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State Radio delivers message through music
It’s hard to imagine a band driving a biodiesel van and singing of peace and social injustices to be anything short of passionate. State Radio, the Boston-based trio, held up to expectations in a small deli in New Haven before kicking off their tour at Toad’s Place last Wednesday.
Former Dispatch jamster Chad Stokes has been with his new project since 2002 and after the debut of their first full length album in 2006, “Us Against the Crown,” State Radio’s fanbase is only multiplying. Often dubbed as a politically charged indie band with dynamic blends of jam rock, reggae and punk, the boys admit their lyrics challenge issues they feel need addressing.
“We’re psyched about just playing music first and foremost but we write about what moves us, and I’m not sure if this would be fulfilling enough if we didn’t feel like there was some sort of message of social consciousness that was laced throughout the music,” Stokes said, in between bites of mashed potatoes and vegetables.
One of the most political songs on their last album is “Camilo,” written about Sgt. Camilo Mejia who felt like he could not return to Iraq with a good conscious. He filed to be a conscientious objector but requests were denied and he was arrested for desertion.
“We play it to highlight his story and others like him because it takes a lot of courage to stop the military gears from running and take a step back and say ‘this isn’t right,'” Stokes said. A controversial music video for “Camilo” is on YouTube.com.
State Radio feel college students today are unaware of humanitarian crises around the world so they hope their music spreads awareness.
“It fires us up when 500 people come to a show and 20 of them leave and they’re psyched to do something about it. We’re psyched to be part of a movement and we see it slowly growing, but we’d like to see more,” Stokes said.
The trio was greeted by a mass of screaming fans and familiar faces at Toad’s Place. Opening up with State Inspector from their “Flag of the Shiners” EP, State Radio played with non-stop energy reciprocated by the crowd. “Time Served” was played mid-set-list and the former Dispatch song has become a concert staple of their own. “Camilo” and “Mr. Larkin” were among the most popular songs of the night, and an encore of “Right Me Up” and “Democracy in Kind” sent fans home happy.
Stokes, who lived in Zimbabwe for several months, will reunite with old Dispatch pals this July for three sold out benefit shows in Madison Square Garden. Ticket sales will go to charities and Stokes says he is planning a trip to Zimbabwe in between State Radio tours at the end of May. His tour manager joked, “If you have three days off, why not go to Zimbabwe?”