We don’t know if you have noticed, but there has been a serious decline in Rock and Roll over the last 10 years. If you check out the charts from the last decade you’ll realize that the music scene of the 90s and early 2000s has changed drastically. The seemingly impenetrable supremacy of Rock seems to have gone the way of disco. Ironically, disco-esque Pop, EDM, and R&B have been showing us that the tales of Disco’s death have been greatly exaggerated. But now we have Radkey.
It’s said that nature abhors a vacuum. In the space of Rock’s waning, Radkey has found a place to flourish. While we here at the Honeypop love all kinds of music, Rock and Roll will always have a place in our hearts. That’s why Radkey is so exciting for us.
For the past decade, Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon Radkey have been quickly rising through the ranks of the music industry. Since their humble beginnings in 2010, these young musicians have released four studio albums, a Spotify session, and have a fifth album on the way. With an origin story starting in a small town, Radkey is well on its way to becoming a household name for Rock and Roll enthusiasts everywhere.
Dee, the oldest, is on vocals and lead guitar, and has a deep love for Japanese culture. Solomon, the youngest, plays the drums, and is a lover of hot sauce and video games.
We had the opportunity to speak with Isaiah, the middle brother, bassist, and smooth talker. Isaiah told us the story of Radkey’s journey and shared his thought’s of Rock and Roll culture.
Did we mention that they love cats? Keep reading to learn more about these amazingly talented musicians!
From Small Town to Big Time
You recently toured with Jack White and played in some big festivals. Now you’re lined up to play in Riot Fest next year – Yet, you’re from a small town, called St. Joseph, Missouri. Can you tell us a little about that journey of becoming a local sensation to an up-and-coming national success story?
It was pretty crazy. Growing up, we were homeschooled by our parents. The movie, School of Rock, came out, and we watched that. There’s a lot of good music in there, and our dad had a lot of that music. That whole situation: The homeschooling, School of Rock, and Dad’s collections…It just made us want to start a band. So we did, and we pretty much practiced everyday.
At first, we couldn’t get a gig anywhere in St. Joe for some strange reason. Once, there was this place called HammerJack (they’re not around anymore). They didn’t book us, because “they didn’t book rap groups.” We had a demo, too. They just looked at the picture and decided that they wouldn’t book us. Luckily we were able to score a gig not long after that. A band dropped off this Fishbone gig in Mariam, Kansas, and we were able to play that opening slot. That was a packed show, and it was our first show ever. It was like, “Man this is crazy!” It took a while, but having that as the first show (one that was packed and amazing) was a really great start. We also got to play with Fishbone, and that was cool.
Later on, we ended up making it to New York for Afropunk.
It ended up getting canceled, but we were still able to do our Wreckroom session, and we recorded Cat and Mouse. That was able to spread, and it got us to South by Southwest. There we played a bunch of shows. One of which we only played to about 12 people, but there happened to be some record label people there that ended up signing us. We found ourselves playing our first show in England, which was Download Fest. We then got signed in England, and we spent a lot of time doing overseas stuff.
After a while we were able to put another album out. We ended up charting on Billboard, which is always a big dream – in the active Rock Billboard I should say; not the general one. So that was cool! We were able to spin that into getting that Mastercard campaign, and that’s what led to the Jack White gig. Things just kept rocking.
We read that it was your father’s albums that introduced you to Rock and Roll – who was the artist that started it all for you?
It would definitely be Nirvana, Weezer, and the Foo Fighters – bands like that. We listened to musicians like Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Led Zeppelin, The Who – and The Beatles obviously. Those are pretty much the big names of our influences.
Do you have any artists (dead or alive) that you would love to collaborate with?
It would probably be Rivers Cuomo. We took a huge inspiration from their [Weezer] big choruses, and it would be cool to see what he could bring to the table as far as harmonies and stuff like that. We really love that kind of thing.
What’s the deal with all the cats? We’ve seen them all over: your social media, on your album covers, and as song titles.
It’s crazy!!! We’ve had cats ever since we were little, and we NEVER stopped having them around. They’re a huge inspiration. They just keep you going, keep you busy, and keep you company. We’re really insane cat people so it was inevitable that it started leaking into our music, lyrics and artwork. We even have a Radkey Cats Instagram page, and stuff like that. We had a LOOOT of cats at our old house. It was really crazy there for a minute. We have four cats right now, because that’s the legal limit in Kansas City, which is kind of a bummer.
Is Rock and Roll Dead?
We’ve been finding that Rock and Roll has faded from the mainstream a little bit. Some of the bigger names in Rock are from the old Warp Tour days, but have found ways to stay relevant. Other “Rock” bands use other genre influences that don’t quite make them a traditional Rock band. Why do you think Rock is not as popular as it used to be?
I think part of it is that the culture doesn’t help. The culture of “you need to know all this, or you’re not an actual fan.” It X’s out the possibility of a casual listener in a lot of ways. For example, if I’m wearing a Ramones shirt, and then someone says, “Do you actually know the music?” Who cares?! That’s okay! Bands like Fall Out Boy? There’s something for everybody there, and I feel like that’s something that’s important.
