OC Weekly Feature: "Aloha Radio Bring About a Golden State of Mind on Their Latest Record

Aloha Radio Bring About a Golden State of Mind on Their Latest Record

OC's catchiest reggae rockers are back.

OC's catchiest reggae rockers are back.

With the release of Golden State of Mind, local reggae-rock band Aloha Radio has put on display just how much they’ve grown over the last 18 months. Their latest record still contains the group’s signature upbeat poppy tunes behind Lauren Mulderrig’s catchy vocals, but Golden State of Mind also brings layers of depth and complexity that make it appropriate for more than just an extended smoke session or cheap beer-fueled party. 

“It’s a journey of self-discovery,” Mulderrig says. “It’s about staying positive even when things get rough. We’ve got some party anthems on there — because who doesn’t love to party — but there are also some other deeper meanings in the record like self-empowerment and a message of unity.” 

“When we released ‘Break the Ceiling’ a year and a half ago, we thought we’d found our sound,” adds drummer Chris Hori. “We thought we’d put that song out, finish the record, and tour. Then we had discussions within the band about songwriting things, vocal things, musical things, drum things — there were just so many things we wanted to have better.”

One way in which Aloha Radio helped themselves was by doing just a little bit less. Rather than handling all of the recording and production like they had on previous records, the quartet got some professional assistance with the technical side of things for Golden State of Mind. That way, the band could just focus on putting together the best tracks possible while Mulderrig and guitarist Alex Barnett co-wrote what are clearly the strongest lyrics they’ve ever recorded. 

“The interesting thing about this record is that these songs all seemed to come in batches of three,” Mulderrig says. “We kept writing between the batches, but the ones that stuck seemed to be three at a time. Those three always seemed to have a similar message or a similar feel, so it was kind of interesting how it all came together.” 

But while not every song penned since the end of 2015 was good enough to end up on the record, Aloha Radio has never struggled to come up with new material. Whether they’re in the studio, a practice space, or on tour, the group is pretty much always writing. Even as they all continue to balance the unfortunate reality of maintaining day jobs while rocking out by moonlight, the next album is already coming together in its infant stages. 

“Going back and forth from a band person to a regular dude is tough to do sometimes, because you might have a sold-out show for 1,000 people with a great headlining band one night and the day before you were the guy working a 9-to-5,” Hori says. “Having a one-off show when we’ve been rehearsing a lot is real quick, but it’s the deep tastes that kill me. When we go out for a week and see that we would belong there, that’s when it’s tougher. We get it and we understand it, but we just need our opportunity.”

Along with their latest release, Aloha Radio hopes that the band’s first big national tour in support of Pepper and Tribal Seeds this fall will help them make that jump into the next level. After all, no matter how good they sound on record, Mulderrig and the rest of the group know that the party-like atmosphere of their live performances is ultimately what will stay in people’s minds for years to come. 

“There were times when we were in limbo, and it was stressful,” Mulderrig says. “With not playing as many shows and focusing on the songwriting, it started to get to the point where I was like ‘I want to play a show! I want to see people again! I’m tired of being locked up in the studio!’ Our favorite part is playing lots of shows, so that’s always what we want to do. 

“We’re definitely more confident as performers now,” Mulderrig continues. “I love performing, but I have a lot to do in that area. I want to bring so much more energy to the crowd. My goal is to be the life of the party every time.” (Josh Chesler)

OC Weekly Names Aloha Radio "OC's Next Reggae-Pop-Rock Band to Watch"


Aloha Radio 

Lauren Mulderrig shrugs and looks over at Chris Hori, who's sitting in front of his drum kit. The Aloha Radio singer is used to being the center of attention while on stage, but usually not while she and her bandmates are chilling in their small Santa Ana practice space.

"I think it's one part reggae, one part hip-hop, a little bit of surf, and some ice cold Corona," Mulderrig says of the "SoCal sound" the band boasts. "It's kind of an attitude."

