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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Out Of The Blue

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday July 23, 04:47 pm
Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Radiation Flowers

Photo Credit: Travis Cole


Saturday 25


Powder Blue is releasing a new album! Well, kinda — but not really. It’s complicated.

As some of you may have already heard, Powder Blue is now playing and recording under the name The Radiation Flowers. It all started with a cease and desist letter from Tom Lavin of the Powder Blues Band — because, you know, someone might confuse an up-and-coming psychedelic rock band from the prairies with a mildly successful BC band that haven’t had a well-received album in 36 years (since 1983’s Powder Blues).

I reached out to Lavin to ask him why he chose to hassle Saskatoon’s Powder Blue, and his reply seemed like he had copied and pasted it from his own cease and desist letter. It was friendly, but a tad threatening to say the least.

I simply pointed out our use of the name internationally for the last 37 years,” Lavin told me over email, “and asked them nicely if they would consider a name change because I felt litigation would be costly and a waste of time and effort. They agreed.”

That’s kind of how his first letter [to us] was, too,” says Shelby Gaudet from the newly christened Radiation Flowers. “Very professional-sounding, like they were going to take legal action if we didn’t change the name. It was friendly, but it was real. And it’s like, we don’t have money for lawyers, so we didn’t really have a choice, I felt.”

At the time they took it seriously, but they also had a good laugh over it. And because there were line-up changes happening in the band, it was as good a time as any to make a name change. That said, while Lavin surely had a leg to stand on legally — and while The Radiation Flowers took it in good spirits — it still had an adverse affect on a young band just trying to get their music out there.

It sucked because we had made a CD to go to Europe,” says Gaudet. “It was right before we went to Europe the second time. We had just made a second little Powder Blue EP; that’s why half those songs are on this album. We thought, ‘Well, if we’re going to change our name we’ll just stop making this CD and make a full-length under the new name.’ We had just ordered vinyl of our first [album] too, so we were stickering over Powder Blue, putting Radiation Flowers stickers on them.”

The band isn’t dwelling on it, so upwards, onwards and all that. The new Radiation Flowers self-titled album speaks for itself anyway. It still sounds like Powder Blue (um, the prairie psych band, not the powdery bluesy band), but it’s gotten a lot heavier and more uptempo, without sacrificing the melodies that set them apart in the first place. It’s chock full of dense guitar lines and dulcet vocals, all drenched in beautiful reverb. It’s dark, smoky, and cinematic.

It just seems more rock and roll,” says Gaudet.

New name and new sound aside, collaboration is really the biggest change you’ll hear on the record.

It may be a little bit of a new band, actually,” Gaudet says. “We have Chris [Laramee] and Jay [Allen] on those new songs. Chris played on the first six songs we recorded for this album, but he wasn’t really a part of writing them. But the last five songs, Jay and Chris helped with the writing.”

Gaudet is really enjoying the new model of collaborative writing the band is using. Prior to Powder Blue, she played in lots of bands, but that project started as a way for her to get some songs that she’d been writing out of her system. She’d written all the original Powder Blues songs herself, but she didn’t like the feeling of being somewhat unsure of herself and her writing.

I like it way better now,” Gaudet says. “It seems way more fun and I don’t have to worry, you know, do you guys like these songs? We show up and jam, and we either come up with something or we don’t. Before, I’d come to jam with a tape recording of it already made. That was kind of… it was harder for me. If somebody was like, ‘Oh, I don’t like it,’ or whatever, it made me feel a little insecure doing it that way.”

Gaudet says she has more confidence now because she knows that everyone is 100 per cent behind the songs — after all, they’ve written them together. So while Powder Blue is officially no more, The Radiation Flowers can be seen as a new entity, though fans of the original album can also appreciate them as an evolution from the Powder blue sound.

It feels good,” says Gaudet. “Different, but the same.”

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