Battle of the Bands competitor The Unrelated shares positive vibes through music

The four friends that make up the band The Unrelated aren’t afraid to wear their inspirations on their sleeves — not only that, but their camaraderie is apparent within minutes of talking to them.

The alternative rock group uses various instrumental styles and ideas, which is a part of the reasoning behind its name. They recently performed at ASU's Battle of the Bands in downtown Phoenix, and have an EP, “Take One,” under their belt on Bandcamp.

Business communications senior Kris Radtke pulls double-duty as lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Originally from Oregon, Radtke said the band got its start through a series of mistakes or what may be happy accidents.

He said the band started when he met drummer and communication and marketing senior Tim Volker. Both were accidentally taking a class based on a misconception. 

“We both signed up for a class that we thought was going to be one thing, but it turned out to be a different class," Radtke said. "And we were the only two guys who were kind of related with each other.”

Volker noted the instant relation with Radtke when they initially met. 

“(Radtke) said, ‘I play music, I play guitar, I sing,'” Volker said. 

The two began to play sessions in Radtke’s apartment and found they had a similar taste in music. Afterward, Volker met drummer and anthropology junior Dain Swenson in his apartment — another “mistake,” he said.

“I left my door open because I had burnt some chicken,” Volker said, “Next thing I know, this guy in full leather and liberty spikes walks into my apartment.”

The two sat down for dinner, where Volker learned that Swenson was part of a metal band. Volker then invited him to meet with Radtke afterwards. A few jam sessions later, the three decided that they needed a bassist. That’s where molecular bio-sciences and bio-technology junior Michael Moran came into play.

For those keeping score, this was yet another “mistake.”

“I went to the wrong floor,” said Volker, who was trying to meet up with Swenson one evening. “I knocked on the same room above (Swenson’s), and this guy,” he motioned to Moran, “answers the door, and I’ve got guitar gear and a microphone with me.”

A few questions later, Moran found himself playing bass with the other three members — The Unrelated was beginning to take its shape.

The music

The band’s name came from each member’s different musical backgrounds, said Radtke. This mish-mash of styles starts off with one member pitching a song, then the rest of the members contribute, Moran said.

“Whatever direction feels more natural, the song just leans that way,” he said. 

Volker said he performs acoustic music and is trained in classical piano and guitar, but currently dabbles in funk, listing bands such as California’s Sublime, which also influences the band as a whole.

Moran enjoys Blink-182 and punk from the 1980s, and it is from him and Swenson that most of the band’s punk influences come from, Radtke said. He himself takes notes from the Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

“A lot of '90s stuff,” he said.

Swenson, who is studying abroad in Sweden, said he draws inspiration not only from metal band Iron Maiden, but other rock artists as well.

“These days, I find myself drawing inspiration from bands such as In Flames, Nightwish, Eluveitie, The Casualties and Rage Against the Machine,” he wrote.

Swenson wrote that he considers the drums the most powerful instrument in a band — one that requires not only precision but physicality.

“When your drummer screws up, everyone knows it, and if it’s bad enough it throws the entire show into chaos,” he wrote. “On the rare occasions that there is a large screw up from someone else in the band, such as a singer dropping out or a guitarist missing a transition, it’s the job of the rhythm section to hold the rest of the band together and bring everyone back into harmony."

On "Take One," the varying styles are apparent to whoever's listening. "Adderall" is the more punk focused track, with rough guitars and high energy. "Drink it Up" parlays itself with a chill vibe and strong feel-good angle.

From past to present

Aside from each member's musical influences, The Unrelated found inspiration from their individual pasts. When he was younger, Radtke's mother was afflicted with a pineal blastoma, which led to heavy medication. His father pulled much of the weight around the house.

"I wouldn't say I grew up without a mom," he said. "She always did what she could and I'm just thankful that she's alive. But growing up, I didn't really have a normal childhood mom-experience."

For Radtke, he used music as an outlet to ease his frustration and angst with the situation. He said he felt that hardcore bands like The Devil Wears Prada and moshing at the local theater in Portland helped him make sense of the situation. Today, his mother is doing better and counsels others who were in her situation.

Moran lost people close to him when he was younger, and much like Radtke, music was an outlet. He grew up in a separated family, and his mother passed away when he was five.

"It's definitely impacted who I am musically," Moran said. "When you're that young, you don't develop emotions like you normally would."

He said he has a hard time being sad or angry, preferring to express himself comedically — particularly on stage. He cites punk music as his outlet — sometimes the angry sound of the genre was a form of emotional expression.

Volker was homeschooled through high school while being raised in a musical family. His mother taught him the violin and piano, and his father played classical guitar. His brothers played instruments as well. On the cusp of his teenage years, Volker used music as a way to deal with the loneliness that came from being homeschooled.

"I'd go out, and I'd play music for four to five hours a day, and I didn't feel bothered anymore," he said.

Although they wouldn't go into detail, the band is currently writing its first full-length album. They're seeking to add new sounds to their current styles and are looking to add guests. In the future, they'd like to continue performing for a student crowd.

When talking about Battle of the Bands, Moran said, "It was like playing to our people, our constituents. It was really cool to see the positive facial reactions from people who had genuinely never heard of us." 

Radtke said it was the band's day-one goal to play for the school, but they also want to play at the Memorial Union North stage. Additionally, the band has its sights set on Coachella and the Vans Warped Tour.

Therapeutic recreation junior Amber Wiste said she enjoyed the band's sound upon listening to a selection of the album, and that she'd definitely listen to more of The Unrelated's music; specifically talking about the track "Drink it Up."

"The rhythm of the whole song is upbeat," she said. "It was not a depressed, low-key song at all."

Radtke elaborated on the band's positive style, despite each member's difficult past.

"Darkness cannot be beaten with darkness," he wrote. "Only the light can do that. A lot of people have gone through much worse and a lot of people are going through a lot right now.  We would like to represent the light in the dark for some of those people."

Related Links:

New Robert Delong album 'In The Cards' brings dance beats to alternative music

The Word Alive talks about what brought them to life in preparation for shows celebrating past albums


Reach the reporter at djulienr@asu.edu or follow @legendpenguin on Twitter

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