What the blonde frontwoman means is that OC's sound has never had a shortage of reggae influence, but everyone who's successful has taken it their own way. From No Doubt and Sublime to the Offspring and Dirty Heads to that one band that your friend always drags you to see in the dive bars of Huntington Beach, generations of reggae-rock bands have always called the area home well before they hit it big.

"To me, it's not just reggae," Hori says. "It's all those bands from Southern California. It's shifting to where it's more of a lifestyle."

Aloha Radio may very well be the next name on that list of "SoCal" bands to make it big, as the quartet continues to make strides in separating themselves from the pack of OC's young beach bands. The next step in that journey happens this Saturday when the group opens up the One Love Cali Reggae Fest at the Observatory in Santa Ana.

"If our first show was opening this festival, we would not have been ready," Mulderrig says. "When we were grinding it out in the bar scene, it was rough at times, but it taught us so much about playing and performing. We're really grateful to be in a position where we can be part of this lineup, and it's nice to see reggae and the SoCal sound get a festival alongside Beach Goth and festivals like that."

"It's a game-changer for us," Hori adds. "Being rooted in Southern California and getting this first opportunity to be in the first installment of this large reggae fest in our hometown, I would've been bummed if we didn't get on it."

Of course, it's easy to point out one of the things that helps Aloha Radio stand out in OC, as their spunky singer looks and sounds very different from the typical tank top-wearing bros that dominate the scene. But it's not just Mulderrig pushing the four piece ahead of the pack, it's also their dedication and amount of music they release. They put out two new albums last summer, and they're already working on the next.

"We just keep releasing everything that we can," says Alex Barnett, Aloha Radio's guitarist. "Nowadays, everybody binge-watches everything. They binge-listen to everything, so we just have to keep putting stuff out. I like it because it keeps us on our toes and keeps the sound evolving and changing."

It might seem like a big undertaking for a handful of OC kids to be putting out new music on about a monthly basis, but it's both a career and a passion for the Aloha Radio crew. Their organically "SoCal" brand of music fuses everything from reggae and rock to rap and electronica, or everything that LA, OC, and San Diego has been known for in the music world over the last few decades. In other words, it's everything they love and want to do musically.

"I don't know if it's intentional, I think we just all have such eclectic taste that it's hard to always play reggae," Mulderrig says. "Being brought up in this area with Sublime, No Doubt, you can't help but be influenced by that sound. Right now, we're really influenced by a lot of electronic bands, so we've been incorporating that more into our sound."

"It's almost like we all find our center in the music," says bassist Andrew Russell. "We're all coming together, and the music is what happens."

As for the future, playing with bands like Rebelution and Iration at the One Love Cali Reggae Festival is awesome, but Aloha Radio has slightly different long-term goals.

"Muse just did the round [stage setup] on their last tour, so I think that's a good long-term goal," Hori says. "If you started in any creative career for the money, that's foolish because there's such a small percentage of people who really make money doing it."

Although Mulderrig agrees, there's still something to be said for having modest financial short-term goals. "More short term, we'd like to be able to pay rent." (Josh Chesler)

Aloha Radio's "California Scheming" Named One of OC Weekly's 20 Best OC Albums of 2015

 Aloha Radio
California Scheming

OC has no shortage of reggae and roots music. And actually, some of it is actually damn good! But a lot of it sounds the same. Everywhere you look, there are groups of tank top-wearing bros of all types combining their favorite reggae sounds with some faster punk rock and rap elements. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s hard for anything to stand out from the crowd when it all sounds kind of like Slightly Stoopid. Aloha Radio broke that mold with both of their albums this year (California Schemingand Stoked and Broke), as the four-piece took the working recipe and added some extra spice in the form of charismatic frontwoman Lauren Mulderrig. Although both albums are worth listening to, California Scheming contains just the right blend of chill reggae vibes with poppy rock tunes to please both roots fans and top 40 listeners alike. They haven’t blown up just yet, but Aloha Radio sounds like what should be playing in most dorm rooms on lazy afternoons. After opening for Shwayze this summer, it seems like they’re already halfway there. (Josh Chesler)

Aloha Radio Featured on Ten Minute Interviews

Keeping one foot on the beach and stepping the other into the street, Orange County-based band Aloha Radio has crafted a unique sound that, via heavy grooves and catchy melodies, definitively captures the soul of Southern California. Featuring guitarist Alex Barnett, bassist Andrew Russell, and drummer Chris Hori and, along with the lush, seductive vocals of Lauren Mulderrig, Aloha Radio seamlessly blends elements of surf rock and modern pop into a bold, infectious musical concoction.

