Consider yourself ahead of the curve if you can't immediately put your finger on Danger Radio's sound - after all, that's sort of the point. The band's sophomore EP and Photo Finish Records debut, Punch Your Lights Out, brings together more classic-pop styles and eras than a free-form radio station, while the members' backgrounds are so diverse, it's amazing they ended up on the same continent, let alone the same band. But be glad they did, because as the new tunes prove, anytime they hit studio or stage, Danger Radio stir up the sort of chemistry you can't manufacture or buy. Forget genre tags; don't obsess over individual influences: like the wise man said, these dudes are one nation under a groove.
Of course, like all nation-building experiments, this one didn't happen overnight. Despite being from Puerto Rico and Finland, respectively, singer Andrew de Torres and drummer/programming whiz Niko Hartikainen first landed in each other's orbit around 1999, during middle school in the Seattle suburbs. There, after cutting their teeth in talent shows, the pair looped in de Torres' friend and Idaho native Marvin Kunkle, and planted the seeds for what would eventually morph into Danger Radio. The band's early demos showed a rougher, punkier edge, that's mostly because their abilities hadn't yet caught up to the sound in their heads. By the time they hit the studio with Casey Bates (Gatsbys American Dream) to cut their official debut EP, 2006's self-released The Difference Between Love and Envy, DR's mix of rock, pop, jazz and funk had gelled into something much bigger.
As Punch Your Lights Out makes clear, that's no understatement. Recorded at the Tank in Seattle with Tom Pfaeffle (Gatsbys American Dream, Daphne Loves Derby), the EP nods to everything from Michael Jackson's Off The Wall (via Justin Timberlake's pipes) to Stevie Wonder's double-album epics of the 1970s, using disco hi-hats, MIDI samples, and classical/jazz flourishes (DR collectively have enough classical training to launch an orchestra) as accents. The lead single, "Party Foul," bounces and grooves with Latin-funk undercurrents and little-girl vocals (courtesy of Pfaeffle's kids), and "Slow" drops in surprisingly effective smooth-jazz piano to complement the guitarists' skeletal, squiggling guitar licks. As dazzling as it may be technically, however, the EP sounds like it was a total blast to record: Even at their edgiest - see the title track and "Sparkle Baby Shine," where de Torres' lyrics sting with kiss-offs - Danger Radio's songs flow together like a funk/pop fan's dream party mix.
No doubt, jumping onstage in front of 4,000 people (as DR recently did opening for Gym Class Heroes and Hot Hot Heat) or capturing the attention of a festival's worth of fans (as they did in 2007 at both New Jersey's Bamboozle and the legendary Seattle fest Bumbershoot) would be enough to make any band hone their live skills. As Wright explains, however, there's a lot more to DR's ethic than simple chops. "We love to play, and we love bringing together all these different ideas and sounds in our music," he says. "At the end of the day, though, we've got a pretty simple mission: We're here to have fun, and we're here to make you feel something."