“We all sleep in the same room still, and we’re old now!” says Radkey bassist/vocalist Isaiah Radke, laughing. He’s 20. His brothers/bandmates Dee (vocals/guitar) and Solomon (drums) are 22 and 18 respectively.
Off stage, prior to their gig in east London, they appear their age – their rider includes Haribo Monsters and a plate of pepper and carrot sticks (“Yeah, our mom ordered that,” Isaiah fondly rolls his eyes). Conversely, their groovy explosion of hard rock and punk evokes an older band, set on reigniting tastes for heavy, catchy music.
“Rock’s not dead so much as dying,” says Dee. “People just need to make an effort to get out there and find these bands, ’cos they’re not up front any more.”
Radkey were homeschooled in their native St Joseph, Missouri. It was a quiet town where not a lot happened. This left ample time to ingest their father’s rock records, from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Nirvana and the Foo Fighters.
“Having time to practise, do what we wanted and just be brothers and not hate each other…” muses Isaiah, “I think being homeschooled played a huge part in that.”
A diet of videogames, anime and Stanley Kubrick films fuelled songwriting sessions. Tales of teacher/student affairs, sadistic villains and “things that make you feel uneasy” blossomed.
It gives a dark undercurrent to their turbocharged live show. “Romance Dawn is based on an anime called One Piece,” Isaiah says. “I love that one of our heaviest songs is based on a nerdy anime story, but everyone still rocks out to it.”
Realising that his sons were serious about starting a band, the boys’ father juggled his loss-prevention job at Walmart with managing them. Their first gig was supporting US alt.rockers Fishbone in 2011.
“If you get that tease of your first big crowd on your first show, it’s impossible to quit,” Isaiah says. “It pushes you to keep going through the shitty shows ’cos you know how good it can be.”
Initially, age restrictions prevented the trio (all teenagers at the time) from playing in their home town. They headed to Kansas City, Lawrence and beyond, where venues were more lenient. At one show in New Orleans, someone threw a knife, thankfully not hitting anyone. “But it was mostly cool,” Isaiah says.
Now, with debut Dark Black Makeup out and increasingly big gigs stacking up, their lives are wholly absorbed in the band. Dee is learning Japanese, German and Spanish on the sidelines, and they “smoke a lot of weed”, but their drive remains unhindered.
“It took a long time to write,” nods Isaiah earnestly. “It was important that we matured and didn’t disappoint. That’s why it’s a fuckin’ thirteen-tracker, fuckin’ long as shit, heavy… We had to. After two EPs and a goddam single, it had to be big. It’s like stepping into our brains.”
FOR FANS OF: Nirvana
“It’s got to be Nirvana,” says Isaiah, “or the Ramones, or Led Zeppelin. That’s our top three for influences. Real heavy, real catchy… If you’re into those bands, you’ll like us. Our dad was into all the shit we’re into – we got pretty much all our musical beginnings from him.”