If you think for even one second that recording in Sheffield means the debut album from American garage rockers Radkey is going to be laced with saucy Jarvis Cocker-style poetry or bleepy Warp Records beats, then think again. “Obviously, there’s Def Leppard,” says bassist Isaiah Radke when asked about the local influences he and his brothers-cum-bandmates Dee (guitar/vocals) and Solomon (drums) have soaked up. “They’re actually awesome,” he adds, suddenly serious. “I don’t care what anyone says, they made some pretty fucking catchy shit.”
The city that spawned Def Lep is a long way from Radkey’s small hometown of St Joseph, Missouri. The teenagers’ love affair with South Yorkshire began when they supported Drenge, who now live in the city, in 2013. Through Eoin and Rory Loveless they met Sheffield-based producer Ross Orton, who – fresh from working on Arctic Monkeys’ ‘AM’ and Drenge’s self-titled debut – oversaw Radkey’s initial album session in San Francisco last spring. Then, at the start of 2015, he invited them to his McCall Sound Studio base to finish the job.
Arriving on Valentine’s Day accompanied by dad-turned-manager Matt Radke, Radkey quickly adapted to a locally sourced diet of Henderson’s Relish and Deception pale ale that they discovered during pub crawls round the Kelham Island district with Drenge. Now they’re eager to return the Loveless brothers’ favour: “They’ve got to come to St Jo’ or Kansas City or some shit, and we’ll do the same thing,” Isaiah grins.
Despite a reasonable start on the album in San Francisco, it wasn’t until the Sheffield sessions that Radkey’s brooding punk really came together. “A lot of them were last-minute songs, which is exciting,” says Isaiah. “I would definitely say it’s more mature than things we’ve done before, a little darker.”
“Heavier… groovier… catchier…” older brother Dee adds in hazy agreement. Orton’s guidance has been central to this evolution. “Ross is the only producer for us,” Isaiah gushes. “His style is just what we needed to evolve. He’ll make your sound 100 per cent what the fuck it’s supposed to be, to its full potential.”
The as-yet-untitled album will feature souped-up versions of Radkey’s fiery 2014 single ‘Feed My Brain’ and ‘Romance Dawn’, the bruising finale from the previous year’s ‘Devil Fruit’ EP. New cuts include ‘Glore’, an intense barrage of early Hüsker Dü-inspired hardcore inspired by a trip to a disused mental hospital in St Joseph, ‘Sank’, which marches around like peak form Iron Maiden striding into battle, and ‘Parade It’, a bitter break-up song built around Dee’s pounding refrain, “Your love has really got me down”.
“It’s about a girl I know, who I used to see”, explains lyricist Isaiah. “She at some point got this other boyfriend, and I was at this club, and she was fucking putting on a show, man. Basically just running around and making out with him and shit – and making sure it was in front of me every time. She just knew how to fucking push every button.”
Their fans, says Dee, are “not gonna expect what’s coming”. He adds: “The solos are way better.” Then Isaiah pipes up: “People have been asking for a long solo, so we’ve got a long-ass solo on the album, man. It’s gonna be awesome.”