Every cause needs an enemy, an antithesis that justifies why said cause is worth following in the first place. Radkey, a trio from St. Joseph, Mo., have found and named their antagonist. “We are three brothers,” reads the band’s Twitter bio, “on a quest to help save the world from false rock.”
But Isaiah Radke has trouble specifying what exactly qualifies as “false rock” and why Radkey is its opposite, but he confidently reinforces the premise anyway. “I don’t know if I can really describe it,” says the 18-year-old bassist/vocalist. “It’s just, like, the whole vibe of not real. It disgusts me. Stuff like Nickelback and Shinedown and shit like that … We think by playing real rock music, people will hear it and be like, ‘Well, OK, we’re done listening to this crap.’ [Our] attitude’s totally different. I just feel like we’re coming from more of a genuine place.”
In more specific terms, Radkey—which also include guitarist/vocalist Dee Radke (age 20) and drummer Solomon Radke (age 16)—strike back at “false rock” with melodic garage punk. When questions about inspiration come up in interviews, the group name-drop a slew of big-league rock outfits—including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Green Day, the Misfits and the Ramones—but it’s really only the last couple of names on that list that prominently color their style.
The sound of Radkey’s new EP, Devil Fruit, released in October, is tuneful, straightforward and produced to carry some grit, with the vocals clearly drawing from the Glenn Danzig school of croon-shouting.
Radkey’s origis trace back to summer 2010, when Dee, the band’s veteran musician, received an offer to fill in as bassist for what Isaiah once called “some shitty cover band.” Dee joined the group, but Isaiah wanted his piece of the music-making action, too. “When [Dee] started playing the bass and stuff, it was like, ‘Man, he’s getting all this attention. I want attention, too. Let’s start a band,’ ” Isaiah says good-naturedly. Dee agreed to join his brother in their own project, taking up guitar to let Isaiah cover the bass. Solomon learned the drums to join his siblings.
In March 2011, the young group experienced a bit of great fortune. Long-running ska-punk outfit Fishbone were playing at Aftershock, a Kansas venue about an hour from home. One of the bands on the bill dropped out at the last minute, so Radkey threw their name into the hat as a replacement. The show’s promoter called them back to ask if they could fill 30 minutes.
“We said, ‘Yes, we can fill 30 minutes,’ even though we couldn’t fill 30 minutes,” Isaiah says. “The guy didn’t ask how old we were or if we had played a show before, so we really lucked out.” Radkey managed to fill the gap by writing two songs on short notice and throwing in some stage banter.
The Fishbone show was a success, eventually leading them to bigger opportunities: playing Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn; recording their debut EP, Cat & Mouse, at Brooklyn studio Wreckroom; appearing at South By Southwest; and performing on the well-regarded BBC music program Later ... With Jools Holland.
Isaiah has big dreams for Radkey. While he wants to consistently tour and make a living this way, his No. 1 goal is to “change the world.” Ideally, he wants to be doing Radkey for the rest of his life.
“I realize that the kind of music we’re doing right now is cool and fun, but we’re not going to be locked [into it],” he says. “If we want to do something different and expand the sound or do something crazy, we’re going to definitely do that down the road—add a violin or some shit.”
w/ Black Joe Lewis, Think No Think
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Tuesday, Nov. 26, 8 p.m.
$13 in advance, $15 day of show