Augustines' Eric Sanderson: Five Essential Radiohead Songs
Augustines Billy McCarthy, Eric Sanderson and Rob Allen (photo courtesy of the band, Facebook.com)
Augustines—who were known as We Are Augustines when they first visited WFUV back in 2011—are often touring Britain as much as the States. The sometimes-Brooklyn-based trio of singer and guitarist Billy McCarthy, multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson, and drummer Rob Allen released their third album, This Is Your Life, in June. Both Sanderson and McCarthy, who were formerly in Pela together, share songwriting duties and their artistic vision for This Is Your Life has resulted in a beautiful, cathartic, ambitious and deeply personal album.
After running into Eric Sanderson at the FUV's High Line Bash this past May, and chatting for nearly forty minutes about his admiration for Radiohead, we reached out to him again to learn more about his affection for this week's FUV Essentials band via his "Five Essential Radiohead Songs."
Augustines' Eric Sanderson: Five Essential Radiohead Songs:
"Stop Whispering," Pablo Honey
Of course there is “Creep." Everyone knows it. People wait years to hear it live. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it, standing in front of the TV—I believe it was the "MTV Beach House" (Yes, Radiohead played the beach house). My jaw was literally on the floor when Thom Yorke screamed towards the end. I hadn’t felt music like that since Nirvana, standing in front of the same TV watching "Headbangers Ball." (Thank you MTV for being relevant at one point in time.)
But then there was the album. My brother and I used to listen to Pablo Honey on repeat every day. It didn’t matter what we were doing. Out of all of the the songs, “Stop Whispering” always stood out to me. Maybe it was the constant churning of the drum beat, or that amazing guitar work three minutes into the song, or that scream (4:30). Whatever it was, that English wall of sound transformed me and screamed that there was something outside of the suburbs I was used to.
"Street Spirit (Fade Out)," The Bends
By the time Radiohead released The Bends they had reached cult status. Pablo Honey brought them into the fold with “Creep”, but the rest of the record fell silent on mainstream culture. I can hear the board meetings now, how they were destined to be a one hit wonder. But on The Bends, you had “Fake Plastic Trees," "High and Dry," "Black Star," "The Bends," "My Iron Lungs," "Just," and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." Every song made a statement: aggressive, beautiful, dark, and introspective. Seriously, how many people learned how to play these songs on guitar, jamming out while high around a campfire or in a parking lot somewhere drinking beer? The Bends was a record that deeply touched so many of my friends and me. This was a time when records were more than just “plays” or even mix tapes. They had a personality. They were political. They were works of art that led with the heart.
"Exit Music (For a Film)," OK Computer
With OK Computer, Radiohead went international. In contrast to most artists, they did this by diving deeper into themselves and bucking the concept of being commercial. “Paranoid Android,” their first single, was over six minutes long and it was accompanied by an animated video (no band members to be seen). Production-wise, they reintroduced popular culture to the mellotron, the Space Echo, and the Wurlitzer (and later modular synthesizers).
The first time I heard “Exit Music (For a Film),” I was driving in the car with my brother. We turned the music up so loud that it felt like Thom Yorke was singing just an inch from my ear. Every note unveiled itself perfectly and unexpectedly. What was that keyboard?
“Breathe, keep breathing"—how could something be so comforting and uncomfortable at the same time? I’ll never forget the tension I felt during the second verse, my body was vibrating. Those sounds were otherworldly. They still are. And then the bass and drums ....
During that moment, almost three minutes into the song, my understanding of the power of music changed. Sure, I listened to, studied, and loved expressions from previous time periods, whether it be Mingus, Wagner, Hendrix, Coltrane, or anyone. But this was music made during my time. This was music that was made just a few months before driving down that road.
"Kid A," Kid A
Fast forward a couple of years. The documentary "Meeting People Is Easy" put a face to the band: deepening the mystique, the tutored artist, and without question solidifying that Radiohead were not a pop band.
Kid A was released just before computers transformed culture as we know it. Information was still hard to come by; you had to work for it. The first time I heard the song “Kid A," I was living in upstate New York. The CD was purchased at Jack’s Records, our local music shop, and we all gathered at our friend’s house, unsure of what to expect. We turned up the system (admiring the size of the speakers) and pressed play.
That day music changed for all of us and I have the feeling we weren’t the only ones. I can picture it now, all over the world, people were going through a similar experience. Radiohead had completely flipped the script. Where were the guitars? What sounds was I even hearing? Do I love this? Hate this? Why can’t I stop listening to it? Kid A played with dissonance in ways my body was physically uncomfortable with. It lived between my ears, completely introverted.
Nowadays this type of production is mainstream. You will even hear it on major pop tracks on the radio. It has also become the benchmark for a band “changing it up." Yet still to this day when I return to listen to Kid A it sounds as fresh and inspired as it did the first time.
"15 Steps," In Rainbows
Arguably, In Rainbows is my favorite Radiohead album. Amazingly complicated yet minimalist. On In Rainbows and “15 Steps,” Radiohead somehow brought together their entire catalogue: the hypermelodic foundational bass lines, their jazz-inspired rock drumming, and the ever-present, unique chord voicings on guitar. There were modern contemporary classical strings and synths, non-traditional song arrangements and chord progressions, and of course, Thom Yorke. The album was electronic, vintage, and expressive.
Unlike many of Radiohead’s albums that follow OK Computer, In Rainbows sounds like a band in a room making music. Consistently for over two decades, Radiohead is a band of exceptionally talented musicians that have inspired generations of musicians and music lovers (whether they know it or not).
- Eric Sanderson of Augustines