If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Radkey, it’s that they’re quite good at causing a stir. Since introducing our readers to the band in 2012, they’ve managed to cause commotions both on and offstage. It took no time at all for fans to dive head first into the Radkey racket, and they’ve gained loads of notoriety across the U.S. (and beyond). But you can’t run into any conversation about brothers Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon Radke without a heated discussion about their approach to music.
The band knows this, and says the arguments always boil down to deciding whether or not to label Radkey “punk.” Bassist Isaiah says it hardly matters, because the band’s more concerned with doing as they please. “People call us punk, and that’s cool. There’s punk elements. But if you listen to ‘Overwhelmed’ or ‘Romance Dawn,” it’s not a punk song. ‘Overwhelmed’ is the most unpunk song,” he says. “We just like to do whatever we want. We don’t want to be labeled, because then I feel like we’re forced to do one thing.”
Isaiah also pointed out that however they approach music now will have an effect on their music career in the future. “I don’t want to have to write two-and-a-half minute songs for the rest of my life. We’re not just a punk band.” Brother Dee chimes in “We’re a rock band, but we have punk elements… Alternative elements.”
Things Are Burning Up
No matter what folks are trying to label them, the band has definitely taken off. Just in the past few months, they’ve blazed through two European tours, and appeared on live television. It didn’t come without loads of media attention either. So far they’ve received high praise from NME, SPIN, MTV, and even the New York Times after just one performance at SXSW.
The boys’ father (and manager) Matt says someone from AfroPunk just happened to catch one of their SXSW sets, and the word spread like fire. “That was our worst show ever,” says Isaiah. “The sound was so bad onstage. Imagine playing a show with just all bass and treble.” Dee shared Isaiah’s sentiment about the show, one that they say attracted barely any people. “I couldn’t hear anything.”
Isaiah continued describing the nightmare performance. “At one point Dee was like ‘I can’t do it.’ We looked like a bunch of morons, it sucked because there’s nothing worse.” At this moment, their father interjected and calmed their nerves (something he does often) by reminding them that somebody obviously saw through all those performance mishaps. “They went back and spread the word, then we got emails from all these different labels, management.”
Within weeks of that SXSW performance, the band grew so popular in the U.K. that their records would sell out there before their plane ever touched down. “Getting noticed in cities is cool,” admits Isaiah. Matt sees great potential in that region. “We’re definitely going back to the U.K. multiple times throughout the year.” In just 2013, they’ve toured there twice to play multiple festivals and appear on television. They’re not limiting themselves to just the U.K. The band has their sights set on festivals in Japan and Australia in the coming year. But if you want to catch them on U.S. soil, you better head to Kansas City this Friday. They’ll be playing the Record Bar with Lawrence’s Stiff Middle Fingers and Drop A Grand.
Taking An Opportunity
After their Kansas City performance, Radkey hits the road for a long time for a string of tours. But first, they’re looking to put out an album. Once again, they’re going against the grain and breaking a few rules. “We have someone who’s backing us financially to put out our own thing,” says Matt. “Little Man Records, it’s our label.” The label is named after one of Radkey’s more popular songs. Starting their own label, instead of signing with a major one at the height of their current popularity, sounded like a good idea to everyone. “We don’t have to follow any rules,” says Isaiah. “We could put out nine more EPs if we want to.”
Keeping their own personal wants and needs is always at the forefront. The boys want to make music and tour as much as possible, and doing it the way they want to isn’t just the most favorable option, it’s the only option in their books. “It’s something I really love doing, I want to do it for the rest of my life,” says Dee. Solomon agrees. “It’s important to do something I enjoy doing for the rest of my life.”
Isaiah doesn’t see any other option. “I feel like you should try to do something really exciting with your life while you can, and I feel like I’m taking an opportunity to do so,” he says. “I’m lucky to be able to do it, to play music, so I can die with something interesting. I can tell my grandkids that I did something.”
See exactly what the boys in Radkey are capable of when they play the Record Bar in Kansas City this Friday. You can RSVP to the event on Facebook here.
Words, photos, and video by Fally Afani.