March 5, 2018

Written by Andrew Gaug


DEFINITION: Adventurous or audaciously bold.

You don’t get on billboards in New York City, praised by publications like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly and perform alongside rock legends without breaking some rules.

For the St. Joseph-raised rock band Radkey, they live by the norms that they created.

Not fitting in at public school, the Radke brothers, Dee, Isaiah and Solomon, were home-schooled. Their education not only included math, social studies and science, but also anime shows and movies, superheroes and rock music.

“Being home-schooled, we didn’t have a lot of life experience. A lot of life was hanging out, playing video games and stuff. A lot of what we wrote about was comic books and movies,” Isaiah said.

Inspired by bands like Foo Fighters, Weezer and Rush, the brothers formed as a trio in their early teenage years. Before it had even played a public gig, it lucked out and scored a spot opening for one of their musical heroes, Fishbone in Kansas City.

Initially turned down for shows in St. Joseph, local venues like The Rendezvous and First Ward House swooped in and gave them a home to test out new material. In return, it premiered songs that would become fan favorites like the booming “Romance Dawn” and the soaring, riff-heavy “Cat and Mouse.”

With a few independently-produced EPs under its belt, word-of-mouth spread and before they knew it, Radkey was opening for bands like Local H, Rise Against and The Offspring.

With its debut album, “Dark Black Makeup” landing on the Billboard charts, buzz for the band grew. It was playing packed shows around the world, as well as scoring spots on giant rock festivals like Rock on the Range, sharing a bill with Metallica and Korn.

A defining moment for the band came when it performed at the Rock Allegiance festival in New Jersey, which featured bands like Rob Zombie and Five Finger Death Punch. Although it was used to performing at giant concerts in Europe, playing in front of a massive crowd in America was almost too intense.

“We opened the main stage and the amount of people was like so scary … I remember stepping out and being kind of freaked out. But it was like ‘Dude, this what you worked for. This is definitely the kind of thing you can’t be scared of,'” he said.

A lesson was learned, as Isaiah said: “If you keep rocking well, all that can happen is you keep getting bigger.”

“Bigger” is a great way to describe the band’s experience in 2018, starting off with being chosen for Mastercard’s “Start Something Priceless” campaign, which highlights artists whose backgrounds are uncommon for their musical genre.

Performing a power chord heavy version of Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover,” Radkey appeared on commercials during events like The Grammy Awards and The Super Bowl pre-show.

In New York City, the three brothers tower over people, as they appear on billboards with the words “Thrashers. Misfits. Dreamers.” Of course, the guy and their father, Matt Radke, who manages the band, had to take a trip to see them.

“Coming from St. Joe, I will never not feel like a guy from St. Joe. So like, it takes seeing it. It’s just so unreal,” Isaiah said. “I’m like, ‘Man, I’m from Gene Field (Road).'”

For the Radke guys, it felt like justification for their will to continue.

“This is the dream. The dream is to get your music out there in a really big way,” Isaiah said.

The struggles it once faced booking gigs in St. Joseph are no longer a problem. When it comes through on an annual basis, it’s guaranteed to be a packed house.

“It’s a really great feeling because St. Joe is one of the toughest places on the planet to get shows good,” Isaiah said. “To have finally accomplished it after seven years feels good … It feels awesome.”


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