We had the good fortune of connecting with Aj Caves & Tyler Chittick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aj and Tyler, what do you attribute your success to?
Our short and boring answer is that we don’t listen to what other people tell us to do. None of this “Oh man it would be so cool if you guys [insert thing]” without actually thinking about it first and deciding for ourselves if it’s right for us or not. The long answer is that we really want to emphasize what we define as success. When we started The Tragic Radicals we decided that as long as we were having fun then it was worth it. Obviously we’ve made some changes and people have come and gone, but those changes generally were made after we decided we weren’t having as much fun as we knew we could. That’s really what it comes down to. We always strive to do more and to get better, write new material, play new venues, and get our name out there. But that’s not – nor has it ever been, really – the main driving force behind our band; not the measure we use to determine success. We don’t go out and try too hard or get discouraged that we’re not signed to a label or any of those things. Those are all goals that we work towards, but not our definition of success. We just try to bring something unique and different to the scene, and everything else sorts itself out. We don’t have to go out looking for shows, people call us. We’ve released a couple of albums that people really enjoy, and have paid real money for. That sounds successful to me. We’re not bound by anything or anyone telling us what to do, and we don’t have any interpersonal drama either. We just write music, go out and perform it, get calls back, make friends, play some awesome venues, and generally are rockin’ and a-rollin’ and a-whatnot. And we have tons of fun doing it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Tragically Radical – The Real Story Of The Tragic Radicals And then, there were two….How many bios does one band need? If you ask the two remaining members of The Tragic Radicals, apparently several. A four year revolving door of band members has brought guitarist, Aj Caves, and former TR bassist, turned drummer extraordinaire, Tyler Chittick, to one conclusion; less really is more. Rewind to the chilly month of January, 2016 in Fullerton, CA: The rock band soon to be known as The Tragic Radicals was born. Since the recent disbanding of her all-girl rock group, The Slivers, Aj, bored and bandless, turned to Craigslist, to scout out musicians for her next (and hopefully more successful) band. With a little diligence, it wasn’t too long before drummer, Nathan, bassist, Tyler, and singer, Cassidy, were assembled, auditioning in Aj’s living room. The band began rehearsing there weekly, and the four-piece picked up and put their scent on, roughly, a dozen of Aj’s existing songs, came up with a suitable moniker, and were hitting stages within a couple of months. Over the next few years, the group played steady gigs, recorded two EPs (one unreleased), and also underwent numerous personnel changes. Fast forward to late August, 2019: Two singers, four drummers, and nearly one hundred shows later, The Radicals found themselves tragically (or not so tragically) half the band they used to be. Having recently become a three-piece after letting go of their second (and last) singer in June 2019, the band was surprised to see their summer filling up very fast. The new formation of TR soon was gaining momentum as an instrumental act, and was booked solid through the end of August. Promoters were all over them. They were playing venues anywhere from the Sunset Strip to Long Beach, to Orange County, an exciting and unexpected turn of events for a band who was fully anticipating a struggle booking gigs without a vocalist. In a matter of six weeks, with nearly a dozen shows down, the band was nearing the end of their stretch, with only two left on the calendar, both of which at The World Famous Doll Hut in Anaheim, CA. The first of the two shows was one they’d been preparing for. A Saturday night prime slot with a stacked bill, this was an excellent opportunity for The Tragic Radicals to earn some decent exposure, as it promised a great turnout. They did not predict the departure of their drummer on the day of the gig. Though blindsided and disappointed, indeed, the show must go on. No stranger to flakey musicians, the feeling of déjà vu was setting in for the two longest running members of The Tragic Radicals as they had hours to prepare for their performance as a duo. This was not the first time Aj and Tyler had been forced to curb their act on short notice. If one thing has remained constant in TR, it’s etiquette, and there would be no backing out of shows due to the lack of professionalism from other members. Put on the spot, the two would naturally resort to just guitar and bass, jokingly dubbing these modified performances as their ‘Almost Acoustic Christmas’ shows; for whatever reason, this seemed to happen every December, coincidentally. Even though this was far from their first rodeo, it was clear they began to silently doubt their abilities matching the caliber of the lineup that night, fearing the intensity of