Radkey Open Up About Being a Punk Band From Missouri, New Studio Album + More
While other acts at the festival enjoyed a beautiful day onstage, Radkey endured every band’s nightmare. During their fourth song, the sound cut out and the three brothers were left without a PA system. In true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, they didn’t miss a beat, and finished the song as if their instruments and vocals were blasting through the speakers. Check it out:
Diffuser got to hang out with Radkey for a few minutes after their set, and the young punk rockers talked about everything from growing up in Missouri to why they’re in no hurry to release their debut album. The brothers — guitarist Dee, bassist Isaiah and drummer Soloman — were in very high spirits considering what they just went through onstage.
This was my first time seeing you live, and I’ve got to say … it was awesome. Even with the snafu during ‘Feed My Brain,’ you guys owned the stage.
Isaiah: [Laughs] Thank you! Yeah, that’s never happened before.
How long have the three of you been making music as Radkey?
Isaiah: I just looked at it actually, it’s been four years and one month.
Soloman: Well, it’s July now, right?
Isaiah: So then four years two months?
Soloman: It’s four years. [Laughs]
How often do you guys make it to New York?
Isaiah: This was like our fifth time. We always enjoy it.
You’ve played all over the country. Do you notice a difference in the shows or crowds when you play New York City compared to the Midwest?
Isaiah: It just depends. It’s not too different. Honestly, we do have a better fan base in New York than we do in a lot of places. The shows are definitely crazier and more fun. The same goes for Chicago and San Francisco.
You’ve got a lot of festivals coming up, including Riot Fest and the Fun Fun Fun Fest. You’ve toured Europe and you’re gearing up for a huge country-wide run with Rise Against. Are you surprised at your growth in just four years?
Isaiah: We’re definitely surprised but super stoked. We’re thankful for any kind of scrap that we can get. I mean, we started off in a hot room upstairs in our house. To be here, it means a lot. We had never been to New York before touring.
Soloman: It feels a lot longer than it actually has been.
Isaiah: Yeah, seriously, I thought we were going on five years. It doesn’t feel short by any means.
Since your inception, you’ve released several EPs in the form of vinyl and CDs and even made a cassette tape specifically for Record Store Day 2014. Why no full-length album yet?
Dee: We’re working on it!
Isaiah: Yeah, we’re working on it. It’s done. It’ll be out in January.
Why did you wait this long to do a full-length?
Isaiah: The music business these days is more about your live show, and some people know that and some people don’t. It’s about the live show and getting your band out there. I believe if you don’t have enough [fans], which we hadn’t, that you just waste your material on a small amount of people. I think it’s worked out perfectly to release EP after EP. Now we have a good fan base after doing this tour and we’re going to put out a full-length for people to actually hear. We’re better songwriters, too, and we’re a way better band. I think we would’ve put out a lesser album if we moved too fast.
A big part of your releases is centered around vinyl. Why is wax important to you?
Isaiah: It sounds awesome.
Dee: Yeah, it just sounds amazing.
Isaiah: I feel like anyone who is into music, they get that. The artwork is a thing, the thickness of vinyl is a thing, just to hold it, you know? It’s not just a little CD you can throw away. I do like tapes, too. They’re fun.
Right, and you did a cassette for Record Store Day. It was pretty popular throughout the country.
Isaiah: Yeah, I don’t think there are any around anymore. We did just repress it recently, though. Hopefully for this Rise Against tour they’ll send us some more so we can give them out!
More than just three brothers playing together, the band is a true family operation with your dad managing you. Did you always intend Radkey to involve your whole family?
Isaiah: Yeah, our dad has always been really supportive, so has our mom. It was just the obvious thing. It’s cool, they don’t work anymore and they just do this.
So you guys are doing rock ‘n’ roll full time?
Isaiah: Yeah we are, man. Pretty soon we’ll be financially stable. The full-length and tour will help. No more Ramen noodles. [Pauses] Well, we’ll still do Ramen noodles because they’re delicious. [Laughs]
Do you ever have brotherly fights?
Isaiah: Not really.
Dee: We don’t fight that much.
Isaiah: Yeah, there seems to be a pretty good understanding between us. We get along really well. We all sleep in the same room.
Do you have plans of heading to college in-between rocking and rolling?
Isaiah: No, you know, not really. I’m going to be a divorce lawyer if this doesn’t work out. [Laughs] I feel like it’s all about arguing and it would be in line with what I can do.
Did you have any worries about doing this when you started four years ago?
Dee: We were in denial.
Soloman: But we knew it had to happen at some point.
Isaiah: Yeah, we just decided we had to make it. You kind of have to be insane like that I think. You’ve got to have no other option in your head to keep yourself f—ing going.
Why punk music?
Dee: It’s just what came out.
Isaiah: When we started we decided that we weren’t going to pick any specific genre and we just started jamming. We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
Had the three of you been jamming before officially forming Radkey?
Isaiah: No, actually Sol and I started being musicians as the band started. Dee had been a guitarist before, though.
Soloman, it’s no secret that the Ramones have had a profound influence on Radkey. As a drummer, how did Tommy Ramone’s recent passing hit you?
Soloman: Oh man, it sucks. That guy was one of my top influences, that band is one of the top three influences of this band. I’ve been listening to him forever. It just sucks.
Dee: We were actually going to play a Ramones song today but decided not to.
Isaiah: We decided not to because we’re always thinking originals over covers.
Soloman: And after the whole thing happened with our sound cutting out, we were told we had three songs left so we just had to finish. The last thing you want is something else to go wrong when you’re doing a Ramones cover.
You recently wrapped up a European trek. What was it like touring in so many different countries?
Isaiah: It was cool.
Dee: Amazing, it was insane.
Isaiah: European crowds are insane. We’re a bigger band over there and they know how to get it done.
Why do you think you’re a bigger band in Europe?
Isaiah: It’s weird, man. They like rock music more. In America, people are a little stiff and try to be really cool. Europeans don’t give a f—. I mean, we have some crazy shows in America, it’s just weird. It’s such a big country, I think that has a lot to do with it.
What’s it like being a young black punk band from St. Joseph, Mo.? There haven’t been many acts like Radkey that have come out of that area.
Isaiah: [Laughs] Yeah. This one time, this place called Hammerjack’s turned our demo down because they didn’t book rap groups. That means they didn’t even listen to our demo.
Dee: This place was called Hammerjack’s. [Laughs]
Isaiah: Honestly, we never get that much s—. Usually we’re the only three weird black kids at these festivals. [Laughs] In Europe it was funny because you’ve got Haim and Franz Ferdinand and here we are, just f—ing kids.
Riot Fest and the Fun Fun Fun Fest will be the same way. Do you feel like you fit in?
Isaiah: That’s the cool thing about the music scene, man. It doesn’t f—ing matter.
Do you feel like you get support from your hometown?
Isaiah: Now, yeah, yeah we do. We did get a lot of hate for awhile. That was hate HQ for awhile, man.
Why so much hate?
Isaiah: We speak up about how we weren’t super-stoked about growing up there. There is nothing to do for young people. You can go bowling and you can go see a movie. You can’t go to clubs. You get turned down from clubs if you’re black. We didn’t have the best experience and we say it.
Soloman: They’re not big on honesty.
Isaiah: These are our experiences and if you want to hate us for them, go for it.
Dee: I think it’s jealousy sometimes, too. Sometimes. There’s not much of a music scene there.
In a recent interview, you said Radkey’s mission is to end “false rock.” What’s false rock?
[All three brothers in unison]: Nickelback.
Isaiah: By the numbers, not real, no soul, hollow. I can’t stand it. We’re going to end it if we can.