Sweet Song Saturday: “Three Kingdoms” by Love & Radiation

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Adele Nicholas and Lakshmi Ramgopa are two rad ladies from the Windy City who by day pull the ol’ nine-to-five, but thereafter  turn out dark n’ lovely synth pop as Love and Radiation.  We adore their sound as well as a no bullshit attitude when it comes to how to slice a pizza and an affinity for Munchkins.  In addition to a rather entertaining interview, we’re thrilled to share their latest single Three Kingdoms in advance of their debut full length, You Will Know Me, which drops this spring.

Donkey Jaw: You ladies both have full time careers. How do you find the time to make music?

Adele: We apply the same kind of organization and discipline to our music that has helped us succeed in our careers. We treat Love and Radiation like a job with deadlines, schedules, and short- and long-term goals.

Lakshmi: We also do a lot of file-sharing so that we can write music when we can’t physically meet. Our first single, Ganymede, was composed that way last spring, when Adele was in Chicago and I was in Boston.

Do you ever struggle being a creative in a corporate environment?

Lakshmi: Because I’m a graduate student in the humanities, I have almost no exposure to anything like a corporate environment. I spend most of my time alone working on my dissertation at home, in the library, or at coffee shops in Chicago. In fact, I think my life as an academic and my life as a musician exist along a single continuum. Writing a dissertation requires a lot of creativity, since one has to consider various kinds of evidence in new, revealing ways. Plus, a lot of my research on ancient religion and past civilizations makes its way, sometimes directly, into what I express in song.

Adele: Since I have an unusual name, people easily find Love and Radiation when they Google me. While I used to worry that other lawyers wouldn’t take me as seriously when they found out about my music, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Several of my opposing counsel have asked me about it with interest. Others have told me about their own creative passions and projects — stand
up comedy, writing a novel, playing guitar. Even in a more conservative profession like law, a lot of people are secretly creative. It’s helped me connect on a human level with people who might have otherwise just been faceless adversaries. At the same time, if it causes some people to underestimate me, that can work to my advantage.

Tell us about your songwriting process.

Adele: We usually start with a simple beat and synth line and then slowly layer and build from there. Sometimes there’s a specific sonic effect or musical idea we want to create and we build parts around that. We always have a few ideas percolating for lyrical themes or narratives that we want to write about. As the music develops, it usually becomes clear what images fit with the
sound of the song.

Lakshmi: I’ve noticed that Adele will respond most positively to the ideas I’m most ambivalent about and vice versa. I think these moments of difference generate some of our best songs. The most consistent feature of our songwriting is its intensely collaborative nature. We both contribute to the process of programming drums, writing lyrics, and composing guitar and synth
parts. Likewise, our live performances feature both of us on the keys, guitar, bass, live drums, and even the glockenspiel.

What’s the current scene like in Chicago for makers of dark n’ dreamy synth pop?

Adele: We’ve been lucky to find welcoming local audiences, but the electronic dance music scene here is small. There are tons of rock bands. For the first six months that we were booking shows, we ended up on a lot of bills that made no sense, like a bunch of bros playing screaming guitar solos and then us. I recently stumbled into a goth show and saw some great bands making synth
music. I want to learn more about that scene.

What can you tell us about your upcoming full-length?

Adele: You Will Know Me features eight songs that we’ve written over the past year. We recorded it with a talented recording engineer Jonathan Freund in our rehearsal space and in his living room. I’m excited for people to hear the details and nuances of our music on this record. Live shows are often loud and distorted, so the subtlety of our music can get lost.

Lakshmi: I think ultimately this record deals with the idea of using rituals – rituals of all kind, really – for different ends and being met with varying degrees of success.

Will you be touring behind it?

Lakshmi: Yes! We hit the road on April 25 and will be performing in a bunch of cities on the East Coast. It’s our first tour and I can’t wait to find out how to handle a flat tire in rural Ohio.

If you could get on any lineup, who would it be with and where?

Adele: Xiu Xiu and Love and Radiation at The Metro in Chicago.

Lakshmi: As far as local Chicago artists go, I’d love to play a show with Shuteye. But if I wanted to be super current, I’d go with Grimes at Glasslands. I think she’d be very disappointed by my inability to stay up past 1am though.

What is the one song, other than your own, that everyone should download right now?

Adele: All Yr Songs by Diamond Rings.

Lakshmi: Lake Radio’s Plastic Angels. I love the simplicity of the beats and how the song manages to feel detached while expressing an incredible emotional range.

What should we have asked you that I didn’t? (Answer that question too).

Adele: Who is making your album art? Our lovely friend from college Mary Roberts is a New York-based collage artist and designer. She is creating the perfect imagery to accompany our record. We can’t wait to show everyone her gorgeously unsettling images.

Lakshmi: What is Love and Radiation’s favorite kind of junk food, you ask? I don’t even know where to start. First of all, we love pizza. Super-hot, gooey slices of cheese pizza that are so thin you can’t eat them without folding them in half. They have to be pie-sliced, none of that ridiculous square-shaped crap you get all over Chicago. Our standards for pizza are very high, so
we usually head to Santullo’s in Wicker Park for our fix. We’re also very serious about abetting our Dunkin’ Donuts addiction. Munchkins rule, fillings are forbidden.

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