their sound would suffer without drums. Consultation between the two was unnecessary as Tyler posed the idea of ditching the bass, and playing drums instead, and without debate, the musical arrangement was settled. Guitar and drums. With a packed house, surrounded by many semi-famous musicians, the nervous pair took the stage at The Doll Hut that night, hoping to make it through their set semi-painlessly. The crowd’s growing audible response as each song was played, as the room began to fill, would mark the beginning most successful incarnation of The Tragic Radicals yet. In the months following their impressive, pivotal August performance, The Tragic Radicals would have a new look, a new sound, and a new following. Not to mention, new opportunities. In a very short amount of time, they found their calendar packed once again, filled with not only gigs, but appearances on podcasts like Taxi TV, The Flabby Hoffman Radio Show, Die Laughing Records Radio Podcast, and C4OC’s House of Metal Radio Show. Somehow, they’d managed to achieve more in a matter of weeks than they had as a full band in almost four years-time. Excited and encouraged, finally The Radicals began reaping bigger benefits after years of hard work. And so it goes, with success comes some criticism. Now and again, skeptics who can’t seem to wrap their heads around how a two-piece, instrumental band, with no vocals or bass will argue that TR cannot compete with the live sound capabilities of a traditional four or five-piece rock band. Aware of the criticism, the pair has had much to prove when it comes to their live act. Eliminating the vocals and bass does present some challenges, but the two-piece is adapting quite well, crafting clever songs with shortened or modified arrangements to make up for the sounds of absent band members. For years Tyler and Aj were frustrated with TR’s inability to expand their song catalog. Due to the constant rotation of members, it was nearly impossible to write new material at the desired pace. Relieved of aforementioned obstacles, The Tragic Radicals are rapidly writing new songs, and are preparing to record and release new music by January 2020. The creative process requires a slightly different approach now, but Aj’s melodic riffs and ability uniquely arrange songs to replace lyrics is a major asset to the band. Playing through both guitar and bass amps on stage, she maintains her distinct guitar tone while incorporating low end to fill the void of Tyler’s missing bass. Accompanied perfectly, Tyler lends emphasis to accents and dynamics, drumming as though he was playing bass. An incredibly versatile musician, capable of mastering numerous instruments, his skills and flexibility allow him to keep up with Aj’s frequent song reworking and tendency to experiment with time changes. The two manage to captivate audiences with, not only their blatant chemistry, but their genuine, intense stage presence, and roll with the punches charm.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are too many places to choose from when you’re talking about exploring LA. As a band, I think we’d likely include the Sunset Strip in our outings. For live music we like to frequent The Rainbow Bar & Grill, The Whisky A Go-Go, and The Viper Room. And in downtown, The Redwood is definitely one of our favorite venues to both play and hang out. For grub, after hours at Canter’s would be a must. We also are big beer consumers, so some breweries would be on the list – Golden Road and Firestone are a couple that come to mind. Should it be baseball season, you might see us at a Dodger game. We’re simple folk. We like to eat, drink, and jam tunes pretty much anywhere!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First of all, a big shoutout to our wives Jennifer & Nataly. In addition to our weekly rehearsals, sometimes we play multiple shows per week – sometimes at undesirable locations and usually late at night. If they’re not at the show, they’re certainly supporting us from afar, and encouraging us to continue doing what we love. Also a big shoutout to Mac at The World Famous Doll Hut in Anaheim, CA. He has steadily booked us at his venue for years, and always given us the opportunity to build shows and create a broader fan base. Shoutout to Jeff Hartman, our sound guy at the aforementioned venue. Jeff ensures that our sound is always on point, and microphones clean! Kit Morris at Morris Sound in San Pedro deserves a shoutout as well. He recorded and mixed/mastered both of our EPs ‘Speaking of Talking’ and ‘T&A,’ in addition to guest drumming on a track titled ‘Baby Smiles.’ Lastly, a huge shoutout to our number one fan, Lee Norton. With the exception of a few post Covid-19 shows, Lee has travelled near and far to see us play for the last year or more without fail. We can always count on seeing Lee’s face in the crowd, which so important to us, seeing he is a talented musician himself, and overall fantastic human being.
Youtube: The Tragic Radicals – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwBdd5Mymy-MAmcfr-4-XbQ
Other: Three Song Thursday Every Thursday Night @ 6pm PST The Tragic Radicals Live Stream Three Songs On Facebook Live.
Kit Morris Sal Baxter Cassidy Tobin