was featured on the Demi Moore / David Duchovny movie “The Joneses” and was also used as a music bed on Fox Sports.
As a whole, “Tada IV” tells a story of journey, love, and loss. Each of the albums seven tracks features a different female character. Along the way, listeners will uncover an East Coast girl en route to LA to find her dreams (Alison), an ex-porn star turned photographer, even Powell’s wife makes an appearance in the song “Shaleen and Steve McQueen”. The last track on the album, which was also one of the first ones recorded, “What Have I Done,” is the story of a wrecked relationship, but also speaks to Powell’s own personal reflection about music.
“When I wrote it I was very stuck musically,” Powell acknowledged. “I had broken my relationship with music, a relationship that’s very important to me. I didn’t want to have it destroy me. In the end, it’s about asking for inspiration.”
Listeners can find the full album and hear the result of that inspiration for themselves by streaming it on Spotify or purchasing the album online (visit myradio.com). Better yet, Roanoke’s independent record store, The Bazaar, has the vinyl version of the album for sale. Soon, fans can also view the video for “Alison California,” filmed and produced by Lemon, online at YouTube.