Andrew De Torres: Vocals
Andy Brookins: Guitar
Elan Wright: Guitar
Marvin Kunkel: Bass
Nico Hartikainen: Drums/Programming
Spencer Phillips: Keys
Consider yourself ahead of the curve if you can’t immediately put your finger on Danger Radio’s sound—after all, that’s sort of the point. The band’s Photo Finish Records debut album, Used And Abused, fuses more classic pop styles and eras than a free-form radio station, while the members’ backgrounds are so diverse, it’s amazing they ended up on the same continent, let alone in the same band. But be glad they did, because as the new tunes prove, anytime they hit studio or stage, Danger Radio stir up the sort of chemistry you can’t manufacture or buy. Forget genre tags. Don’t obsess over individual influences. Like the wise man said, these dudes are one nation under a groove.
Of course, like all nation-building experiments, this one didn’t happen overnight. Despite being from Puerto Rico and Finland, respectively, singer Andrew de Torres and drummer/programming whiz Nico Hartikainen first landed in each other’s orbit around 1999, during middle school in the Seattle suburbs. There, after cutting their teeth in talent shows, the pair looped in de Torres’ friend and Idaho native Marvin Kunkel, and planted the seeds for what would eventually morph into Danger Radio. If the band’s early demos showed a rougher, punkier edge, that’s only because their abilities hadn’t yet caught up to the sound in their heads. By the time they hit the studio with Casey Bates (Gatsbys American Dream) to cut their first EP, 2006’s self-released The Difference Between Love and Envy, DR’s mix of rock, pop, R&B and funk had gelled into something much bigger.
With their inaugural Photo Finish release, 2007’s Tom Pfaeffle-produced (Gatsbys American Dream, Daphne Loves Derby) Punch Your Lights Out EP, Danger Radio didn’t just seal the gaps between their influences. They also proved that in an age of clear-cut rock, punk, dance and pop acts, a band that spans all those sounds and more could connect on an even bigger scale (over 2.25 million MySpace plays can’t be wrong). Subsequent gigs both large (lifestyle retailer PacSun’s inaugural PacTour in 2007) and, well, larger (progressively higher-profile stints in 2007 and ’08 on the annual Bamboozle blowout) found Danger Radio taking their sound before audiences for whom the EP proved the best kind of appetite-whetter. Perhaps the Seattle Post-Intelligencer best captured the reaction in a rave over Punch Your Lights Out: “This dancetacular affair does what all great EPs do: it leaves listeners satisfied while at the same time has them anxiously anticipating what the band will do when it lets loose with a full-length.”
If Punch Your Lights Out was a vibrant affair, Used And Abused is a full-blown Technicolor production. Recorded with both Mike Green (Paramore, The Matches) and Grammy winner Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Maroon 5, Rilo Kiley), the album expands tenfold on the hook-filled energy of its predecessor, with performances that are alternately tight enough to turn heads and loose enough to get down to. “Touring was a huge influence on this record,” says Hartikainen, who rounds out Danger Radio with de Torres, Kunkel, keyboardist Spencer Phillips, and the twin-guitar team of Elan Wright and Andy Brookins. “You hear your songs differently when you play them live, and you get the chance to tighten and reshape them every time you play. And for a band like us, it’s just as important to see the songs people are responding to—because we want the audience to have as much fun as we are.”
While there’s no shortage of party-starters on Used And Abused—see the synth-fueled, impossibly funky “Slow Dance With A Stranger,” or the bombastic “So Far Gone,” which posits what a Stevie Wonder/Justin Timberlake big band might sound like—Danger Radio also prove their pad is a pretty interesting place to throw a bash. “Our music is generally more upbeat, but when you start to pull apart the lyrics on this record, it’s a kind of interesting mix between light and dark, cynical and happy,” says Wright. Indeed, whether it’s edgy (the shuffling, hard-driving ‘Things”), icy (the alternate-universe ’80s synth-pop hit “Broken Man”) or laid-back (the soulful, salsa- and ’70s-funk-tinged “Kiss N’ Tell”), Used And Abused shows just how far Danger Radio’s range extends. And considering the sextet have a good year’s worth of touring, starting with a summer jaunt supporting Cute Is What We Aim For and Ace Enders, ahead of them, these songs should continue to ebb and flow with each new audience member that experiences them.
“We definitely don’t have a niche audience, and we’re really proud of that” says Hartikainen, who’ll be the first to tell you that Danger Radio are as happy to hang with younger fans as they are to send those fans’ older siblings into spontaneous dancing fits. “When we play live, it’s all about having fun and getting pumped, regardless of whether it’s a ‘rock audience’ or a ‘pop audience’ or whatever. None of that stuff matters. What matters is that you’re connecting with people.”