Radio Moscow makes music with a vintage vibe
With the ability to create intense, raw and gritty guitar riffs that make up a changing landscape of sludgy blues and full-fledged blues rock, power trio Radio Moscow arrive at each gig ready to blast sound waves hinting of past rock and roll glories into the ears of nearby listeners.
Milwaukee gets to experience their psychedelic brain-wave inducing sound as the band plays at 9 tonight at the Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Ave.
For 24-year-old Parker Griggs, mastermind of these waves (he in fact plays all the instruments on the albums) and hitting those riffs, his Iowa-based band presents a way he can orchestrate a truly vibrant music homage to those who came before -- the legendary '60s and '70s rock and blues bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, just to name a few.
What sets the three-year road tested band apart is a talent to put its own spin on these influences while preserving the energy and mood that the influences conveyed. The guitar riffs can cut like knives and with just as intense vocals, their sound emits a vintage but not too dated sound.
This spin caught the attention of those with a similar love of blues-rock - The Black Keys. Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach heard a tape that Griggs gave him and gave him a call that same night. Auerbach ended up producing their 2007 debut and shortly after the band charged out of the gates running with speakers cranked up at many venues around the world.
Earlier this year, the band pushed what it could do and as a result their sophomore album "Brain Waves" came about, showing that the band has juice to stick around for a long time. We talked with Griggs about the band's growth and deep passion for music of the past.
OnMilwaukee.com: First of all, how would you describe the sound of Radio Moscow?
Parker Griggs: We take our influences, the music from the past and we try to play heavy and loud and bluesy. There's a psychedelic sound as we try to experiment a bit and do different things within the blues-rock sound. You just have to see for yourself for the most part. Influenced by a lot of old stuff.
OMC: Are there any elements that you think help you stick out from others?
PG: Yeah, it doesn't seem like a lot of bands are going for this psychedelic blues mystique and daze. Hopefully it picks up because there are not too many bands doing this. It's our own version of it.
OMC: Your music evokes a similar energy and feeling as, say Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and many of the '70s blues-rockers. What about that era's collective sound, which includes many power trios, intrigues you that you that you decided to channel it into something of your own?
PG: I like how the guitar was more of the main instrument and drummers went wild back then. It's a whole different approach than rock bands take now, that it's a lot more fun to jam on and that's what appeals to us. It just fits us best I guess.
OMC: From listening to some of your very early stuff it's obvious that the band's sound has changed quite a bit. Could you tell me a little about the beginnings of Radio Moscow and how the sound progressed?
PG: Well, it started out as more of a solo project. I was just really influenced by garage rock things back then, so that's kind of how it started. The more I got into '60s the more I got into the blues and psychedelic and stuff. And then I started jamming with other guys and writing new material. That was what I was going for then. It started out as garage rock but when Radio Moscow became a full going band it pretty much became a different thing than what it is now.
OMC: Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys really helped get you guys off the ground. Could you describe how that came about after you had moved to Colorado?
PG: It was at a Black Keys show at Denver. I handed our five-song demo to their merchandise guy and he passed it on to Dan. And Dan got back in touch with us that night, saying that he'd try to push it and Alive Records and see what they thought. Then half a year later we hear back from him and he asked "You want to try recording something?"
OMC: What was it like having him produce your debut? What lessons did the band learn from him?
PG: It was pretty cool. We got in quickly and recorded it all on vintage analog stuff. It was pretty cool working in his home studio that was at a pipe factory. It went over pretty well, in about three days. He helped me become more confident with me singing and stuff and showed me some pretty sweet albums to check out too.
OMC: Could you tell me about how that growing chemistry? I noticed that it's gotten tighter with your new album "Brain Cycles."
PG: When we recorded the (first) album it was just me and a bass player. And he quit after the album to go back to school. But then right after that the bass player from the new album (Zach Anderson) came in and joined and he's been playing pretty much all the time the band's been touring and going. So I think him and I jamming is more comfortable since we've done it for so long. We got a new (live) drummer now, (Corey Berry) our bass player's step-brother, and it seems to be going pretty good with him too.
OMC: How do you guys usually put songs together?
PG: I usually write all the songs myself. Usually I start with a guitar riff and make up a melody and sing along with it and get something going. And then mess around it on 4-track and play it on some drums and rhythm and try to build it all together from there. Usually takes a little bit to get it all complete and piece it together. And I take them to the band and jam on it and try to get a good sound all together.
OMC: What do you hope you vocals convey to people?
PG: I sing about stuff that happens to everybody. We try to make ourselves happy and write what comes to us. And hopefully people can relate.
OMC: Were there any other moments that had a really big impact on you and the band?
PG: Yeah. We got to play before Marky Ramone, the drummer for the Ramones. Being backstage watching him was pretty crazy. And then we opened up for Pentagram and I didn't get to meet Bobby Liebling but it was pretty awesome to watch him on stage. We've meet a lot of cool people involved with rock and roll out there I guess. The High Times TV awards show was pretty cool to play too. There was a lot of cool bands playing and everybody from the magazine there.
OMC: What do you think of the attention that the band's gotten around the country and world?
PG: It's getting better. The more we go on the road the more the name's spreading. We've gotten to keep doing what we're doing and transfer the word. Europe seems to be getting real good, there are a lot of people over there starting to get into us and our shows have been pretty good. We're trying to reach out as much as we can on an indie label and everything.
OMC: How would you describe the band's live show?
PG: Usually pretty energetic and loud. Yeah, that might sum it up best. Music experienced best live probably. Hopefully they'll just get locked into the grove and kind of have a musical trip.
OMC: What are your plans for the band right now and where would you like to take this band musically?
PG: We're going to start working on some new material as soon as possible. Probably trying to work early so we can get some strong stuff for the third album. Otherwise keep touring. I think we're going to go back to Europe in early 2010. I think that'd be good, keep touring and doing what we've been doing.
OMC: What do you think the biggest lesson that you've learned through playing over the years?
PG: The biggest lesson is to keep at it. We've been in bands since we were young. It's pretty much what we all want to do. I don't know what else we would be doing. It just makes sense.
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