Radio Moscow: Escaping to the Woods With Parker Griggs

Say what you will about the changing commercial landscape of the music industry, but record labels still matter. Anyone can upload some tunes to BandCamp, but the stamp of approval from a great record label can still inspire confidence in the heart of a record browser. Labels still serve as expert curators, at least in the case of California-based Alive Naturalsound Records.

Unapologetically catering to dood rockers, Alive launched The Black Keys, and has continued pumping out slabs of wax from psych, garage, blues, and power pop bands (Dan Auerbach of 'the Keys still shows up to man the producer chair for many of the label's releases). The labels latest compilation, Where is Parker Griggs? features 14 cuts, ranging from the gospel leaning "Everything that You Took" by Lee Bains and The Glory Fires to brisk pop like "Love Me Baby" from Latino rockers Hacienda. But perhaps the most "out there track" on the record is the opener, "Open Your Eyes," by Radio Moscow, fronted by the titular Griggs. With its screaming fuzz, echo, and backward tape masking, the song illustrates both the boot scooting Midwest feel of the band's Iowan roots and the far out, acid washed sounds of Northern California, where the band recorded its latest opus, The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz.

Griggs and I discussed the latest record, the curious remarks of showgoers, and who exactly this "Leslie Magnafuzz" is.

Radio Moscow is scheduled to perform Graveyard, Destruction Unit, and more on Friday, January 27, at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.

Up on the Sun: What's going on with the album title? Is it a nod to concept records of the past, or is it a legitimate concept album? Parker Griggs: It's kind of a concept record title...there was sort of a concept for it. We moved to California to try and get the band going, and we couldn't find a jam spot for a long time. We ended up moving out into the middle of nowhere. I don't know, the name was sort of a reference to escaping the city and getting out to the woods and recording an album. "Leslie Magnafuzz" is kind of a reference to the Leslie speaker I use in my amp, and the Magnafuzz pedal. So it's kind of a combination of that.

Where did you guys record?

It was recorded in Cotati, California, at Prairie Sun's Studios, which is about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. It was pretty awesome. They had a bunch of tape machines and really nice vintage gear. We wanted to make that kind of record...

There's certainly a vintage San Fran feel to the tunes, the kind of thing that has proto-metal undertones and big rock melodies. Do you guys draw a diverse crowd with that sound? Who shows up at a typical Radio Moscow gig?

It's kind of a pretty large mix. You've got the psychedelic people who listen to underground 60s rock, and then you get the college boy types, we get that, too. This group of dudes in Chicago showed up and all took their shirts off, being all drunk and crazy. [Laughs] We get older people, too, people who grew up with psychedelic rock and blues. They come out to the shows.

Do you get those people coming up to you afterward and telling you what bands you remind them of?

Yeah, I guess so. Sometimes people say stuff that we don't always agree with.

What's the weirdest comparison you've heard?

One dude said I nailed the "Dimebag Darrell tone." [Laughs]

I like that the songs on the record flow together. It kind of forces you to listen to the whole record, not just snippets. It's very good for driving.

Yeah? Thanks, man. We were trying to kind of flow it together.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.