Hailing from Boston, State Radio is an alternative rock band that is gaining popularity not only for its catchy tunes but its activist message. State Radio believes that word and deed must be one and the same, and their music as well as service work make them one of the more admirable bands in today’s music scene.
By Robert Daniel
rawing massive crowds in venues all over the world, State Radio’s unique approach to music is striking chords with music fans everywhere. Comprised of front man Chad Stokes (guitar, lead vocals), Chuck Fay (bass, vocals) and "Mike Mad Dog" Najarian (drums, vocals), State Radio strives to rouse a sense of activism in its fan base through the music. "I’m lucky enough that I have a mode of expression that I can exercise every night. We’re honored to contribute to the peace movement and be part of the underground media," said Stokes.
Calling All Crows (CAC), the band’s organization for service and social action, was founded by Stokes and State Radio tour manager Sybil Gallagher. Recently, CAC has been focusing primarily on environmental causes. The organization has also been raising money for the Trees, Training, and Donkey Carts program for Sudanese refugee camps as well as working to release Troy Davis, a wrongfully convicted death row prisoner from Georgia. The group uses its music as a vehicle to drive these initiatives as well as to inspire social action.
A product of Boston, State Radio is a self-described “junkrock” group whose sound is fundamentally rock, peppered with some ska and reggae. Formed in 2002 after Stokes’ previous band, the wildly popular Dispatch, disbanded, State Radio was born in fairly simple fashion. “Chuck had opened for Dispatch with his previous band, Princes of Babylon, and I went to high school with Mad Dog’s cousin. I called them up and asked them if they wanted to be in a band with me," said Stokes. Just like that, eight years later, State Radio has grown exponentially into a force in the Indie music world.
The group’s most recent album, Let it Go, captures the versatility of the music from song to song, while showcasing the band’s Boston roots and influences. “Boston was the first major city to take a chance on us. Bands like the Bosstones for me and Godsmack for Mad Dog were very influential. The reggae/ska/punk leanings of the city are still very present if [you] look in the right places,” explained Stokes.
Just as there is a mix of distinctive sounds and tempos on the album, the wide array of messages that each song promotes are potent and clear. Tracks like the somber and politically provocative “Bohemian Grove” contrast the rowdy, carefree shout-out to the band’s hometown in “Knights of Bostonia”. Let it Go’s up and down pace in sound and theme keep the listener engaged throughout the entire musical journey.
State Radio is currently touring in the United States, but will travel across the pond to Europe to play some festivals in August. As a group that tours internationally, the band is exposed to all different types of people and crowds. “Europe seems less self-conscious, [they] let loose more, although U.S. [crowds] are more rowdy, more crowd surfing,” said Stokes.
Although the band is very focused on the music, service and social activism, it would be a mistake to think they do not have time for some adventuring and practical jokes. “I got locked in a closet in a club in Amsterdam. I was yelling but the music was so loud, no one could hear me. [Also], Chuck drank my piss once, although I don’t think he found that all that funny,” joked Stokes. At the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, the band was slated to open for the group Rage Against the Machine. Instead of hopping on an extravagant tourbus or flying, the members of State Radio made it to Colorado by way of freight trains, an experience Stokes dubbed as the band’s most memorable live performance.
Asked about his favorite part of making music for a living, Stokes said he loved “starting a song from a small idea and then hearing the band blow life into it…And [it's] always a blast to see new places and see how different people live.” A prominent voice both in a musical and social context, State Radio’s music can be accessed most easily on-line at stateradio.com or by logging on to Youtube.