A busy tour schedule is no excuse not to dig into some public service – at least not for State Radio. Backed by their loyal and steady-growing fan base, State Radio is determined to spread the music, while affecting social awareness along the way.
Front man Chad Stokes assumes the roles of guitarist, lead singer, and creative powerhouse behind the band’s success.
Formerly the vocalist of Dispatch, Stokes teamed up with bassist Chuck Fay and drummer Mike “Mad Dog” Najarian to form the alternative reggae-punk-rock band State Radio in 2002.
Since its start, State Radio has toured the U.S., U.K., Europe and Australia, released two albums and numerous EP’s, and is currently working on a third album to be released in September of this year.
Nearing the end of an early ’09 U.S. tour, the band played a show at Pickle Barrel Nightclub in Killington, Vt. on Feb. 19. Before the show, Stokes shared his thoughts on what it’s like to play music for a living.
“We want it to be positive, you know? Encourage people to take care of one another,” said Stokes as he described the vibe the band aimed to project to its fans.
“There are some pretty heavy messages in the music so it’s cool when the fans pick up on the lyrics and start talking about stuff they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s good that (conversation) continues,” he said.
Castleton students attending the show brought their own perspectives.
“Chad is a rebel, he does everything his own way,” said fan and CSC student TJ Marsh.
“When I’ve seen them, it’s always been such a high energy show – everyone smashing into each other. Almost like a metal show but the music is so much more chill,” Marsh said.
More than music on the open road:
Stokes explained that much of the inspiration for their music comes from the people they meet along the way.
“My brothers and I did a train trip this summer, where we jumped some freight trains for about three weeks across the country,” Stokes said. “You meet the craziest people.”
“I’ve always been attracted to sort of that, underworld,” Stokes said. “Sometimes that seems more real than all of this. That stuff is pretty inspiring, especially in today’s economy, too. There are people who are getting hit really hard.”
“So many outreach programs – their funds were taken from them. People are just out on the streets more and more,” he said.
Within the first moments of speaking with Stokes, it’s clear that he’s a man with more than just a vision. He’s become a role model for the positive change he hopes to see in the world.
“We do service projects on this tour, where we’ll meet up with people during the mornings, and do different things – food banks, conservation things, all sorts of different activities where we meet fans and people in those cities,” he said.
An outspoken activist for much of his life, Stokes credits much of his life’s happiness to his experiences helping others.
“I think I got into volunteering when I started working with people with disabilities when I was 16 . . . it changed my life so much for the better, that we encourage others to check it out,” Stokes said.
Between shows, State Radio stopped in New York City for the premiere of “How’s Your News,” a new MTV series Stokes co-created.
“It’s a project that I started at a camp I started working at when I was 16, for adults with disabilities. Me and three friends started it, like twelve years ago,” he said.
“It fell into the hands originally of Trey Parker and Matt Stone from South Park. And they have been our sort of, sugar daddies ever since,” said Stokes, grinning.
“So it’s a news team of people with disabilities. We go to conventions and interview people and go across the country. We go to like, crash up derbies or alligator farms and just interview people – it’s really fun,” Stokes said smiling.
“And, MTV picked it up last year, which is totally insane!”
Stokes continues, describing the excitement of being part of such a project.
“These past two Sundays (the TV show) has been on,” he adds. “It’s so exciting when Sundays come around. And the people with disabilities, our friends, the reporters they’re just SO psyched. They’re just really, really excited and really proud of it.”
“It feels like – I know it’s corny – but it feels like dreams can come true. It’s wild that it’s gotten to that level,” Stokes said. “It sort of softens that barrier between people with disabilities and people who don’t have disabilities. It just makes you feel like we’re all on the same plane – we can laugh and joke around and it’s really fun.”
Music worth braving a blizzard for:
And while Stokes and his many means of reaching out to others keeps him revved up and busy, there is also another very important element helping to steer the wheel of his life – the music.
“I think the music sort of chooses us. We just do what comes naturally . . . It’s all just sort of whatever we’ve listened to over the years and how it filters through our own brains,” he said.
CSC student Sean McIntyre made it up to Killington for the show that night despite the stormy conditions.
“State Radio rocks. I like how they just jam out, I guess!” said McIntyre. “I drove over in blizzard and it was definitely worth it.”
Their music was backed by a vibrant light show. Warm colors flooded the room while strobe lights pulsated during the heavier tracks. During one jam, Fay and Stokes jumped in the air simultaneously, while Mad Dog rocked out hard on the drums.
“It’s gotta be how they mix the beats – reggae with mellow rock music. None of their songs sound the same,” Marsh said. “They switch it up and play with different tempos.”
The sweaty fans on the dance-floor waved their hands in the air. The Pickelbarrel Nightclub was filled to the brim with concertgoers on every floor. The audience was extremely high-energy, begging loudly for an encore once the show had ended.
“I feel so lucky to be able to play music for a living, and to be able to travel around and meet great people. It’s really neat,” said Stokes. “It’s great to be involved in the arts, in creative endeavors. It’s such a privilege, I think.