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Recreation, Regeneration, Innovation: Radkey Talk 'Dark Black Makeup'

Monday, 17 August 2015 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Bands change. It's inevitable. Even AC/DC's style has slightly shifted over the years. You must, or you run the risk of becoming Motörhead. And only Motörhead can get away with that.

In their five years together, Radkey have evolved. Much like the lowly Caterpie blossoming into a beautiful Butterfree, the Radke brothers – Solomon, Dee and Isaiah – have quickly adapted to their ever-changing surroundings.

Beginning life as an amalgamation of hardcore punk influences - Misfits, Bad Brains and a dash of Pennywise - their sound soon became infused with arena-ready flourishes that Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age never thought to write. It's from that starting point that their first full length, ‘Dark Black Makeup’, unfolds.

“It was very important to us that we didn't repeat ourselves,” crackles bassist Isaiah through a dodgy phone connection, explaining the jump between the band's early EPs and their imminent debut. “We definitely wanted to keep the same energy and vibe that we've always had, but, like, we tour so much and our song-writing evolved. We listen to so much music and punk isn't the only thing we listen to.

“We were really happy to develop the skills to write these other types of songs that are more weird and heavy, because we love metal – stuff like Iron Maiden. We were listening to stuff like Depeche Mode. We were trying to listen to things that are heavy but incredibly melodic, then things like The Sword, Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age. It was really important that we got bits of everything we love for our first record.”

This band of brothers is more tight-knit than Spider Man's costume after a stint at the dry cleaner's. Radkey still share the same bedroom, they were home-schooled together and they are visibly the three best friends that anybody could have, no matter how convincing Alan from The Hangover may seem. So surely, being this close, there must be some level of sibling rivalry?

“We kind of have an understanding,” Isaiah adds, crushing any hopes of Mortal Kombat: Radkey Edition. “We want what's best for the band. If someone's saying their riff is better then clearly, y'know, it is what it is – you win! It's a good thing.

“For a lot of this album we'd just jam, then Dee [guitars, vocals] would record a load of gibberish during the jam and then I'd listen to it and write a bunch of lyrics. Then there were songs where someone said 'Hey, I've got a melody' and we'd just jam on that. It was all really smooth. A lot of hanging out.”

The tunes scooped from these jam sessions proved to be tantalising. 'Dark Black Makeup' is an eclectic beast. It's rooted in the band's punk worship, but sprouts off in a variety of directions, resulting in an uncanny racket. Some songs work very well, some less so. One particularly intriguing number is Le Song, an undeniably catchy salvo that boasts a pre-chorus unashamedly aping classic Misfits cut Vampira.

“We didn't actually know Vampira when we were writing Le Song,” Isaiah laughs. “Someone said: 'Hey, was that, like, a Misfits song?' So we checked it out and were like: 'Wooooah! That is pretty much the same!' But we decided not to change it, because it's pretty cool. If anyone makes the connection then, well, we do sound like the Misfits, so I think it's a pretty trippy kind of situation. In Dee's gibberish, it just sounded like he was saying: 'Come a little bit closer.' So that's what the lyrics became.”

Musically, 'Dark Black Makeup' incorporates a range of styles in a way that could make a funeral party crack a grin and say: “You know what? Our gran would have loved this song, she would.” Lyrically, though, it'd be morbidly apt. Lines about wasted youth, sadistic doctors, drug-addled love affairs and supervillains all rear their heads. “We love that kind of vibe, when you're happy but you're hearing lyrics about some disturbing story,” Isaiah says. “I like that kind of thing – I think it's important to pull people in with a story.”

In part, the bombastic lyrics were penned as an ode to cinematic mastermind Stanley Kubrick. When his name is mentioned, Isaiah's voice instantly jumps a semitone or twelve. A Clockwork Orange, definitely,” he replies when quizzed on his favourite Kubrick flick. “I know it's a lot of people’s favourite, but there's just something about it that really inspired me. I don't know why. Maybe 'cause it's so messed up. It inspired some really dark things. It's just how real the things were. Everything's so harsh in his movies. Like Eyes Wide Shut. That one's so fuckin' harsh. It's pretty ridiculous.”

As a young band, Radkey are bound to put the odd foot wrong. Everyone does it. Hell, Ministry's first two albums were dogshit and look at them now. While Radkey never stooped so low as to fake a British accent, there are nevertheless a few wrongs they decided to put right with 'Dark Black Makeup'.

“We were really happy to do another version of Romance Dawn, just because we felt the song needed to sound a lot bigger than what we'd got initially,” Isaiah says of the track from 2013's 'Devil Fruit' EP. “Our vision was for it to be sonically huge, so we were glad to go back to it. There's definitely things you look back on and wish you'd gone for a different tone or something. But back in the day, you're doing it and saying: 'Woah, this is the best thing ever! I'll never think anything different!'”

The remnants of Radkey's summer will consist of relentless touring, including Reading & Leeds festivals along the way, and they've already chalked up a fair few achievements, all prior to the release of their first album. They've done Download. They've played on Later...With Jools Holland. They released a tape on Record Store Day and it sold out absurdly fast. Nobody even listens to tapes any more. Surely world domination is next on the list? “The number one thing is to rock as hard as we can and take whatever comes,” Isaiah says. “We just hope it's enough to live off so we can keep going and make as many good albums as we can.”

Radkey Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue September 01 2015 - LONDON Old Blue Last
Mon October 26 2015 - BRIGHTON Green Door Store
Tue October 27 2015 - BRISTOL Exchange, Bristol
Wed October 28 2015 - BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds
Thu October 29 2015 - SHEFFIELD Leadmill
Fri October 30 2015 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social
Sat October 31 2015 - MANCHESTER Sound Control
Mon November 02 2015 - GLASGOW King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
Tue November 03 2015 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed November 04 2015 - LEEDS Key Club
Thu November 05 2015 - LONDON Dome

Click here to compare & buy Radkey Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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