Feature Friday: Radius System

Posted: January 7, 2011 by Is This Revolutionary? in Interview
Tags: , , , , ,

It was a little less than a year ago that I found Radius System. They are truly great musicians, but have one song in particular that got me through a very difficult point in my life. When I heard that this was the last album that they were going to put out, I wanted to be one of the last people to interview them. Their music has just meant so much to me that I felt that this was the best way to thank them: by exposing them to as many people as possible like one final “Hurrah!” before they set off into the sunset.

 

Ben: How did Radius System begin? What were you aiming for with your music?

Greg Hoepffner:  Axel (bass) and I started this band, I play pretty much everything,  in 2001 after spending some time trying to program songs on our computers. We were too shy to find other band mates at the time, but we tried to make it a live band from 2004 to 2008 and now we’re back to being a “studio” project. Besides Radius System, we play together in another band called Painting By Numbers and we have started making cheap videos for a couple of years under the name Radius Labs. Musically speaking, as Radius System, we try to make melancholic and cinematic indie songs, coming from a rock background to evolve towards something less…obvious, I guess! Oh, and we come from Paris, France, but we hate singers that sing in English with a French accent. And…we never ate any frogs (at least not that I can remember).

 

B: Where do you get the inspiration to write your songs?

G: I think what inspires us the most are certain atmospheric ambiances, states of mind, visions of the world, and how it echoes in our personal lives. So, it can come from a lot of things: films, books, everyday stories and encounters ; it’s a question of how you “filter” it, I guess. At first, like any starting musician, it came from other bands we liked. Then, it gets to a point where you listen and like so much different thing; you can’t afford to work this way because there are too many options and things that you’d love to try!

B: As native French speakers, why do you write your songs in English?

G: That wasn’t even a conscious choice for us to begin with. I guess we always considered that English was the right language for the type of music we wanted to make. Personally, I grew up on British pop-music; my parents always played me Elton John, Phil Collins, and Cat Stevens, so it probably defined a background for that. Also, French lyrics are often associated with political engagement, poetry, or just bad play on words, and we definitely didn’t want any of that.

 

B: Who designs your album art?

G: I have since the beginning of the “band”. I’m a graphic designer in real life, so add this to being a control-freak and this is what you get.

 

B: How did you decide to include vocals in your works?

G: For us, it was the other way around, actually: at first, we couldn’t imagine doing a song without vocals. Then we started doing more and more instrumental stuff. Vocals became kind of an issue for our latest recordings because we set our standards much higher. This is a serious matter for me, as I think vocals are the key element to make you like a band or not. Vocals really don’t forgive a thing: if it’s mediocre, it just is and there’s no way out. And, with time, I became aware that my voice is just “ok”, and probably will never get any better. That’s the main reason why “Architects Of Yesterday” took so much time to complete: I wanted powerful vocal-driven songs, and not anyone can deliver that. I considered finding another vocalist to fulfill the needs, but in the end I tried something else that suits my abilities better (distant, calm and lower vocals).

B: Out of all the tracks you’ve produced, which have been your favorite thus far?

G: That’s a really tough question, so I’m going use a trick to split my answer:

for Radius System, that would be “Air Leaks”, because it has the most subtle dynamics I’ve ever put into a song. And for the rest, it’s definitely my TEMPL▲TE remix for Kavinsky: not the strongest composition, but I’m really proud of the production.

 

B: What can you tell us about the new album?

G: …it’s been really hell to complete! Most of the songs were written in 2007, even before we recorded “Escape / Restart”. I kept them in the closet because I felt they carried some really strong emotional content, and didn’t want to rush and “ruin” them. We tried to record it for the first time in late 2008, but the result was disappointing. There was really no “big” evolution and we wanted to get further than this alternative/post rock sound, which was already getting dated. So, I took time to rethink the songs from scratch, question things that we took from granted before, like, “Do we need drums all the time? Is it useful to have to whole wall of distorted guitars in every chorus? Are the vocals really serving the music ?…”

In the end, this album is the result of questioning everything we did as Radius System so far, and keeping only the things that suits us today. Conceptually speaking, it deals with nostalgia and how the past can affect you present life. The visuals and some of the lyrics are influenced by the story of an invention called the Aérotrain (it’s inventor & mblematic engineer, Jean Bertin, appears in some of the photos of the artwork). It’s a really tragic story about a bright future that never could happen. On a personal level, this album is a way of closing a big chapter and hopefully move on to something better. So, it’s the saddest, best, and last Radius System album [Laughs].

 

B: Can we be expecting any sorts of a tour anytime soon?

G: Unfortunately, not with this project. We stopped being a live band in 2008, and as we’re playing way beyond our live capacities on this album, it would take a lot of work & people to get a decent show going on. Also, I’m not sure this kind of music would be interesting live, unless you’re Grizzly Bear or Radiohead, with millions of technicians and incredible gear!

B: Why are there so many side projects that you guys have?

G: As we stopped trying to play live with this project, we were frustrated to not have that energy anymore. So, basically (almost) everytime someone asks me to play in their band, the answer is yes. There’s so much awesome music to make that we can’t afford to do with Radius System; it has to end up somewhere. Axel has a busier life outside music, so there’s just Painting By Numbers for him right now.

 

B: What is the meaning behind the name?

G: I wish we could change this name now because the story behind it is really stupid: when we both started making music on our own, we each had a “nickname” for our projects. Axel’s was “$” and mine was “Rick S.” (referring to a character in a fighting game called Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers, because I’m the biggest Neo Geo fan ever [laughs] ). And I made this little logo with the initials “R.S” for one of my home albums, thinking it was cool enough to keep it when we started the “band” (but it wasn’t. Oh, no, it wasn’t…). So, when we had to choose a band name, I just picked up some words in the dictionary, both starting with with an “R” and a “S”, and tried combinations. We were huge fans of Nine Inch Nails and Pitchshifter, so we wanted something that sounded both rock/metal and electronic. “Radius System”… doesn’t really suit us today in my opinion. We were 15.

 

B: How far do you feel you’ve come since your first release in 2004?

It seems we had much more expectations in terms of “success” at that time. Our ultimate goal was to find the right bandmates and gig as much as we could ; we were looking up to bands like Oceansize, Cave in and Dredg. From this point of view, I’ll always feel that this project is kind of a failure, even if we had some good moments (we had the chance to open for Jeniferever and Hell Is For Heroes). Once we accepted that, the goal shifted to just making the best music we could, and that’s the most important thing. I think we succeeded in that, because 5 years ago we never would have imagined we could make the music we make today. However, I feel that Radius System already belongs to the past. It is dated, no matter how I try to polish it with my present needs. It still caries the same vision and feelings. I’m really proud of this album but I know this is the final page ; it lifts up what we did before, but it doesn’t start anything new. I said everything I wanted to say with this kind of music, now it’s time to learn a new language.

 

Well, until the new album drops on February2nd, this is what Greg has given me to hold you guys over: Download Feed-Feed-Connect. We’ll review the release as soon as it hits stores.

Still left wanting more? Here is Greg’s solo project that was recently included in a compilation for the french label Jarring Effects.

Vienna by TEMPL▲TE

 

I don’t exactly know what to say. I’m deeply saddened that Radius System is ending, but I am happy that all of it’s members are going on to make more music and follow their hearts. This band has meant a lot to me, so please check out the downloads and the links to all Radius System sites.

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B.

Comments
  1. Ugmotic says:

    Awesome interview, fantastic band. Cheers!

  2. […] produced this album on his own (Axel left the band and now does Painting By Numbers). According to his interview with us, this album is his final masterpiece; it took years to record, and he has been saving all these […]

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