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Radiator Hospital: Honestly Talented.

March 25, 2015

RadiatorHospital03Text by Emily Scott. Images by Jessica Flynn.

It is a quiet evening in Sam Cook-Parrott’s West Philly home. Most of his roommates are out. The 23-year-old musician is ecstatic about a book he just received in the mail. He plans on reading it while on the European tour he is about to venture on as Radiator Hospital.

RadiatorHospital01Cook-Parrot began writing music under the moniker five years ago in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He recorded lo-fi, fuzz-pop tapes, handed them out to friends and formed the band around that material.

“I think of myself as a record collector and fan of music first,” Cook-Parrott says of his influences, which include Paul Westerberg of The Replacements and Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers. “I just try to take in as much music as I can.”

Cook-Parrot grew up in a musical household. His father, who clearly passed down the affinity for vinyl, was a radio host throughout his life and now works at a record shop. As an avid record collector, his dad makes most of his income flipping records on eBay, Cook-Parrott says.

In Grand Rapids, Radiator Hospital, which is named in honor of an auto body garage in the city, had a decent following and released several different tapes and a 7-inch titled I Want to Believe through current drummer Jeff Bolt’s label, Stupid Bag Records.

Bolt, who also plays drums in Swearin’, moved to Philadelphia first and Cook-Parrott joined him a year later in September 2012.

For Cook-Parrott, Philly is a bigger city and a bigger scene than his hometown of Grand Rapids.

“I was feeling restless, like I needed to go somewhere else,” Cook-Parrott says.

“We always wanted Sam to come to Philly and do Radiator Hospital more,” says bassist Jon Rybicki, who moved to Philly from Cleveland three years ago.

Rybicki had known Bolt for several years from playing in other bands. When Rybicki heard of Cook-Parrott’s upcoming move, he messaged him saying they should play music together when he touched down. Bolt is dating current guitarist Cynthia Schemmer and thought she would be a good addition to the band. Everything fell into place quickly for Radiator Hospital since the band was set and prepared prior to Cook-Parrott’s arrival.

The music-making technique behind Radiator Hospital is like a manufacturing process: Cook-Parrott writes the lyrics and his respective guitar parts and then passes it all on to the band to add their work to the mix.

In September 2013, Radiator Hospital released its first EP as a Philly band, Something Wild. It was a collection of tracks that were either solo work of Cook-Parrott or full-band tracks. The band released their latest record, Torch Song, in September 2014. It marked a cohesive sound for the entire band and received a four-star rating from Rolling Stone, which was something they could legitimately show their parents who see what they’re doing as “unconventional,” Schemmer says.

“I think Sam branched out a little bit in his songwriting and there were different things going on that weren’t in Something Wild,” Schemmer says of the new album.

Radiator Hospital went on a full U.S. tour this past summer by themselves and ran into minor problems, like their week-old van breaking down 40 minutes into the trip. An alternative venue on the tour was a driveway in East Los Angeles with girl-punk duo Girlpool. It was packed, with at least 125 people, Rybicki says.

RadiatorHospital02But one of the band’s almost unanimously agreed upon favorite shows was underneath an undisclosed Philly bridge where they turned on a generator and played shorts sets at midnight with Big Eyes and Tony Molina.

Cook-Parrott got back in February from his first venture on a European tour, opening solo for fellow indie-pop act Waxahatchee. Nothing is set in stone for the future of Radiator Hospital, but Cook-Parrot says he is always writing songs, so a new record can be expected before the end of the year.

It is pretty clear that nonconformity in the music industry is a parallel wave of success for Radiator Hospital. They are making music the way they want, with no strings attached.

“It’s very DIY for someone to not want a PR person or a manager or a booking agent,” Schemmer says. “To be a band that doesn’t have any of that and to be where we are is definitely an accomplishment.”

The members of Radiator Hospital take the term “DIY” seriously as Cook-Parrott strays away from working with booking agents and labels.

“There are no advertisements for Rad Hos records,” says Bolt.

Cook-Parrott is inherently open about his opinion on the music industry and recently published a letter on his WordPress addressing his sentiments on Radiator Hospital garnering attention recently.

“I just think the way you present your music is really important,” Cook-Parrott says. “I just want to present ours in as honest of a way as possible.”

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