In the opening lines of its self-penned bio, local pop-punk band Air Raid Anthem compares its sound to “the feeling of eating Pop Rocks while drinking soda.”
“It sounded good at the time,” says singer/guitarist Justin Harker, laughing. “It really can be a process of making mistakes and learning from them.”
If that’s the case, consider the members of Air Raid Anthem—Harker, keyboardist Courtney Ballard, bassist Spencer Valerio and drummer T.J. Wheeler—quick studies. The group recently released a six-song debut EP, Ready to Get Sweaty, which bubbles over with energetic, synth-tinged power-pop, the radio-ready polish of which defies the band’s relatively short existence. Part of that may have to do with the producer of the disc, Upland, California-based Justin Powell, who’s also worked the boards for such bands as The Cab, A Thorn for Every Heart and We Are the Arsenal.
“[Powell] came highly recommended,” Ballard says. “We had been looking around and were very impressed with the end results he produced with other bands. He did amazing work for us and taught us a ton about the recording process. We’re extremely happy with the end product.”
That satisfaction has led Air Raid Anthem back to Powell, whose studio the band visited last week between Southern California gigs to begin planning its first full-length album.
“We are still trying to discover what works best for us when it comes to mixing our writing process with the studio work,” says Ballard.
Air Raid Anthem has built a solid following in less than two years, earning a reputation for enthusiastic, spot-on performances that’s helped land opening spots for such national acts as The Matches, Until June and National Product. “Every member is 100 percent dedicated,” Harker says. “The performance quality of our live show really sounds like the EP. We put a lot of work into making sure we sound good live, and the fans have noticed. We believe we have a product people can connect to and will enjoy.”
Air Raid Anthem is not simply about producing a quality product, however. On songs such as “Slightly Dangerous (City of Lies)” and “Infidelity Is So Hot Right Now,” the band’s lyrics tell tales of greed, lust, superficiality and the requisite juxtaposition of heartbreak and hope. Much like Air Raid’s ’80s influences, its contrast of serious lyrics with catchy hooks and danceable beats is intentional.
“We want our songs to have depth and meaning lyrically, but it doesn’t mean we have to write depressing riffs and melodies,” Ballard says. “Music is our catharsis, so sometimes it’s going to be serious. The truth is we are fun-loving dudes who enjoy upbeat, exciting music.”
If fans of the band agree—and according to Air Raid Anthem, response to both live shows and Sweaty has been decidedly positive—then it should only be a matter of time before these four young men live up to the prophetic title of their EP’s lead track, “This Hit’s Legit.” For them, it’s all part of a plan.
“We are looking to leverage ourselves to become career musicians,” Harker says. “Longevity is very important to us, and we are here to stay.”