Sara Radle talks solo albums, revisiting the piano and the value of doing demos

Before she moved to Los Angeles to join the Rentals in 2005, Sara Radle had spent her entire musical career in Texas.

Starting when she was 17, Radle fronted the San Antonio punk-pop band Lucy Loves Schroeder and put out a handful of solo records. She was working on songs for a fourth solo album in 2005 when she got a call from Rentals founder Matt Sharp, who wanted to re-form the power-pop band with Radle on vocals.

“I was at this point where I was trying to figure out what to do with them, and I met him and I thought it would be a fun detour,” she tells Listen, Dammit.

So she moved to L.A. and spent three years with the Rentals before branching off to play with Walking Sleep and finish that solo record. “Four,” a collection of lush, rootsy pop songs, came out earlier this month. On a recent morning, Radle told us three facts about the record and her career before going back to bed.

1. There are benefits to making solo albums. “As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to accept that I can be a bit of a control freak, so it’s nice to have that freedom to go into the studio and do whatever I want and experiment and brings in friends to play and have fun with it and not feel restricted by certain instrumentation or laid-out expectations of what the band is supposed to sound like,” she says. “But at the same time, I do really like the collaborative aspect of a bunch of people getting into a room together and creating something that nobody could have created on their own.”

2. Joining the Rentals meant revisiting an old friend: the piano. “I hadn’t played piano since 8th grade, and when I started playing in that band, I had to brush up on some of that theory again. Through that, I started writing songs on piano again,” she says. “I’d kind of fiddled around with it here and there, but as far as sitting down and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to contribute to this song on this instrument,’ that was kind of daunting. The piano is the only instrument I’d ever taken lessons on, so it was a little like riding a bicycle.”

3. Making “Four” was a deliberative process. “In the past, I’d be like, ‘OK, I have 12 or 15 songs, I’m going to go into the studio and record them,’ and just hammer out the arrangements in the studio,” Radle says. “This time, I started recording myself at home and doing demos.” Listening back to the demos gave her a chance to think more deeply about the arrangements. “I have a tendency to go a little overboard and throw a bunch of stuff on there,” she says with a laugh. “At first, it was a struggle with myself to just accept that this song sounds fine. I don’t need to layer a bunch of shit on top of it.”

— Eric R. Danton

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