To say Weird Radicals enjoy being the Weird Radicals is an understatement.
The inspiration for their name comes from two places. Lead songwriter, rhythm guitarist, and vocalist Andrew Cameron Cline, who introduces himself as Drew, explains that there are two facets to the Phoenix band’s name.
“One, my sister and I used to make radio shows on cassette tapes, and I called them WERD Radio,” Cline says. “Werd is Drew backwards. Two, I refer to my heroes and idols as weird radicals. I basically say that about people when I think they are brilliant: They are weird radicals.”
Led by Cline, 31, and guitar player Nick Florence, 30, Weird Radicals are still a relatively new band, having formed in spring 2016. At the urging of Cline’s sister, Erin, he and Florence got together to jam and discovered where their differing musical tastes converged in the middle. The multi-instrumentalist Cline, who also plays the bass and drums on Weird Radicals recordings, is more of an indie and punk rock guy, whereas Florence’s influences and past musical history lean toward the hardcore and metal world.
Before teaming up with Cline, the soft-spoken Florence played in the well-regarded Arizona metal band Knights of the Abyss. Weird Radicals are a marked departure from Florence’s musical past. He played on all three of his previous band’s releases and toured the United States with the likes of Cattle Decapitation and Elysia. But the experience of being part of a successful band has clearly helped Florence be a stabilizing part of this new endeavor.
Cline says he was a little skeptical at first of his sister’s idea.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know, this dude’s metal,’” he recalls. “I’d been writing on my own for a long time. I’ve always written songs, but they usually just kind of sit with me. We got together because I was just going to record my songs on my own, so we went down to our friend’s studio. We went in and jammed and recorded, and it ended up being our first EP. It was rad. It just sounded good.”
Engineered by Florence, who graduated from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2014, the debut release, Strictly Business, quickly established the band as one to watch. Reminiscent of fellow locals No Volcano and heavily influenced by equal parts fuzzy indie rock and bouncy ’70s and ’80s power pop, it didn’t necessarily blaze any new trails, but the hooks were huge, and the creativity of Cline and Florence clearly was rifle with possibility.
One of the first things that grabs the listener with Weird Radicals is the lyrics. There’s a wistful nature to Cline’s words that is instantly accessible to anyone who has experienced less-than-stellar love affairs and relationships. So pretty much everyone on the planet can relate to what Cline’s singing about.
On “Sleepwalker,” from Strictly Business, Cline sings: “I’m not crazy / This isn’t over too / I’m going to show you what I mean / You’re a liar / Can see it in your eyes / I’m only doing this because I love you.”
There’s a confidence in Cline and Florence’s approach to music that belies the relative youth of the band. One key piece of this puzzle is the songwriting itself. Weird Radicals write very good, and sometimes great, songs. On their newest release, Flight of Fancy, whose release they’ll celebrate on Thursday, June 29, at Valley Bar, the six tracks on the EP are a true glimpse of greatness to come.
Recorded in Brooklyn, New York, in December 2016, Flight of Fancy shows Cline and Florence really coming into their own as bandmates. Producer Tim O’Sullivan, himself an expatriate Phoenician, heard the Strictly Business EP and extended an invitation to old friend Cline to come out and record at his studio.
For Florence, the opportunity to record on the East Coast was a no-brainer. “He hit us up, and we flew out three weeks later and were there for a week,” Florence recalls.
Cline chalks the experience up as one he’ll always remember.
“We had the songs already, and we were already becoming much more of what we’ve become as a rock group,” he says. “Nick and I were becoming better friends and were listening to a lot of music: Joe Walsh, The Hollies, Redd Kross. It felt like a natural step. New York was a real good time. We would work all day till 4 a.m. The entire thing was rad. It was a profound experience.”
And it resulted in a newfound sound for the creative pair.
“It’s a lot heavier,” Cline says of the new EP. “We called the first one Strictly Business because I was just basically doing the bare-bones version of my essential style, which is mostly ’60s influences, and with the new stuff, we’re basically a duo. Nick engineered the first one and played lead guitar, but on this one, his influence is a little more prevalent. We decided to do an ’80s/’90s rock kind of thing, and I bookended it with some ’60s influences.”
Flight of Fancy does have a little something for most everyone. “John Lennon” is a bolt of indie punk fury, and it’s the first song off the EP to have a video. Local videographer Daniel Garfield put together a frenetic two-and-a-half-minute blast of psychedelia that both boggles the mind and pleases the eyes.
“When I talk about weird radicals, [Garfield is] the guy,” Cline says. “He’s made random, awesome videos for a while. I just liked his stuff. Good weirdness. He shot the video on a broken handicam. Luckily, he got the live stuff of us playing in one good shot.”
Another standout track on Flight of Fancy is “Heavy Heart.” This song is ready for alternative rock radio stations everywhere right now. There is no way to stop your head from bobbing as Cline breaks into the chorus:
“If I look tired, it’s my fault / I’ve got a heavy heart, I’ve got to carry / It’s hard to walk with you on my back / Take this heart attack / I know I can never let go.”
The live version of the band also features Brett Ridler, 25, on drums, and C. Ryan White, 31, on bass. The quartet brings the rock but remains humble at the same time.
“We’re not The Beatles,” says White, as the band sits around a table at the soon-to-be demolished Original Wine Burger on North 19th Avenue.
“No, but watch for changes and try to keep up,” says Cline, quoting Marty McFly from Back to the Future.
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“That’s going to be the name of our next record,” Ridler says.
If Weird Radicals keep doing what they’re doing, that’s going to be one hell of a record.
Weird Radicals are scheduled to play Valley Bar on Thursday, June 29. Tickets are $5. See Valley Bar's website.