Radio Moscow turns back time
With a powerful, crunching Sabbath-style chords and fiery solos that earn the right to be called Hendrixian, Iowa power trio Radio Moscow plants its flag firmly in the territory where psychedelic rock, cranked-up blues, and metal meet. The sound is unabashedly retro (specifically, FM radio from around 1973), so it's easy to see how it caught the ear of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced its 2007 self-titled debut. Like the Keys, Radio Moscow updates an old-school style with pure passion and a refreshing lack of irony. On a break from the band's current tour, which brings it to the Turf Club Thursday, July 30, guitarist and frontman Parker Griggs talked with The A.V. Club about working with Auerbach and self-producing the new Brain Cycles.
A.V. Club: How did you hook up with Dan Auerbach?
Parker Griggs: I was living in Colorado at the time and went to a Black Keys show in Denver. I gave my five-track demo to their merch guy, and he passed it on to Dan. I'd left it with my cell phone and everything, and I got a call that night after the show that he'd already checked it out and really dug it, and was going to pass it on to Alive Records [the Keys', and now Radio Moscow's record label]. Then it took about, maybe, half a year until I heard back from him, but he said Alive liked it and they wanted to try recording something at his home studio.
AVC: During that six-month lag, did you ever think, "God, maybe that guy forgot about me?"
PG: Yeah, I was kind of wondering. I was just hoping he'd still dig the stuff, but luckily heard back from him. By that time, it gave me more time to look for a better lineup, so that was cool.
AVC: What was it like to work with him?
PG: It was pretty cool. We did it all on this vintage recording stuff he had, so that was pretty sweet. It was this old abandoned pipe factory where he rented a small room. We recorded about 13 hours a day, just got the most of each day and did it pretty quickly—just about two or three days, I think, and we got it all done.
AVC: Given the intensity of your music, concentrated 13-hour sessions must have really helped keep up the energy level you needed.
PG: Yeah, it was a lot of work, but you totally get it pumped out pretty quick.
AVC: You produced your current disc, Brain Cycles, on your own. What did you learn from recording the first record that you wanted to expand on with this one?
PG: I wanted to use the tape again and try to get an old-school sound. [Auerbach] tried to help with the vocals a little bit and help me sing a little more confidently, so this time around I just tried to give it my all and be more comfortable with that. The first album was written all-instrumental, and the singing was just sort of [an afterthought]—we decided we needed a singer too, so I threw on the vocals. This album was written more with the vocals in mind.
AVC: Do you still feel more comfortable as a guitarist than as a singer?
PG: Yeah, that's what I'd originally planned to do, but, I mean, singing's all right.
AVC: Would you want to hook up with a singer at some point to let you focus on guitar?
PG: I think we're comfortable staying a power trio, but I don't know. I think for this band, we're comfortable with how it is.
AVC: You grew up in a small town of around 3,000 people in Story City, Iowa. What spurred your interest in music?
PG: Well, what I was into growing up is kind of different from what I'm into now. I was growing up with the whole grunge thing. I was really young and was all into sports, and then I started turning all anti-. I didn't like what I saw from those kids in school and just became the musician kid. I quit sports and spent all my time trying to learn guitar and drums. When I was more around 18, I started getting into the more garage-rock stuff, the Nuggets boxes, and that inspired me to do this more old-style [rock].
AVC: How has touring and playing with a lot of different bands changed your own approach to music?
PG: We're still pretty influenced by a lot of the old '60s and '70s stuff, but some of the bands that we've played with on tour that just jam out, like Earthless, have been pretty inspiring to see.