Radkey Puts Some Balls On the Sibling-Band Thing



Photo by Shawn Brackbill
Left to right: Dee, Solomon and Isaiah Radke.
We've long been subjected to a subpar lineage of brothers-based bands. The Hanson brothers had everyone singing gibberish through the '90s. The Jonas Brothers inspired rage in most folks over the age of thirteen in the mid-2000s. Now, Dee, Isaiah and Solomon Radke are taking back the brotherly trio with their aptly named punk-rock band, Radkey.

The Missouri-born brothers are rarely apart. They were homeschooled together, they sleep in the same room, and, these days, they spend most of their time traveling across country and abroad in the same tour van. But the family affair doesn't stop there. Their father, Matt Radke, is the band's manager and initial source of musical inspiration, thanks to the vast collection of punk and rock albums he shared with his kids.

Radkey has released two EPs -- Devil Fruit and Cat and Mouse -- and is expected to release a full-length early next year. We chatted with bassist and middle brother Isaiah Radke about the failures of X-Men 3, his trademark mustache and the intricacies of dropping out of homeschool.

Emily Eveland: We were told that you're the one who has to do all the interviews. Why is that?

Isaiah Radke: I am. I don't know, I think I'm just better at talking or something. I've been told to shut up enough times to know that I'm pretty good at talking.

It seems like you're in charge of a lot of the social media, too. Your face is often front-row center in the photos.

Yeah, I mean, we have to keep it going, and Dee and Saul are always around, so it's like, fuck 'em, let's do this.

Well, you've got a good mustache for it.

It's the only thing I can grow, actually. I've tried to grow a beard several times, but it doesn't work out. I feel like it works. If I had a beard, it'd probably be stupid. I think I've probably had a mustache since I was fourteen.

Now it's your trademark.

Yeah, I'm establishing this look. I can't even shave it now. How often does your age come up in interviews?

Every single one of them. It's a part of the thing that makes us interesting, so it's not really a surprise that it comes up very often.

Do you have a mass-produced answer for the question?

Yes, I do. It's like, "Blah blah blah, you don't have to be a certain age to rock, this and that." It's usually longer and more spread out.

Well, on that note, how old were you when you picked up your instruments?

I was fifteen, Saul was twelve and Dee had been doing it for like ten years or so. He did a show and it went well with this cover band, so we're just like, "OK, we're gonna do it." He started playing, Saul and I started playing, and that's when the band started. So, as long as the band goes, that's as long as we've been musicians.

What did your first couple of band practices look like?

It looked really stupid. Like, everything about it. Everything about it was wrong. Amps weren't correct. Everything was wrong. But we didn't think it was bad -- we thought it was awesome! We thought we were the shit. It was still pretty fuckin' new. No matter how good Dee was, that doesn't mean we're all gonna jell perfectly. It takes a lot of work to play together.

Did you guys start by playing house shows, or were you playing legitimate venues immediately?

It was venues immediately. We lucked out on our very first show. We opened for Fishbone, which was not really supposed to happen, but it did. So that was our first show, and we got some stuff in Kansas City and Lawrence, which has been really cool.

Is there any weirdness around your brother being in the frontman position, or have you always been cool with that?

There's not really any weirdness. I don't think Saul or I would even want to be a lead singer. There's songs where I sing lead or whatever, but I only like to dabble in it because I'd rather chill out and do shit in the back -- mess with people in the audience and stuff.

Are you guys still homeschooled?

We dropped out, Dee and I.

How do you drop out of homeschool?

Instead of stopping to play video games and then do your school, you just stop doing that all together and keep playing video games. [Our parents] get it, which is nice.

How is it spending so much time with your brothers? Do you have to find space for yourself?

Not really. We all sleep in the same room by choice. We used to have bunk beds, but now the bunk beds are split in half and I've got my own thing and we all just have three beds in the room.

Where's your practice space?

It's a room away from our bedroom. It's all upstairs, our whole situation.

Continue to page two. Do people try to compare you to the Hanson brothers? You guys kind of took back the sibling thing.

Yeah, we put some balls on it.

Can I hear a little bit of your X-Men 3 rant that's alluded to on Radkey's website?

X-Men 3, yes you can. One, Cyclops is one of the main characters of X-Men, if not the fuckin' main character, and you killed him offscreen. That's bullshit, and that pisses me off, and it pisses everyone else off that I know that actually knows what they're talking about. Anyone who likes that fuckin' movie can go fuckin' run into some fuckin' bob-ombs or some shit.

I know you can't speak for him, but do you know anything about how Dee developed his vocal style? He has a very distinctive voice.

It's just his voice, basically. I mean, it's as simple as that. He just happens to have a deep voice that works really well. He doesn't really try to get that voice, it's just how he sounds. I mean, I know that's how it sounds.

Can you tell me what an average day of tour looks like for you?

We mostly stay to ourselves. I mean, it's pretty boring, actually. You wake up, you go, you sleep in a van, you find another place to sleep, wake up, play a show, go back to bed. Same thing over and over again.

Is it gratifying in some way?

It is. I mean, I get a lot of sleep sometimes. It's great. The key to touring is learning how to 100 percent relax in any place you are, otherwise you fuckin' go crazy.

Do you have relaxation tools?

No, but there are tools out there. [Laughs]

You're returning to Europe this summer. What's the reception like over there?

It's really good. They love what we're doing. They just dig the whole American guitar music kind of thing in other countries and shit, so it's really great. Honestly, the difference is kind of insane between touring in America and touring out of the country. Everyone's favorite thing is going out of the country because they just love it more, faster.

Why do you think that is?

I think just because it's different for them. Americans, we don't think about how different we are, but we're fuckin' super different.

Do you have plans to release a full-length any time soon?

Yeah, sometime in January. I believe it's already half done. If I were to guess, there will be ten or eleven tracks. It will be focused on new stuff, like 97 percent.

Where are you recording?

San Francisco. I don't remember what the name of the studio was, but it was really cool. We did the first half. I believe all the singles are done, which takes a lot of stress off of me and everyone else, so now we just have to write weird shit. So, yeah, we'll just go back and experiment and see what happens.

What do you like to do when you're not touring?

When I'm not touring I like to catch up on movies; that's nice. I like to go to movie theaters; that's cool. Um, play the new video games because I never have time, so you just crack out on that. And, just a lot of sleeping and like hanging out with our cousins.

It's all just a big family affair.

Yeah, pretty much. I don't know, being homeschooled, we just didn't care about making outside friends. Touring does that.

Are you opening up to it though?

Yeah, I mean, we're just really weird, so it's hard to find people who are compatible. I couldn't really explain it, really. We're just not normal. I can see it, everyone else can see it. That's what I like about it though. I think it helps. I think this is the perfect job for being weird.


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