Touring the UK right now, Radkey is brothers Dee, Isaiah and Solomon Radke (you can see how their band name came about). Bonded not only by blood but also a mutual love of acts like Ramones and Misfits, the siblings’ music began to take shape four years ago. Impressive, given that they’re still so young – Dee, the oldest, is 19.
The Missouri band has been turning heads for months now, their arrival in London in the summer of 2013 coaxing many a critic to commend their fiery brand of punk-rock, the kind that blends the accessibility of Nirvana with the energy of metal, and had some commentators offering comparisons to the Damned and a sped-up Black Sabbath. The kids are, evidently, alright. And some.
Clash caught up with Isaiah at his home in St Joseph, Missouri…
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How’s the music scene in Missouri?
The music scene is pretty cool in Kansas City and stuff, but where we're from, in St Joseph, it’s definitely lacking quite a bit. It has potential, but it’s just not super great. As we weren’t really allowed to play any of the venues in the beginning we had to branch out pretty quickly to Kansas and Lawrence, and wherever else that would have us.
How long ago was your first show?
We’ve been playing for about four years so far, and our first show was March 15th 2011, when we opened for Fishbone. We were super lucky to get that gig.
When you were in the UK in 2013, you appeared on Later… With Jools Holland. What was that like?
It was definitely one of the most stressful days of our lives. It was great, just really nerve racking! The way they film it is definitely interesting, it's really cool how it’s like one big concert kinda thing. We were not really able to relax until our songs were finished! We can tell that UK audiences have an appreciation for American guitar bands, definitely.
What about your writing process… How does a song start for Radkey?
The writing process is different almost every time. Like, sometimes Dee or I will have a riff or a melody idea. Or sometimes it’s like a random jam session – we try to [explore] as many songwriting processes as we can. We never really set out to sound a certain way – we just let whatever comes out come out.
Is it true that you get much of your inspiration from film, and anime in particular?
We all are pretty into that stuff. ‘Romance Dawn’ and ‘Spirals’ are songs actually written about anime.
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Radkey, ‘Romance Dawn’
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Does your enthusiasm for film end up dominating your songwriting? Are you able to write a song with a strong image in mind, and approach it as a way of telling a story, almost?
Sometimes it does. Like, we definitely like writing a story and that definitely takes a huge part. ‘Feed My Brain’, for instance, was just a story of mine before it became a song. We’ve definitely seen different sides of ourselves come out from the music, so that’s actually really cool how music can extend you in a way.
Do you feel like commercial success is something you’re not massively into? I mean, even if it wasn’t for the international recognition, do you think you'd still get a real buzz from what you do?
We don’t have day jobs or anything. We pretty much listen to bands and practice for ‘studying’. If we did get commercially successful that’d be pretty cool. We’re open to it as any band’s dream is to have as many people hear and love their music as possible.
Your latest EP is ‘Devil Fruit’, which wasn’t recorded in the same space as the previous EP, ‘Cat & Mouse’, was it?
No, we did it at this really cool studio in Kansas City called Element. Really cool spot. Pretty much everyone in the KC music scene has recorded there, so we thought we’d give it a shot. KC has some really cool spots, like The Riot Room and The Record Bar. It was pretty big to start really branching out. It’s felt overwhelming at times, but we mostly just try to enjoy every second of what we feel really lucky to be experiencing.
To go back some time, when was it when you realised you could do this stuff – that you could make a band work?
It was after Dee used my bass, which I didn’t play at the time, to fill in for a cover band. Once the show went… Well, I was like. “I wanna play my bass, let’s start a band.”
And when you’re on stage, what goes through your mind? How do you retain this focus and do you kind of have to get into another place to perform?
I do go to a different place, as the stage is a pretty strange spot. It really lets you get deep inside yourself, somehow.
Who really ignites something in you as a performer?
John Entwistle is definitely a hero of mine. Nirvana and The Beatles are the same way with us.
You’ve done some covers, including songs by Patti Smith and OutKast. Would you do anything by Kurt?
Yeah, we’d be into doing a Nirvana cover, it just can’t be anything too iconic from them as we’d never be able to do it justice. Same with The Beatles.
Is it a crazy responsibility knowing that you might be an influence to others?
We’d definitely be into being role models, if we could encourage more young people to play rock music that’d be amazing.
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Radkey, ‘Feed My Brain’
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Words: Melz Durston
‘Feed My Brain’ is released as a single on March 3rd, backed by a cover of Faith No More’s ‘Digging The Grave’. The EPs ‘Devil Fruit’ and ‘Cat & Mouse’ are out now. See Radkey (website) on tour in the UK as follows.
28th – King Tut’s, Glasgow
1st – The Cluny, Newcastle
3rd – Night & Day, Manchester
4th – Louisiana, Bristol
5th – 100 Club, London