Every band tries to make a name for themselves within the music industry. Radar Gold, a hypnotic, Midwest band created by husband and wife duo Nicolas and Emma Clark, is one that you will want to make sure you have memorized. The band released their debut album, Planet Sings, this past December. Not only did the two write and compose all of their own material, they also shifted to producing their own music when the pandemic shut down world. PATTERN readers are getting an exclusive listen to the band’s never-before heard single, Planet Sings.
After listening to their album on repeat, I had the pleasure of speaking with Nic and Emma about their music, marriage, and what Radar Gold has in store for the future.
Mary Hanula: So first off, where did the band get its name?
Nicolas Clark: Man, finding that name was a long process for us.
Emma Clark: We wanted to come up with something that was unique. Everyone knows that all the good band names are taken, so we just started picking words that we liked and put them together to try out.
NC: I just remember writing down hundreds of different names until one had me and I said yep, that’s it.
MH: Tell me a little bit about how you two and the band came to be.
EC: Well we’re married and have lived together for eight years now. We met in Indy at a party and we dated for a while, then we started a band together prior to this one, then we did a band called Cherries. After those, most recently, we did Radar Gold.
NC: We always recorded together just at home and made songs to help one another, especially songs. We stuck together pretty much that whole time, throughout all those bands and all the members that came and went.
MH: That’s awesome! So you two had been dating for a little while…was the idea for a band something new or something that was building up?
EC: Well yeah, kind of. When I first met Nic I had just dropped out of college and had just stopped doing my music stuff that I was doing in Muncie when I went to Ball State. Nic was still in his band called The Constants. We would go to shows and I’d just be like “man, I really want to start doing music again”, but I had moved back to the city and didn’t really know many people. That’s when I was like “hey, would you be willing to do this with me? Please?” And that’s kind of how it happened.
MH: It’s fantastic that you guys had been doing your own independent projects and then came together to make this sound that really sticks with you. Take me through the songwriting process — what does that usually look like?
NC: A lot of it is done at home in our little recording studio. One of us will come up with a rhythm or something really simple like a melody, then the other one tends to build around it. My whole thing is that I really like rhythms and different time signatures and how they interact with each other. The nice melody over the top of it is just something I really enjoy.
EC: We do spend quite a lot of time on every song. It’s funny because that’s one of the few things we actually fight about in our marriage is music — those are kind of the only arguments we have because we do disagree a lot, but we have a good way to work it out. We’ll be willing to try whatever the other person wants and see which way is best. Definitely something we spend a lot of time on.
MH: That’s nice that when you guys disagree you’re still able to collaborate to make music. Have you guys found that you influence one another’s personal sounds when these clashes happen? Have you implemented new styles that you didn’t think you’d try beforehand?
EC: Yeah, for sure. I honestly feel like I was kind of holding back in the way in which I sang. I do like that very much operatic-like singing where it is very vibrato, loud and high. I was always holding back, but Nic was like just do it, just go for it. I’ve never been so fearless. Nic has really encouraged me to just go all the way and not hold back in any sense.
MH: What was the inspiration behind the Planet Sings album?
NC: This is one we’ve been working on since the end of all of our other projects. It started out as us getting all of the songs that we possibly could put together for a debut album and ended up, two years later, quite trimmed down, once everything was finished and finalized. It’s more of a cohesive project, since it was done in stages. Even the title was late in the game. We finished the title after almost everything was done and after that we wrote this track that I really like called Planet Sings that isn’t even on the album. It’ll maybe end up on a future one as a little fun thing or something. The plan now moving forward is to put music out in much shorter spans of time. This story is common with a lot of bands, but what we know is that getting that first album out is a huge, huge, mountain to climb. There’s just so many things that you don’t know or think about. Even though we’ve both been in other bands. For me, I was always a more supportive role in other bands and didn’t really do a lot of interworking of the final or finished product, so it definitely was a lot of work and it was a lot of fun. We have other music we want to put out really soon.
MH: When I was doing more research on the band I saw that one of my favorites off the album, “The Lovers” is actually based on your wedding vows? Is this true?
EC: Yeah it is! It’s kind of embarrassing. Well, not embarrassing, but one of those super private things that at first I was like, oh should I tell people this? Should I not? I’m glad I did because I think it’s a really cute story and I think people like hearing what goes behind a song. Basically when we got married, we had a big wedding with all our family there. We actually didn’t really do a proper rehearsal though, because everything was so chaotic. When it came down to saying our vows and everything we barely said ten words to each other and were super awkward. It was a great day and I don’t have regrets or anything, but I thought about it afterwards and was like wow, you know, for the eight years of our relationship, that was the best I could do? I just thought I needed to come up with something a little better. Nic had this melody, really a song, that was already done and just needed lyrics. It was one of the last ones we did before we put the record out and I remember hearing that chorus part and being like oh, this song makes me feel so good and reminds me of being in love. It just happened really quickly and was an easy kind of thing, which most songs for me usually aren’t. That one came really easily to me.
