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Pub for Breakfast: Radio National

Newcomer band Radio National have found fans with their warm and delicate guitar sound with its tones of alt rock country running through it. Twins Stephen and David Kelly are joined by cousin Brenton in this family affair that has hailed from Wagga and recently made its way to Sydney in search of a life with a bit more action. In an interview with the band, Side Street Sydney took a peek behind the curtain.

You’re a fairly new band, so for the Radio National virgins, describe your sound, your band ethos, your haircut and your favourite tattoo?
We collectively have listened to a lot of guitar bands from the 70s to the 90s. There is no pigeonhole really; we like the sounds of guitar rock. My haircut is perhaps early 80s and there are no tattoos as yet apart from the obligatory anchor on the forearm, a souvenir from my days as a merchant seaman.

Who exactly is in the band?
The band consists of David Kelly (Drums, Vocal), Stephen Kelly (Bass, Vocal) and Brenton Freeman (Guitars). Dave’s other roles have included a cameo as Mal the Muso for a charity football match, where he and Humphrey B Bear were involved in a melee. It is bittersweet watching your childhood bear hero go head to head with a giant Treble Clef.

How has your country background in Wagga affected your music?
Dave and I are from a rural property 45 minutes drive from Wagga. Our first gigs were in small country pubs while in high school. Brenton is from Wagga and his gigs were also played in suburban pubs. After playing in Sydney for a while it makes you realise how interesting and unconventional our introduction to live music was. For us twins I think we developed a genuine respect for 80s Oz rock.

What do you think is the most difficult sacrifice you have had to make to pursue your life as a musician? What makes it all worthwhile?
It is a lifestyle for us. We all still have day jobs and jam or write most nights. It’s lots of fun and doesn’t seem like a “sacrifice”. A definite upside is that if you do need to let off some steam, people don’t frown at you for going to the pub for breakfast. It comes with the territory.

You’ve just release an EP – what does it tell us, the listening punters, about the band?
We collectively write together… The EP was done over a weekend before we decided to make Radio National a band, so it is the starting point in essence. It was recorded with no intention of release and I think that resonates throughout the recording.

What was the biggest surprise or challenge (good or bad) you experienced in getting the EP from brain to instrument to recording and release?
Well the brain to mixing was easy enough. We just tracked it over two days in our Newtown studio. Thought, this sounds alright, lets go and get a mixer. We made contact with Dave Nicholas (Pulp, Midnight Oil, George) and took it down to a bigger console at Sing Sing in Melbourne. Then after Dave mixed it he offered to license out the release on his label Rhinoceros, so it all came together quite smoothly in the end.

What’s that cool thing you always forget to say when a drunk dickhead yells at you until half an hour later?
Fortunately we don’t encounter this too often but having a microphone already puts you way out in front. I think the rule of thumb is to keep the return sledge simple but effective. Failing that, get personal: clothes, hair etc.

Tell us about your favourite Radio National gig so far. And of course that means I have to ask about your worst gig too.
We have just finished a run of 4 shows at MUM in Kings Cross. It was the 2am slot. The last gig there was probably my favourite so far – there is always a good crowd at Mum and it is really good to be playing to new faces each week. There was one week that was probably the worst gig we have played – just got a little too inebriated and sounded really shit. We are just starting out and I have learnt a lot from the residency.

Who or what inspires and influences you and why?
Just life in general I suppose, I tend to be influenced by personal experiences rather than external factors.

What’s next for Radio National, and who do you wish would take your call?
We have just finished mixing some tracks for our album; hopefully one will be picked up by FBi or the like in the coming weeks. I think recording wise, we are moving into a good place. Hopefully anyone that hears the tracks will come and check out some shows.

Where and when can we see you and hear you play?
We will be playing every Friday night in June at Melt Bar in Kings Cross as part of the Big Whoop Residency (Sticky Fingers, Underlights and Sound Casino), then playing as much as we can through the winter. All the details are at

You catch Radio National live at their Melt Bar residency every Friday night throughout June from 9pm.

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words: Kristen Hodges


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