March 29, 2020

Hard-core band bows to grit of southern rock

This may be the first-time ever that a member of a hard-core band professes in print his love of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

“We’re all into southern rock,” said Radiation Year vocalist Nick Chiasson. “Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. A little Waylon Jennings.”

Listen to the Augusta-based band’s gritty, downright funky take on contemporary hard-core (as you could at their show tomorrow at the Underground in Bangor), and you’ll hear how Chiasson and crew combine those vastly different elements into one sound. While there aren’t exactly banjos and Confederate flags adorning the stage, Radiation Year’s embrace of scrappy vocals, a rebellious swagger and the occasional bluesy guitar riff sets them apart from the pack.

“It doesn’t have to do so much with the way it actually sounds, but the spirit that they were writing from. We like to combine the energy of hard-core with the jamming aspect of rock ‘n’ roll,” said Chiasson. “But naturally, we’re influenced. It has a gritty, raw rock feel. It’s hard-core with a southern accent.”

That accent comes from Chiasson, a 21-year-old Baton Rouge, La., native who moved to Maine in the spring of 2005 after developing close connections with two now-defunct Maine bands: Barium and In the Arms of Providence. Guitarist Zack Sears, bassist Seif Al-Malky and drummer Chris Sweets were looking for a singer for a new project, and Chiasson, freshly arrived in Maine, signed up.

“I’d never sang in a band before,” he said. “But it worked. I try to have vocals that aren’t screamy like in a lot of hard-core, but more like yelling, or hollering. It’s understandable. You know what we’re singing about.”

Over the past year the band has had some major shows, including opening for As I Lay Dying, the Hurt Process and Bayside, and now Radiation Year has completed its first EP: “Glamour for the Grotesque,” due out on Oct. 25. The band will play a series of shows all over New England (including tomorrow’s night’s performance), culminating with a “secret show” on Oct. 28, venue and lineup to be announced.

But you’d better catch them soon, because after this month the band plans to take three months off from touring to concentrate entirely on writing and recording.

“Oct. 28 is our last show as a four piece,” said Chiasson. “We’re going to add a second guitarist, and then we’re going to take three months to write a bunch of new stuff and work on everything. We’re going to come back better than ever.”

After that, the band plans a big tour, including a swing through Chiasson’s homeland.

“We’ll finally hit the south,” he said.

Hopefully we won’t lose them to it.

Radiation Year will play Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Underground in Bangor with the Symmetry, Signal Home, For All I’ve Lost and Ellison. Tickets are $10 and doors open at 7 p.m. For information, visit Got a band, or know of a cool upcoming show in the area? Email Emily Burnham at

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