In May of 2018, Daniel and Robert Sadler drove from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to attend their older brother’s wedding. They passed the time listening to music and discussing their shared affinity for the raw, minimal sound of ’80s hardcore-punk.
That conversation laid the framework for their new band, RA!D. Pronounced “Raid,” the name is a bug-spray related nod to the original pesticide punkers OFF!, a supergroup featuring members of various pioneering punk bands, including Black Flag, who RA!D considers an influence.
Northampton Community College graduates Daniel and Robert, credited as Dee-Dee Moongel and Bob in the liner notes of RA!D’s debut album, “9900,” have played in various bands together for nearly two decades. Lehigh Valley punk rock fans present in the early 2000s might remember The Blimp Attack, the brothers’ first band, formed when the younger Daniel was in junior high school.
RA!D’s current lineup features Daniel on drums and lead vocals and Robert on bass and guitar overdubs in the studio. The brothers are not against the idea of bringing more bandmates into the fold, but their minimal lineup did not prevent them from firing up their amps and the TASCAM analog four-track tape recorder they used to lay down “9900.”
“Chords and wires everywhere,” Robert said. “Very chaotic,” Daniel added, describing the scene of their makeshift recording studio in a cedar-paneled closet in Robert’s basement. The brothers recorded their album in just a few takes, as pushing the record button required cautious maneuvering through the spider web of cables.
Released in July on streaming platforms and a limited run of 25 cassette tapes, “9900” comprises eight gritty songs that range in tempo, but are relentless in their grim tone.
Swinging between militant and groovy, Daniel’s drum beats pound through the speakers with a pleasant fuzz similar to the lo-fi drum-machine samples common in late ‘80s and early ‘90s hip-hop. Robert covers a lot of ground with a heavily overdriven bass guitar, which during certain riffs sounds like some other alien instrument. Guitar parts overdubbed by Robert in post production drone in the song’s shadows or tear out from them like a murder of crows screeching through the rhythm section’s cloudy sky. Daniel’s vocals, shouted and snarled, pierce the song, often with a tail of reverb as if bellowed from a cave.
RA!D does not provide sentimental melodies meant to evoke warm feelings, but instead, delivers an appropriate soundtrack to match the gloom of the present moment.
“I think what we’re trying to do is be as anti-musical as possible,” Daniel said.
Daniel’s lyrics explore the theme of hauntology, a theory developed by French philosopher, Jacques Derrida in 1993, which ponders the possibility of the present being haunted by unrealized potential futures. In the early 2000s, British electronic musicians evoked Derrida’s theory by using vintage equipment to produce music in the vein of that released in the bygone era, but with present-day cultural memory informing the process to create a sense of music that never-was.
On, “9900,” a reference to the rollover of numbers at the turn of the century, Daniel imagines living in a world in which Y2K proved to be the cataclysmic event many feared it would be. That concept—began as a joke—now feels more relevant in the midst of the pandemic and underscores parallels between the destruction, chaos and ignorance of his imagined world and the last six months. .
“It wasn’t supposed to be a reflection on real life, but I think it has become that, unintentionally,” Daniel said.
The Sadler brothers spoke fondly of their time attending NCC, where they both earned associate degrees in liberal arts, Robert in ’03 and Daniel in ‘09. Robert recalled attending punk shows held in the multi-purpose room in NCC’s College Center. Robert and Daniel explained there was a long tradition of such events that took place on campus at NCC, including one raucous concert in October 1982 featuring The Misfits, a horror-themed punk band who recently reunited after more than 30 years to play multiple sold-out stadium shows across the country. A video of The Misfit’s show at NCC can be found on YouTube.
Robert went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from Temple University and his teaching certificate from East Stroudsburg University, but said that NCC was always his favorite school, citing class sizes, genuinely interested professors and the ease of dealing with administrative issues as reasons. Daniel, who also attended Millersville University in Lancaster and recently earned his communications degree from Muhlenberg College, echoed Robert’s sentiment.
“I got along with the teachers. I made a lot of friends in my classes,” Daniel said, remarking that he had trouble applying himself in high school, but found interest in academics at NCC, where he was introduced to new areas of study, such as philosophy. Daniel recalls feeling supported by his professors at NCC, noticing that students who attempted to apply themselves were encouraged, a connection he did not feel as strongly at other schools.
The brothers agreed that with the value and quality of the education available at NCC, there is not a better option for those who wish to receive a higher education locally.
RA!D plans to begin performing live once it’s safe to do so and said they’d be up for live streaming a concert, as has been popular in recent months.
The brother’s Zen-like approach to music can be applied by those who are seeking guidance in surviving the pandemic.
“Don’t force anything and whatever we come up with is what we come up with and whatever happens, happens,” Robert said.
RA!D’s sophomore release, a 3-song EP titled, “Love Letter,” will be available Oct. 17 via BandCamp. The title is drawn from Dennis Hopper’s lines in a disturbing scene from David Lynch’s film “Blue Velvet.” RA!D’s new music promises to be equally menacing.
Listen to RA!D: https://raidmusicisrad.bandcamp.com
(Contact the author of this article, Commuter editor Chris Devlin: firstname.lastname@example.org)