Indie band competes for top recording contract

Tonight, a young Berkeley band will compete in Hollywood in a competition called “Gimme the Gig”, and, if they win, they’ll get the chance to work with legendary producer Don Was (think Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and almost any other big name in popular music, and Was has worked with them).

But Roosevelt Radio is already making waves on the indie music scene. Barely a year old, the five-member band has already produced its first album, was named “Artist of the Month” by SF Deli, and has graduated from rehearsing in a crammed living room in South Berkeley to performing at some of San Francisco’s biggest venues, including Slim’s and Café du Nord.

The band — which describes its music as a blend of Arcade Fire, Coldplay and The Strokes — was formed in early 2010. “We are a Craigslist band,” explains lead singer Ben Ross, talking about how they found each other through the online classified service. “We were unified in wanting to be a high-energy indie rock band,” he says.

Ross adds that, from the outset, the group had a determination to work hard and succeed. “We were intent on turning into a serious band, not just a garage band,” he says. Roosevelt Radio’s website testifies to their professional approach, with promotional material, demos, a video of them rehearsing their song “Midnight” and details of their upcoming gigs.


Ross is a grad student in engineering at UC Berkeley, while keyboardist Sarah Morgan moved to Berkeley after attending UCLA to pursue publishing work. The three others in the line-up, who live in Oakland and San Francisco, are Joel Line on guitar, Adrian Muccullough on bass and drummer Philip Coffin.

“We all have day jobs,” says Ross, “but we have a dream we can take it to the next level.”

In that respect, they appear to be on the right track. Their big break came within weeks of releasing a set of demo tracks that attracted the attention of producer Chris Wonzer, who has worked with Christina Aguilera and Joe Cocker among others. With Wonzer, the band recorded their debut six-track EP at two studios in San Francisco.

And what about the name? It came about, says Ross, when they were at Emeryville’s Ex’pression studios and saw a “Wanted” notice for a burglar whose name had a presidential ring to it. That set them thinking about presidential names, which led them to Roosevelt, which they liked, not least because Ross lived on Roosevelt Avenue in Berkeley at the time. “We added ‘radio’ because of President Roosevelt’s famous radio addresses which seemed right for our vintage sound and image,” says Ross.

We’ll keep you posted on how Roosevelt Radio does tonight. Meanwhile, you can catch them performing on March 2 at 9pm at the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco and on April 2 at 9pm at Hotel Utah, also in San Francisco.