Recently, this past Friday the 13th to be exact, writer Andy Keil had the chance to sit down with Parker Griggs, vocalist, guitarist and fellow Iowan of Radio Moscow. If you’re out of the loop, the Iowa trio is a psychedelic blues rock band that’s broken the confines of a wet basement and taken on the nation with only two releases, their self titled 2007 debut and this year’s Brain Cycles. With only one member that can legally drink (Griggs), and basically coming from, well, Iowa, the band runs on a little more than alcohol if you catch my drift. So, if that at all whets your appetite, then read on to find out how they got their start and find out about their new record, too.
CoS: Alright, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of our readers have never heard of Radio Moscow before. Tell us a little about your background and how you ended up on one of the best independent record labels in the country [Alive Naturalsound Records.]
Parker Griggs (PG): It all kinda started by giving a demo to the lead singer of the Black Keys which ended up getting us signed to Alive Naturalsound Records. He recorded and produced our first album to get us going. Radio Moscow actually started out as a solo project called Garbage Composal but that only lasted a little while before I changed it to Radio Moscow.
You can listen to the older stuff here: http://www.myspace.com/radiomoscowtheearlydays
CoS: Radio Moscow seems like an underground radio station from the cold war era; what’s the story behind the name?
PG: Uh, it’s not such a cool story but there’s an old song called “Go Go Radio Moscow”. It sounded alright.
CoS: How would you explain your sound to our readers and those who have never listened to Radio Moscow?
PG: Uh, well we’re influenced by a lot of old stuff so kind of an old school blues rock psychedelic sound, I don’t know. Guitar music.
CoS: Coming from Story City, IA, population approximately 3,200 people, how did you go about getting your demo to the lead singer of the Black Keys?
PG: We moved out to Colorado to find a new music scene and we went to a Black Keys show where we gave him [Dan Auerbach] a demo. We actually heard back from him that night and he said he might be able to help us out. Then we didn’t hear back from him for like another year when he said he wanted to record our music.
CoS: Tell me about the recording process with Dan Auerbach.
PG: Uh, it was good, it was real quick. We did it in like four days I think it was. The bass and drums were all live and recorded together and then the guitar and vocals were overdubbed on a reel-to-reel.
CoS: I know you have one track, “Hold On Me”, off Brain Cycles up on your MySpace page. It’s obvious after just one listen that the vocals are more pronounced, the guitar work is more intricate, and the overall the production feels a lot cleaner. How was the recording of this album different from your debut record?
PG: We recorded this one at Sound Farm in Jamaica, IA instead of Ohio this time. We put a lot more time into it and really focused on the mix to give it a kind of classic psychedelic feel. It’s still real bluesy but we tried to make it more psychedelic than the last one.
CoS: Is “Hold On Me” going to be the first single?
PG: It might be, but it could be “Breakdown” too; they’re both going to be singles.
CoS: You guys have some great artwork, from concert posters to album covers, it’s the epitome of psychedelic. Who’s the artist?
PG: Anthony Yankovic, he’s from Ohio. He’s a hookup through Dan from the Black Keys.
CoS: Last year you were able to tour through Europe, how was that?
PG: We toured around by ourselves with lots of other European bands. Europe is really sweet.
CoS: What was your favorite part of Europe?
PG: Um, Holland. Pretty much any place with coffee shops.
CoS: Where was your biggest crowd?
PG: We played a pretty big festival in Spain where we played right before Marky Ramone.
CoS: Did you get a chance to talk to him?
PG: We walked by him a bunch but he was so out of it, I was afraid to talk to him.
CoS: Last summer you guys had the chance to play the first annual 80/35 festival in downtown Des Moines, IA. What did you think about the festival?
PG: It was pretty sweet; Iowa needs a festival or something going on.
CoS: Do you have any friends or know any bands from back in Iowa waiting to blow up?
PG: Well we got this band, Mondo Drag, signed to Alive Records too. They’re pretty cool, slightly similar, old school, early seventies, late sixties influenced stuff. They’re from Davenport, IA.
CoS: Alive Naturalsound Records has a bunch of artist with a similar retro sound, are you guys close with any of the other artists on the label?
PG: Uh there are some bands we keep in touch with a lot. Black Diamond Heavies, those guys are awesome. Left Lane Cruiser, really nice guys, we’re gonna play with them in a couple weeks at Fort Wayne, IN, their hometown.
CoS: Parker, with all the talent you have and the wide range of genres out there, what made you decide to play psychedelic blues-rock?
PG: Kinda my dad, he got me into the stuff. He showed me Peter Green and after I heard him, I wanted to play guitar. I was a drummer first.
CoS: So far, PG has been the only steadfast member of the band and the lineup has changed often. Is this the final lineup for the band?
PG: I damn sure hope so!
CoS: Do you guys each have a favorite song to play live?
PG: The last song we did tonight [“No Good”].
CoS: What are your plans for after the Brain Cycles drops?
PG: Yeah, we’re doing Europe again, April-May, two months. Then we’ll do the west coast for about a month.
CoS: Will you be coming back here [Chicago]?
PG: I hope so, we’ll probably be playing the Beat Kitchen though; I think it’s a better size for us.
CoS: I hope so too.