Radiation City draw from doo wop, girl groups, and classic pop and rock influences and throw in male/female vocals as well as electronic touches for a sound equal parts throwback and forward-looking. Naming themselves with the idea of making music that could be found in the wreckage of a future dystopia, the group formed in 2010 with organist Elisabeth Ellison and guitarist Cameron Spies, who share vocal duties and who played together in Soap Collectors and Spesus Christ and ran D.I.Y. cassette tape label Apes Tapes. The band was fleshed out in late 2010 with the addition of drummer Randy Bemrose and, early the following year, bassist Matt Rafferty. Their full-length debut, The Hands That Take You, followed shortly thereafter on Apes Tapes, getting an expanded release on Tender Loving Empire that fall. In May of 2012, they were named Best New Band in a poll taken by Portland entertainment paper Willamette Weekly, which tagged the band's sound "Jetsons-era doo wop."
Animals in the Median, which featured the band refining its sound and included new member multi-instrumentalist Patti King, appeared in 2013. It was quickly followed by a remix album, Different Animal, which saw songs from the album remixed by producer G_Force and featured a variety of R&B vocalists and rappers. The band hit a crossroads soon after as couples began to hit rocky waters and the band ran into creative differences. It looked like maybe the band was done, but Ellison and Spies decided to carry on after some songwriting sessions went well, tapping into the kind of effortless magic earlier sessions had. With half the band in tow, they took the new songs to producer John Vanderslice in San Francisco, then finished them in Portland with producer Jeremy Sherrer. The new sound didn't discard their jet-set doo wop, but did add some slick modern R&B and pop into the mix. The resulting album, Synesthetica, was released in early 2016 by the band's new label, Polyvinyl.