Radio Dept.: Clinging To A Scheme

Clinging To A Scheme
some small talk with The Radio Dept.
by Mario S. Serrano
April 20, 2011

It is remarkable how independent bands get popular. Given that they do not have the marketing machinery of grand record labels, it is really their music that finds its way to a lot of people. This is how I came to know about this Swedish band called The Radio Dept. around 2003.

People who are seriously into a lot of music would find the music of The Radio Dept. almost instantly appealing. Combing a prominent baseline, guitar haziness, catchy drum loops and infectious vocals would be a concoction for etherial dream pop. I would say that they have gotten better with every release.

And as bands get known, they become more accessible to touring. Luckily, they have visited Manila as part of their Asian route. Here are some highlights of a conversation with them.

On staying indie

Back in '95, high school friends Johan Duncanson and Elin Almered formed The Radio Dept. (taking their name from a gas station / radio repair shop named "Radioavdelningen", which means the radio department in Swedish). Band members have changed since then, however their current line up has Martin Carlberg and Daniel Tjader as mainstays. "A lot members play in our band" Johan replies. "Even Martin's sister, Lisa plays the bass for us."

After they released their first album in 2003 entitled Lesser Matters, a lot of people caught on to their music and critical success. From then, they released albums Pet Grief (in 2006) and Clinging To A Scheme (in 2010). In the process, they have gathered more followers allowing them tour more often.

"One of the best things of being in a band is to come to a city like this, to play" says Johan. And now that they are becoming 'heroes' for a lot of more recent bands, Johan explains that being "indie has always been about integrity. I wouldn't mind selling a bit more records, because it is hard to make a living as a band. (However,) we just wouldn't want to comprise anything we do in any way just to get there." I must admire them for still keeping it real.

On working with Sophia Coppola Some time 2006, Sophia Coppola released her version of Marie Antoinette, which targeted a younger audience. And as with her films, music is crucial. So, she handpicked the music for the soundtrack and The Radio Dept. were in her list.

"We were flattered and excited to do the score for Sophia Coppola, but we were also quite scared because we considered ourselves as a small band and 'making it' has never been in our own schedule. We just wanted to make music" Johan recalls. "It wasn't really that hard because we liked her films, but we hesitated a bit because we thought we would be forever associated with her, and we wouldn't stand on our own" Martin elaborates more.

As they were dealing with Brian, the music supervisor of Sophia Coppola, Johan told him that "if you can tell us what Bill Murray was whispering to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost In Translation then you can get two songs instead of one. And he replied, I can tell you for three." So the songs Pulling Our Weight, I Don't Like It Like This and Keen On Boys found its way into the film.

Unfortunately, they too promised to keep what Bill Murray said a secret, but you can search for it any time.


A lot of things happen to a band as they progress in the music scene and get better with their craft. It was really good to know that The Radio Dept. value their music over popularity and fame. It's a decision they always will make, but if they cling to the scheme adhering to true indie principles, then we are all guaranteed to have more music from Radioavdelningen.

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The Radio Department: The Story So Far