Artist Spotlight: TV on the Radio

Artist Spotlight courtesy of Bearded Garrett Dillahunt 

A kickass Brooklyn band gets a writeup by a tired guy who loves ’em to death.

When I first saw TV on the Radio live on the Seeds tour in 2014, I was excited, but I was mostly scared. After all, they say you should never meet your heroes. What if, after all of these years, they sucked? I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. Throw into the mix the fact that this was their first album since former bassist Gerard Smith’s death in 2011, as well as the fact that, while the album wasn’t out yet, reviews had been quite mixed. The reason people were dissing the new album? Because instead of busting and redefining genres, Seeds was just fun. Fun from a band who’s work always seemed to be a real crushing labor to birth. And yeah, what a drag the fun turned out to be:

I’ve never understood the writer who hates to write. I feel as if we all know this guy; He or she is the one who has un undeniable and unique voice, but the actual doing of the sitting down and putting pen to paper is like pulling teeth for them.

I’ve known people like this for whom creating is like committing to and suffering through a menacing defecation, and others who just have too much deference to the media to feel comfortable plastering it with their every artistic whim.

This is a difficult mindset for me to understand; like a lot of you, I brim with artistic ambition and feel that my language and my concepts weigh down the sublimity of my thoughts. For years I’ve lived with this concept of the two types of creation: The beautiful, painful upchuck and the joyous but often asinine proliferation.

If you also subscribe to this idea of artistic achievement, then please explain to me how the f*ck this happens:

Look, I’m not going to say that I was there with TV on the Radio from the beginning, or that I get what it was like to see them when they weren’t no thing. I, like many many young sheeple first heard DLZ, an at-the-time overlooked track from 2008’s Dear Science , on Breaking Bad season 2 episode 10, “Over”. Within twenty seconds of the track beginning I had left the room to find my laptop. F*ck Walter White, this sh*t was life changing,


The mixture of haunting vocal parts and an overall attitude of relaxation on DLZseemed completely backwards and contradictory to me. It sounded both like the song I might hear as I marched to my death and the song that would underscore my nostalgic memories of the life that came before. I had to know more about these guys.

I quickly went back through the band’s early catalogue and touched upon the gems I had missed:

This musical sound not only immediately entranced me, but flew so totally in the face of what I had come to believe about the creation of art. Tunde Adebimpe and Dave Sitek were not men who considered musical experimentation to be their artistic forte; having met while in college for visual art majors, the band became a side project fueled not by passion, but by curiosity. Tunde would later recall that he often considered his musical dates with Sitek to be a chore getting in the way of the art he was truly passionate about. Indeed, as recently as the mothership’s interview with him (… Tunde expressed his reasons for still identifying as a visual artist, despite his overwhelming critical acclaim and relative popularity with the public.

So what pushed these artists from grinding out music that they weren’t particularly enamored with ( Although even from the beginning they seemed joyous as all get out:

to the cooing, handicapping optimists of 2014’s Seeds? (Fvck you still, AVC…

Was it perhaps the addition of vocalist Kyp Malone on their first LP, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes? Kyp’s voice was airier than Tunde’s, and while not as adept at that sweet, sweet coo, it always seems to lend songs a crushing sense of gravity. While less than a quarter of the band’s material is sung by Malone, his tracks always seem to end up being my favorites on any given album.


The crux of my fascination with this band is and always has been this: How are they able to swirl together so many f*cked up sounds and ideas into something terrifying, joyous, and also danceable? I do feel as if this work is a labor for them, and one that has only recently become more genuinely peaceful for them. After all, three albums have brought them from this

to this


I won’t pretend to have some deep understanding of how music theory works, but these men are straight up mad scientists, able to weave so many influences into unforgettable tunes. I would quite actually follow their work anywhere it goes.