AFTER A FIVE YEAR WAIT, RADKEY FINALLY ARRIVE WITH THEIR DEBUT.
WORDS: HEATHER MCDAID.
Teenage boredom is the source of a lot of things: wandering through the same town over and over hoping something different happens, well maintained Tumblr accounts, the search for new hobbies. The latter is what Missouri-born brothers Radkey faced, starting a band and jamming indiscriminately after traversing the waters via their father’s extensive music collection. What few may have expected was that by the time any of them reached their twenties, they’d have ticked several of the bucket list boxes for bands.
They may have only formed in 2010, but they’ve played festivals all over, toured the other side of the world, and even performed on Later… with Jools Holland. A far cry from the humble room in which they began. It’s in 2015, though, that this culminates in a definitive work of sorts; their debut album ‘Dark Black Makeup’ marks them leaving behind their home-schooled roots and discovering the world on the road.
“We wanted to do something different this time,” says bassist Isaiah Radke. “We wanted to actually experiment with some other sounds and work to our absolute limit to see what we could do.” Their musical influences broadened through this push for something new. “This time we were able to find some weird heavier stuff, some mellow stuff and some weirder things. We would jam and it would be a lot of gibberish with a melody and I would just listen to the recordings of that and we’d write lyrics to it for like hours.”
They’re open about how they grew up limited the experience from which they could draw lyrical inspiration, so the album benefits from them reaching adulthood on the road, giving their stories a legitimacy they previously guessed at. “There was a lot of made-up stories,” Isaiah notes. “We didn’t have a lot of life experience, but now we have more to write about. You hang out, you play some shows, you meet new people, you meet girls. I feel that to really write a song about it, you have to go through the bad experiences too to really draw relatable, weird stuff.”
That relatable edge they sought is tinged with a darker treatment, exploring themes from obsession and jealousy to regret and insecurity, some of which come from movies, some home-grown observations. “There’s stuff like Stanley Kubrick’s movies that really inspire the vibe, to have a few things that were pretty interesting to listen to or maybe some lyrics that would catch you. It’s things like that, just drawing people in to something that sounds sort of disturbing, so maybe you want to see it through and hear the rest of the songs, see where it goes from there.”
Their title track is about youth wasting their potential, which seems a particularly interesting topic given Radkey’s trajectory through their own teenage years. “A lot of young people these days… not everyone, but there’s just a lot of waste. It seems that a lot of people are trying to be cool and doing whatever they feel they are supposed to do. It’s like mass-produced shit. If you could just be an individual and make your own decisions, you would spend more time doing what you want to do instead of sitting around being mad at some shit. Just disconnect from whatever’s towing you down.”
Just one listen to their album showcases the leaps that they’ve made over the years. They throw musical curveballs without a second thought, surprising the listener on top of drawing them in to these more mature stories they weave. It feels like a bold statement against mediocrity. “We want you be really excited for rock music in the future. We want people to hear this and be like we want more albums like this. Like it’s rock and it’s catchy and heavy.”
There’s an element of disenchantment with the current standing of a lot of music, and that’s what they want to tackle head on: “We want people to hear it and think, ‘Fuck, finally!’” It’s a sentiment that’s evident in a live setting, and one that will dominate their sets at Reading & Leeds Festival. The brothers command attention when they’re playing from their erratic and free-flowing stage presence. You never know what’s going to happen next, but you’ll definitely stay to find out.
“We’re really excited. We did the festival tour last year and we’re really stoked to get to do it again. It’s a pretty crazy experience – we’ve never done Reading & Leeds or anything like that, so we are pretty stoked. I watch live Iron Maiden DVDs and stuff like that,” he adds, on how they prepare for taking their show to that next, festival level. “You have that archived in your brain, so you’ve kind of seen that big crowd before and you’ll make sure you won’t be really boring.”
Radkey’s live shows are notoriously raucous and well-received, so much so that it’s just as integral a part of the band’s identity as the music itself. “I think a live show is one of the most important parts of a band. We just sort of have fun and do whatever’s natural to us when we’re on stage. It feels right, and it seems to be working out.”
Working out so well, in fact, that they’re returning shortly after their festival run for a UK tour from Brighton’s Green Door Store towards the end of October through to The Dome in London on November 5th. “We’re expecting to have a really good time. Last time was incredible, the time before was amazing, so hopefully this time can be even better than those.”
It’s said that Radkey see music as a chance to articulate, a mode of pure expression, so, in its essence, what do they ultimately want to say? “Cut loose, relax and fucking party. Have a good time and don’t worry at all about what other people think about you and how you may look while rocking out. Just enjoy it all.”