Bleed The Rads is the musical brain child of Philadelphia based songwriter Ryan Stapleton, formerly known as Stap3s. With his latest offering, POV, Stapleton creates a colorful sound scape that marries hopeful stories of love with brooding contemporary synth pop. The result is a masterpiece collection of love-pop electronica.
We got to spend the day in New York City with Stapleton to discuss the new record, change in alias, and songwriting in general. As a special gift to our readers, we’re giving you the exclusive ability to stream Bleed The Rads new record in it’s entirety as a companion to this interview to really set the scene. Enjoy!
Play Too Much: Why “Bleed The Rads”?
Bleed The Rads: Bleeding radiators is what you do to ensure that they are heating your home properly. I first heard this phrase when my buddies and I were looking for a new house a while ago and the owner of the one we were seeing, plumber’s crack and all in his thick South Philly accent told us he could “bleed the rads” for us in the winter. We thought it was hilarious. There’s that little story to it, but in all seriousness, POV was written from a pretty cold and isolated place, so I wanted the name to identify with and bring a sense of coziness, warmth, and comfort. It also creates, to me, an interesting juxtaposition to the music. Bleed the Rads sounds pretty tough, aggressive, and blue collar while the music is light, melancholy, and romantic. So I think it is a name that means something to me now but one I can also grow into later, as I do plan on exploring the former themes on later releases.
PTM: What’s your songwriting process like?
BTR: Lyrically, I try to use things I’ve said in conversation or things that have been said to me in conversation, as well as things I should’ve said in a particular moment or things I wish someone would’ve said to me at one time or another. A song for me usually starts with a single phrase along the lines of what I just mentioned above, and then I just try to fill in the rest of the conversation or set a scene or backdrop. And musically, I’m always noodling around with a lot of guitar or piano progressions at one time all the time. So once some lyrics get into my head, I just spend some time singing or humming the lines over some different chords until it clicks. Then it’s all about letting the song take you where it wants to go.
PTM: The digital motif throughout the album feels airy and forlorn at times, but the vocal melodies present such a positive and optimistic counter-balance. Was that intentional?
BTR: Yes, exactly! Sonically, the whole point of vocoding the guitars, synths, pianos, and other bells and whistles in these songs with a drum kit and drum machines was to leave just a shell of a mix, totally absent of any color or oomph, because I felt like just a shell of myself while writing them. And the digital harmonies I used throughout all of the tracks was just something to sort of act as my subconscious giving a little boost to my vocals and to help support me as I tried to work my way out of the rut I was in. I understand some of the flack that comes with using processed vocals, but I really did have a purpose metaphorically in mind while using them, whether someone believes that or not. Could I have just used a dry vocal on these songs? Sure. But to me the harmonies served the project the way it is was supposed to be. Rest assured I won’t use be using them on my next releases, because as my self confidence comes back I plan on stripping away and exploring new ways to slowly reveal the real me and my voice.
PTM: There’s no doubt that this is an electronic album – but there seems to be a root of traditional pop + pop-songwriting buried in the roots of the record. Who were some of your influences at the time of making this?
BTR: I guess you could say I’m into the Bon Iver’s, James Blake’s, and Francis and Lights’s of the world, but I really don’t keep up with any new music coming out. In fact I’m still playing songs regularly that came out in like the early to mid 2000s! Any new music I consume comes from a contact high of something a friend is playing, or something I hear and like in a movie or commercial. If I do hear a song that touches me, though, I’ll make sure to invest a little more time into looking for more. But there were definitely cases when I had heard a production technique or a vibe in a song that I tried to replicate in this stuff. However, it was often beyond my own capabilities. So it’s kind of funny how in trying to take something from someone else’s sound, I ended up discovering my own. And without it sounding too pretentious, having not really drawn inspiration from other artists while making POV I suppose I was simply being influenced by me and what I was feeling at the time and my own power and potential to do what I could to get it recorded, having quarantined myself off in a studio with no windows over a period of time to make it.
PTM: If you had to describe your sound in three-words what three words would you use?
BTR: This is a question that if you asked it to me in a few months, I probably wouldn’t have the same answer for you. But in the case of POV, the words I would use to describe my sound are some words that come to mind after a particularly sour break up- resentment, regret, and bitterness.
PTM: What do you want the world to know about Bleed The Rads?
BTR: Nothing, besides what I’ve put into these 12 songs.