MH: You guys are very DIY and have been doing the recording process primarily on your own, right?
NC: That’s what’s held this band together — being able to record ourselves because then you can craft the whole process as you go, you know? Yeah and also instruments along the way. Drums are the only instruments that we both don’t play, even though we may mess around on them, we both love drums. Actually on the album, there’s about five different drummers. We would try to get each of them to play the sound that was in our heads and tried to make it all sound like the same drummer. Yet, I really feel like the songs capture the personalities of each one. We identified all of them on the album so people can see who played which songs. While I can definitely tell the difference between them all, people have said that the album still sounds veery cohesive.
MH: Do you see yourselves continuing that pattern of multiple people on drums or do you think you may expand the band?
NC: For a while it was the two of us getting in front of an audience with a lot of tracks behind us. We would do our songs with keyboards and stuff, but after that we got a drummer, Adam Skinner, who played drums for a while. Then he jumped over onto bass and we got our permanent drummer Colin Oakley. They’ve been with us for a while and have both helped us evolve with our sound.
EC: We’re looking forward to the day when we can start playing shows again.
MH: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected everything with the band and performances?
EC: Well, it’s definitely been hard for everybody. Specifically for this record. It was originally going to come out on a label and unfortunately, a couple of months before we were going to release it, the label folded and basically went out of business because of COVID and financial constraints. That’s when we said okay, we can either find a different label or we can put it out ourselves. We decided to just do it ourselves and we’ve obviously never done that before, so we didn’t really know exactly what to do, but that’s what we spent the second half of 2020 doing. From planning the release to figuring out how to actually sell the records and put it on the digital platforms, it definitely wasn’t a bad thing and everything worked out for sure. As far as getting to do a big recorded release show and go on tour while selling the records, we haven’t gotten to do that, which is kind of a bummer, but maybe in the future we’ll get to do that!
MH: What have you found to be the best way to connect with fans and the music community during the pandemic? Is there a certain social media platform you love to use the most?
EC: We definitely use Instagram the most, but something fun we’ve been doing since we’ve got this house is renovation blogs on YouTube where I’ll use our tracks as the music in the videos. It’s just a fun project and another way to get this music out there since we can’t do live shows. Definitely trying to find new outlets for this record.
MH: Back when you guys could play venues, what was your favorite venue you’ve played?
EC: We loved Healer. We definitely miss it so much.
NC: Healer is my favorite for sure. That’s a great place to play and we miss playing there for sure.
MH: Who would you say are some of your musical inspirations?
NC: That’s a weird one for me! I’ve always liked both pop and harder music, but also all the different forms. For me, it’s all about the melody of what I hear. When I was growing up I was exposed to all kinds of music from a very young age, really it was random. My mom’s side was into 70s rock and my dad was really into ballads for some reason. I was exposed to a weird range of music, but the thing that stays constant is the melodies. We both really like classic country music. That’s inspired me a lot.
EC: Well and this record is very like drum-based and synth-driven, so it makes sense that it has that 80s feel to it. Especially for the melodies and stuff like that, it definitely has high-pitched singing but harmonies and sound.
MH: What advice do you have for newcomers? Someone who is starting a band or thinking of pursuing music?
NC: I would tell them to learn how to record yourself — immediately. Teach yourself how to do that and bridge that gap right away.
EC: Even in the most simplistic versions.
NC: A lot of awesome bands right now are making music on their iPhones, it’s really cool. Whatever you have, learn how to make music on that and just absorb more as you go. Take little things from what you learn and use as you go. That’s what helped us develop. You want to be able to use the process to even make demos of yourself. My earliest trick was a tape-deck. I would use whatever I could come up with to organize my thoughts in real time. So many people start and they end up not capturing the things that they want to do. Once they get to the practice and rehearsals, they realize they don’t have those things planned. I’ve always had a lot of success having those things ready, at least for writing songs.
EC: I would say that a lot of times I feel that musicians really get in their head and put off releasing things until it is completely perfect. Then you end up sitting on a pile of stuff you never end up releasing because you’re always critiquing it. I would say try to avoid that. Just have faith in yourself. People will like it and listen to it.