In July of 2015, the band released a pair of albums — Stoked and Broke and California Scheming — on independent label iSeed Records. Featuring a total of 30 new songs that explore a variety of genres including surf rock, reggae and indie rock with hints of hip hop and electronic elements, the albums complement one another like an ice cold beer and sand between one’s toes.

To learn more about Aloha Radio and their music, visit www.aloharadioband.com.

What was your childhood like? How did you first become interested in music and performing?

Lauren: I started singing as soon as I was able to talk. It’s something I have always loved. I got serious about becoming a musician when I started high school. I got my first guitar when I was 15 and started writing songs as soon as I had two chords readily available at my fingertips.

When did you first pick up the ukelele? How did that come about?

Lauren: The ukulele came about when I was 17. I picked one up during a family vacation on the island of Maui. I wrote a song called “Deep Blue Ocean” during that trip. I fell in love with the ukulele and it’s presence has been a staple in my music ever since. That song became the main inspiration in forming Aloha Radio.

Who are your biggest creative influences?

Lauren: I love Pasty Cline’s voice. There is something so pure and haunting about it. I love all types of music, and honestly any great live show experience is very influential. You can learn so much from watching other bands.

How did you and the other members of Aloha Radio meet?

Lauren: I met Alex Barnett, our guitarist, through his old recording studio. We made a few records together for my solo project and eventually needed a drummer. Chris Hori, our drummer, and Alex have been in a few other bands together and he was our first call. Andrew Russell, our bassist, joined the band a couple years ago. I think both Chris and Andrew thought they might be temporary fill-ins when they first joined. Now we’ve been together for few years and I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else.

How have you evolved as a singer over the years? And how has the band’s sound evolved over that period as well?

Lauren: I’m not really sure how I have evolved as a singer but I certainly hope I have. The band has definitely evolved or at least matured. We have all grown so much in past couple of years and I think it shows in the songwriting and live performances. It will only continue to evolve as we continue to work.

What is your songwriting process?

Lauren: Our songwriting process seems to be different song to song. Alex and I both write lyrics and the most common process is when we write together. It’s nice to be able to throw ideas around with someone and see how one line can spark the rest of a song. After we’re close with the lyrics we finish up the song as a band, we all chime in about structure, melody and progressions.

What was the recording process like for Stoked and Broke and California Scheming? Did you envision releasing two albums from the start, or was than an idea that took shape as you were recording?

Lauren: We recorded California Scheming ourselves. At first it started with a song, then we wanted to record an EP and before we knew it, we had 12 songs that we loved and wanted to release. The two album idea came about because we had a collection of older songs that we felt people should here. They had been released previously but not on an album. An album makes a statement and two albums now, I don’t know what that says, but releasing 30 tracks all at once that allows people to explore our sound, where we came from and where we may be headed.

What has been your most memorable live performance?

Lauren: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I would say any sold out show has been the most memorable. The energy of a packed house is hard to beat.

Have you always been comfortable on stage, performing for others?

Lauren: Yeah, I was always the attention seeker as a kid. Sometimes I feel more comfortable on stage than in a regular one on one conversation.

What do you do when you’re looking to relax or unwind?

Lauren: I love going to the beach, working out, hanging out with friends and going to shows.

What current bands or musicians do you think will still be most fondly remembered in fifty years?

Lauren: Foo Fighters, Amy Winehouse, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Adele, Jenny Lewis, RX Bandits, Florence and the Machine, Paramore, Twenty One Pilots. Of course, the classics like The Beatles, The Stones, Patsy Cline… There’s so many more but I’ll stop there.

What is your favorite tropical drink?

Lauren: Pina Colada!

What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve received?

Lauren: Work hard and have no fear.