Brotherly punks: Homeschooled teenage trio Radkey tread an unlikely path

Radkey is made of brothers, from left, Isaiah, 17, Dee, 19, and Solomon, 15.

Radkey is made of brothers, from left, Isaiah, 17, Dee, 19, and Solomon, 15.

At some point just about every kid dreams a rock and roll dream – shredding through a hot solo, belting out a loud and fast tune as the people down front scream out in appreciation, recording your own songs and playing with the bands you love. But that’s just it most of the time: a dream. Three teenage brothers from St. Joseph, Mo., are making it happen for real, rocking clubs they aren’t even old enough to drink in and opening for legendary punk funk groups.

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Radkey at the Replay

Past Event

Wringer (IN) / The Rackatees / Radkey / Smash the State

  • Saturday, August 18, 2012, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Jackpot Music Hall, 943 Mass., Lawrence
  • 18+ / $3

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Radkey formed a few years ago when middle brother Isaiah suffered a bout of what could be called “instrument envy” when he saw his older brother Dee, the band's guitarist, borrowing his bass in another band.

Isaiah, 17, convinced Dee, 19, to play guitar, and their younger brother, Sol, 15, said he’d play drums.

“So we practiced and practiced until we got decent and it ended up working. We practiced every day and the band started,” recalls Isaiah.

Deciding on a name was the easy part. They slapped their last name on it, and finding time to practice every day was easier than it would be for most as well. The three brothers were home-schooled by their parents, Matthew (who is also the band’s manager) and Tamiko Radkey, who both gave their full blessing and continue to support their sons’ musical exploits.

After completing a days’ worth of studies, they rehearsed at home and eventually recorded an EP, 2011’s “Irrationally Yours.” Soon they’ll be recording a second EP at Flower Studios in Minneapolis.

Whereas most bands struggle to get people to notice them at first, the boys in Radkey had an unlikely debut when they got on a bill with hugely influential, yet almost criminally under-recognized punk funk outfit Fishbone at The Aftershock in Merriam.

“We were just some little nobody band that had never played a show ever,” Isaiah says. After the original opener dropped out, Radkey got on the bill.

“They were like ‘yeah, you guys can come play,’” Isaiah says. “Then we had to write two or three songs to have a 30 minute set in a few days. So we did that and lucked out and played our very first show opening for Fishbone, which is absolutely crazy.”

The crowd was receptive to the band’s hard-charging, punk-infused set, and the boys’ good fortune continued as they were then able to play sets at St. Joseph club The Rendezvous, followed by several shows in Lawrence, which they consider a second hometown. They’ll play at the Jackpot Saturday, with Ringer, Rackatees and Smash the State.

They haven’t hit the road for a full tour yet; drummer and youngest brother Solomon is still only 15 and in school. The two older brothers have finished their schooling and travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., later this month for the Afropunk Festival.

Described by the New York Times as putting “rock and rebellion squarely in the category of African-American music,” the festival brings luminaries such as Erykah Badu, Kansas City’s Janelle Monae, Das Racist and others together with many lesser-known, up-and-coming bands for a weekend of rock, skating and community. Radkey will play three sets over the two-day festival Aug. 25 and 26.

They were set to play last year’s festival but it was canceled when Hurricane Irene threatened New York. This year, the boys are excited to play in front of a few thousand punk fans. Maybe something bigger will come out of it.

“I’d like to maybe somehow get signed,” Isaiah says. “I just want everything to take off from there. I want to become more than just a local band; we want to make it a real thing. A real touring thing, so hopefully after that, everything will take off.”

While most teens are headed off to college or settling in to a full time when they finish high school, the Radkeys are fully set on making music a career. They’ll keep playing as many shows as they can until Solomon finishes school and put their full efforts into being full-time working musicians.

The boys run into people who won’t let them play their club because they’re too young, others who doubt a bunch of kids could actually be in a good band and still others who don’t believe three black kids play rock and roll. Undaunted, they keep chipping away, one face-melting set at a time.

“We want to make it our career. Our ultimate goal is to play live music and get paid for it and be able to spread our music across the world,” Isaiah says. “We’ve pretty much put our entire lives on this, playing. It’s either this or we’re screwed. Our dad always said you’ll never achieve anything unless you really put yourself out there, and we’re definitely doing that.”

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 5 months ago

I think their music is wonderful and I believe that they can make it in music. Thank you to their parents who home schooled them and encouraged them to pursue music.

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