For our album, No Strange Cats, we specifically said, “we’re going to rock out SO HARD, but you’re going to be able to dance to it!” It’s possible, and it’s not widely known how possible it is. You CAN actually make a rock song that’s produced like a rock song, and you can also fully dance to it. That’s a lot of what we were trying to do with No Strange Cats, and we got a lot of new fans from that. Who doesn’t wanna mosh, and also have a dance party? That’s the kind of thing people want.
All of these new rappers are keeping things SO interesting in their music, and it’s not so one-note generally. I feel like a lot of Rock can be one-note, and it can’t keep people’s attention. I like bands like Highly Suspect, because they sound a lot like Soundgarden to me, but in a fresh way. They have samples and stuff like that, and I think that’s really cool. That’s why they have a lot of fans; they try new stuff and keep it interesting. I think that’s a part of the deal.
Do you think Rock and Roll as more of a genre or as a culture & mindset?
I wanna say it’s a culture & mindset. Obviously, there’s the sound. However, there’s a lot of the new Tyler, the Creator album that I think rocks so hard. I think it’s a vibe. The same with Punk. People call The Clash punk. However, I don’t hear a lot of Clash songs that sound like the Ramones.
Punk to me means whatever you want to do, and honestly – Rock is like that too. That’s what Rock and Punk means to us. You do whatever you want, and throw some guitars and drums in every once in a while.
The Colors of Rock and Roll
People often think of three different stereotypes when they think about Rock & Roll. There’s the old, vintage Elvis Presley stereotype of rock and roll. There’s the long-haired, classic rocker like Queen or Led Zeppelin stereotype, and there’s also The Pete Wentz with guyliner and girl jeans emo, pop-punk stereotype. However, people don’t often think about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Queer, Black woman who started Rock & Roll in a church. They don’t think about Big Mama Thorton or Chuck Berry, and these are the people who started Rock in the first place. Why do you think Rock and Roll is not considered a more ethnically diverse genre and culture?
Yeah, it definitely is. Something happened, though. Something happened, and there were some walls that were put up, You know? Things got weird. There was a switch. One of the main questions we got coming up was, “How are you guys not rappers?” Like, how is that a question? Didn’t we start rock? What happened to where that’s a question? That’s so trivial. Something happened, and it became harder for black people to be big rockers. We’re out there, even though it seems like we’re not.
It was not easy coming up, especially with other young, black rock bands out there at the time we were coming up. Generally, only one band gets to be in the spotlight, and that’s because we’re all considered the same. We would lose commercial gigs because we were being used as leverage for other young, black rock bands. It was pretty intense.
I’ll never forget. There was a car commercial we were supposed to get once, and it turns out we were just being used as leverage for another same-age, bigger-name, young, black rock band. It was devastating.
Do you think being black has made it harder for you to succeed in the Rock and Roll world?
It was definitely difficult. I’m not sure how much it was really hindering us. Whenever we could get our stuff out there (like when we were on the radio) it would BLOW up. When our video of ‘Cat & Mouse’ got out there, it got us signed. It was always about just trying to get that first thing out there. It was never a problem once people saw us. There was just a problem understanding it; especially when we were trying to get signed. It was just the initial of people not understanding what you are, and was like, “Hey, what is this?” It’s just a rock band.
The Future of Music
Where do you think the future of music is heading? What trends do you see rising, and what trends do you think are dying?
I think organic sounds are coming back; making your own samples, and things like that. I know that we’re keeping it pretty organic. I’m hearing it a lot in music, too. I don’t know too much about the future, but I do think there’s a good future of interesting music still on the horizon.
Are there things that you would like to change about the music industry?
Just the fact that you can release your own music these days, and kind of take it in your own hands – That’s pretty cool! You’re getting a lot of artists that are getting kind of big from that kind of thing. I think that’s awesome. If more of that happens, then it wouldn’t matter what happens with the record industry. That’s especially if you have people putting out their own high-quality music. Things could change quite a bit.
The Last Couple Questions
Do you have any fun or crazy fan stories that you’d like to share?
Oh yeah! People recognize us sometimes. We know a few bands, and we go see them live every once in a while. They’ll shout us out, or give us a nod. I’ll be at Hy-Vee sometimes, and someone will be watching me, and they’ll say hi.
If you could sell out a show anywhere around the world, where would that show be? What’s your Dream Venue?
I wanna say it’s at Paradiso. It’s a big popular venue in Amsterdam, and I know Nirvana’s played a big show there. We played there once, but it was only in one of the smaller rooms. It’s a big, big popular venue. There’s big footage of Nirvana from there. It is wonderful there. There are lots of things that you can do in Amsterdam that are illegal in America; and you can play shows, and it’s great!
Disclaimer: I did not mean the Red Light District, haha!
Are there any last words you’d like to say?
Keep your ears open for our new album! It’ll probably be out around September, and we will be making our big announcement about that soon!
A very special thank you to Isaiah for spending some time with us. We’re SUPER excited to listen to Radkey’s new album this fall. Best of luck to you guys!
What are your thoughts on Rock and Roll? Are we about to see the next generation of Rock and Roll emerge? Is Radkey leading the revolution to reinvent Rock and Roll? Could person-of-color fronted bands be a potential answer to a revival of this amazing genre? Tweet us your thoughts @TheHoneyPop
Featured image source: radkey.net