BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Ever since forming in 2010, Radkey learned from the onset to just let the music do the talking.
In a well-known tale, the three Radke brothers – vocalist/guitarist Dee; bassist Isaiah; and drummer Solomon – were erroneously labeled and rejected based on the band’s looks alone.
“We wanted to play some local gigs in our hometown of Saint Joseph, Missouri,” Isaiah remembered. “We gave this club’s owner our CD and everything to play. It was clear he didn’t listen to it and just looked at our photo, because he told us that the club didn’t play Rap music! It kind of sucked to know that your own hometown would turn you away from gigs, because that can pretty much kill a band right in the beginning.”
The brothers, along with their parents, decided to move to Kansas City, where things eventually began to gel for Radkey. Local gigs soon turned into opening for acts like Fishbone which, in turn, led to national and international festivals. Throw in the releases of two EP’s, 2013’s Cat & Mouse and Devil Fruit, followed by LP’s Dark Black Makeup in 2015 and Delicious Rock Noise in 2016, and, well, needless to say Radkey hasn’t looked back since.
Obviously, the moral of the story is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. So let’s put the looks aside and concentrate on the music, shall we?
Clearly, it’s hard to describe Radkey. If you really choose to, the band is a mesh of classic punk rock, grunge, and modern garage rock, with hints of metal and hardcore thrown in here and there. Add some suave crooning that can go from low octaves of 25 mph to a high of 110 any time the music calls for it, pounding bass, drums, and a wailing guitar, and you pretty much have the core of everything Radkey is and could be.
Rightly so, it’s a given that the brothers find it “weird” when people ask how they, being African American, got into rock music, especially when artists from Chuck Berry to Jimi Hendrix were the roots of it.
“I’ll never get that,” Isaiah laughed. “We grew up listening to bands like Black Sabbath, The Ramones…so it’s just kind of,” he paused, “weird. Not a logical question to ask at all!”
MasterCard also believed that Radkey’s diversity was the strength of the band’s success and, along with the band, gave six other artists the opportunity to shine in the company’s “Start Something Priceless” ad campaign. The premise was to celebrate artists who overcame adversity to pursue their musical passion, complete with a commercial airing during the Grammy’s featuring the artists singing in a musical collage of Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover.”
An electronic billboard at Times Square, with Radkey looking down on the masses with a simple “Thrashers Misfits Dreamers” proclamation, was the ultimate highlight for the band.
“It was really crazy,” Isaiah said, “looking up and seeing yourself like that. As a kid, when you start a band, that’s obviously one of the things on your list of dreams. So, it was pretty nuts when it happened!”
Not to fear, Radkey didn’t allow corporate ideas of what they should be eke into the band’s version of the Bo Diddley song.
“MasterCard really encouraged us to do our own thing with the song,” Isaiah said. “We took it up a couple of notches, and they liked it!”
And things haven’t stopped there for the band. Radkey kicked off the summer by doing a small tour with Jack White, which will wrap up on June 9th, with a few off-shoot East Coast headline tours thrown in between. For Isaiah, touring with White was another dream that came true.
“I’ve been a fan of his pretty much since I was a little kid,” Isaiah enthused. “His music is just so weird, and I mean that in a great way! It’s all over the place, and then he gets that guitar going. He’s a real pioneer. It was pretty cool to get that offer to open for him. Hopefully we’ll get some new fans out of this.”
The brothers also released a new single a few months ago, “Not Smart,” self-described as “a song about our lives after moving to Kansas City and the hard grind that Rock & Roll can be.”
“It was written during a darker time for us,” Isaiah said. “We weren’t getting a whole bunch of shows. When we moved to Kansas City, we thought everything was going to be perfect right away. But things just got really, really extra hard. We had to get over that, keep going and don’t give up, no matter what.”
Isaiah said that other songs such as “Not Smart” have been written for the band’s new album. While no official release date has been offered, Isaiah stated that Radkey was hopeful it would be released later this year or in early 2019. Fans will also be treated for more in-depth themes as opposed to Radkey’s earlier works.
“We were home-schooled,” Isaiah said, “so we didn’t have a whole lot of life experience with our earlier albums. Now, we have lived a lot more, so we have more to say. Nothing is off limits – if we think we need to talk about it, we’ll do it. It’s a lot more personal; a lot more substance and relatable, but it’s still going to rock!”
Until then, Isaiah said Radkey is just “keeping the train rolling.”
“We want to just keep touring as much as possible, keep on making fans, and playing bigger and bigger shows,” he said. “We’re really excited; we want people to get into us! This is our time.”