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Truth, solidarity and the Oklahoma way 

Red City Radio considers the pleasures of democracy and the politics of punk

When a band names its new record To the Sons & Daughters of Woody Guthrie and includes lyrics like "Innocence was stolen / Had trouble breathing / Elected a new Nero / As I stood screaming," the question of politics does tend to come up.

But Red City Radio's Paul Pendley says the Oklahoma City group's songwriting reaches beyond politics into "whatever we're feeling at the time." He points out that he and his bandmates — co-frontman Garrett Dale, bassist Jonathan Knight and drummer Dallas Tidwell — have varied political inclinations.

"I'm more of the opinion that if people would stop labeling themselves and just come up with solid arguments and solutions, everything would be a lot better," says Pendley. "I know that's kind of a lame statement; it's not very specific."

Right, then. Let's give it another try.

"I would say I'm a little left-leaning. Garrett is very left-leaning. Dallas, he's a very pragmatic conservative — he's a big Ron Paul fan, I don't know if that will give your readers any insight — and Jonathan just likes to drink."

The four bandmates also have diverse musical interests, although they're all huge fans of the Descendents and ALL. In fact, Stephen Egerton, the guitarist for both of those bands, produced Sons & Daughters.

"He's great to work with, he's a very nice and insightful guy, and he's got the benefit of experience that a lot of people don't," says Pendley. "And his rates were, you know, reasonable."

Red City Radio's status "as punk rock fans and people who've been playing punk rock for a few years" sets them apart from their better-known Okla-homeys.

"We're from a very small urban city, and the music scene around here is mostly indie rock," says Pendley, "whether it be Chainsaw Kittens or the Flaming Lips or Stardeath & White Dwarfs [a band founded by Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne's nephew Dennis]."

By comparison, Red City Radio (which recently signed to Eyeball Records, whose artists have included My Chemical Romance and Murder by Death) makes music that's much rougher around the edges, with the two singers seemingly competing over who can make their vocals more gravelly. Pendley attributes his perfectly smooth speaking voice to the fact that he's "not gargling glass right now."

While heartland punk pioneers Hüsker Dü gave fans two powerful songwriters for the price of one ("I had a copy of Zen Arcade when I was in high school," says Pendley, "but I don't think I was mature enough to appreciate it at the time"), Red City Radio doubles the ante. On their Web site, they describe themselves as "a truly democratic band, devoid of ego, unshackled to trend or style with no chief songwriter, no dominant personality, no unilateral decisions. Only solidarity and truth."

"Really what it comes down to is we've got four guys in a band who all at one time were the frontmen for their own projects," Pendley elaborates. "And they did all the work — you know, they wrote all the songs, they did all the promotion, spearheaded everything. And now the four of us are together. And so you've got this dynamic of people who write their own music and are driven and all that, yet in a collaborative environment."

Much like Sammy Hagar's new supergroup.

"Ohhhh," groans Pendley with obvious dismay, "please don't print that ..."

bill@csindy.com

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