Radkey has been a touring band for four years, playing festivals, appearing on TV and radio shows, and earning acclaim from music media all over the world.
In those four years the band has released two EPs: the five-track “Cat and Mouse” and the four-track “Devil Fruit,” both issued in 2013.
For two years Radkey’s fans have been clamoring for a full-length release, and the band has been itching to get one out. That day is almost upon them.
On Aug. 21, the trio of brothers from St. Joseph will release “Dark Black Makeup,” a 13-song recording that puts the band in a new light.
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“We experimented with other kinds of vibes this time,” said bassist Isaiah Radke, 19. “When we started putting stuff out, we were really curious about how people would take it. The response has been really cool. We are really excited about how people are really into our more mature sound.”
Radkey has been playing songs from the record live and has released three of its tunes as singles: the title track, “Parade It” and “Love Spills,” which debuted on “Beats 1,” the radio show by Zane Lowe, former radio DJ at BBC Radio 1 and a big Radkey fan. The next day, Radkey was on the front page of iTunes.
AfroPunk.com called “Love Spills” “electrifying,” and the song generated more than 180,000 Spotify hits in its first 12 days.
A YouTube viewer wrote of “Dark Black Makeup”: “You guys are getting better all of the time.”
Earlier this year, Vice.com posted a story about the band with the headline “Radkey are a little older but sound just as rad on their new song ‘Parade It.’”
“Dark Black Makeup” was recorded in San Francisco and Sheffield, England, with producer Ross Orton, who has worked with Arctic Monkeys, the Fall and Jarvis Cocker. Isaiah said Orton was a catalyst in the band’s new direction.
“We took ‘Love Spills’ to San Francisco, and it was a lot faster,” he said. “Ross said, ‘Let’s slow it down and see what it sounds like.’ So we did, and it was like ‘Holy (bleep). We can make a song that sounds like this.’ After recording those songs, as we were writing the rest of the record, we said, ‘Let’s write more weird stuff.’ We didn’t want to repeat ourselves. We didn’t want to sound the same.”
At the time the brothers were listening to a lot of stoner metal and 1980s pop and new wave.
“Some Eurythmics, Duran Duran,” Isaiah said. “For some reason, that song ‘Putting on the Ritz’ blew our minds, how you take lyrics like that and make them flow. Also a lot of stoner metal — heavy stuff with melody. We started doing Radkey’s version of that.”
After recording the first few songs in San Francisco, the band took time off to write some more.
“We asked Ross how many songs he’d like, and he said, ‘Oh, like 10.’ And we were, ‘Uh, OK?’ He could tell we were surprised. He asked if that was too much, but we said, ‘If you believe we can write 10 songs, we’ll do it.’”
The intent was to take their music in different directions, but the writing process was organic and not forced, said drummer Solomon Radke, 17.
“We just started jamming,” he said. “That’s how a lot of the songs came out.”
“People have been asking us for a while for longer solos,” said guitarist Dee Radke, 21. “We finally deliver on that.”
“We didn’t sit down and say, ‘OK, now we need some slow songs,’” Isaiah said. “We just tried to go to a lot of different places. Everything came naturally.”
So did the recording process in Sheffield at Orton’s studio. The band spent two weeks finishing the album, and the time went by in a flash.
“It was the coolest experience,” Isaiah said. “We’d never spent that much time just waking up and messing with our music and hearing it sound so cool. We didn’t really take any time off. Every day was like a day off. And then all of a sudden, the record was done.”
Isaiah said the recording process produced something more than an album he’s proud of.
“I finally learned how to get a good bass tone,” he said. “All the equalizer stuff, mids, highs and lows — I finally know what sounds good for our band instead of just like, ‘Eh, here’s the bass.’ Working with Ross made me a better musician.”
Back to touring
Recording occupied much of the band’s time in 2015, so the touring schedule has been light. It is starting to pick up and is about to get much heavier.
Radkey recently did shows with Jane’s Addiction, Fu Manchu and Flogging Molly. After the Jane’s Addiction shows, guitarist Dave Navarro tweeted: “@Radkey is an amazing band! Check them out ASAP!”
“Fu Manchu was great,” Isaiah said. “They really inspired the record. Flogging Molly was great, too. They really took to our music. Their fans were awesome.”
Friday night, Radkey will headline a show at the RecordBar. Then in August it will do nine shows in Europe, including the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium on the day “Dark Black Makeup” is released, and the Reading and Leeds festivals in the United Kingdom.
After that comes a headlining run in the United States. Then, starting in October, the band will do 18 shows in Germany, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Britain.
Fans will get a large dose of “Dark Black Makeup,” a record that bears a variety of sounds: pop metal, thrash metal, pop punk, hard-core punk and flashes of new wave and post-wave. It all adheres to the band’s fundamental sound, which is heavy but catchy.
“As long as a song is catchy, we’re happy to go anywhere,” Isaiah said. “Most people want to rock out hard and remember the song and sing along. That’s what we like to hear, so that’s how we write.”
Radkey will perform Friday night at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Amanda X, Spirit of the Beehive and Gnarly Davidson are also on the bill. Show time is 9 p.m. Tickets to the 18-and-older show are $12-$15 and are available at TheRecordBar.com.