Since the release of Brain Cycles back in April, Parker Griggs of psychedelic blues-rock band Radio Moscow has dealt with a range of experiences on tour; from crossing Europe in comfort to sleeping in the backs of cars in Austin, Texas – but he’s been having fun the whole time. Griggs, who performs all guitar, drums, and vocals heard on Brain Cycles took some time to speak with us from his home in Iowa.
You’ll be heading west later this month on tour, do you think you’ll keep living in Iowa or do you see yourself making the move to the coast?
We’re going to give it a try. I don’t know how long we’ll be down there for sure but we’re going to try to get out of Iowa for a little while at least.
How were you introduced to the blues originally?
I first got introduced to 60’s garage rock, like the Nuggets box sets and stuff like that. Then when I was getting into that stuff my Dad introduced me to some of the late 60’s British blues stuff. I had heard blues before then, but when my Dad got me into that heavy psych-blues stuff I really got in it. So I’d say it was my dad that got me in that direction with the British blues.
Growing up, did you find it hard to access blues performances in Iowa?
Yeah. There’s not too much of a blues scene here. Well, at least not “different” blues. There’s kind of older Stevie Ray Vaughn-type stuff going on in Des Moines but there’s not much other than that going on Iowa.
Speaking of that older Stevie Ray Vaughn sound, it seems like a lot of radio stations will play classic stuff like that, but they won’t give new comers any play. On the other hand, college radio stations aren’t always open to young blues musicians since a lot of them stick to that sort of rigid indie sound. Did you have any trouble getting airplay because of your brand of sound?
It took a lot of hard work on the road to spread the name because otherwise, yeah, radio doesn’t play this stuff too much. We’ve had some help from local stations in Iowa. Also, our friend used to work at a college radio station and he made sure they played Radio Moscow like four times a day. We had some help, but it’s mainly been touring that has gotten the word out.
In Radio Moscow you play guitar, drums, and you sing. Do you have different inspirations for each instrument?
Yeah. My dad got me into Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac – when they were a blues band before they went bad. Peter Green’s my favourite guitar player. There’s a lot of other players from the 60’s too. When I originally started on drums, when I was about ten, I was into Dave Grohl and all that stuff. Now my favourite drummers are Carmen Appice from Cactus, Bobby Caldwell from Captain Beyond and a lot of those drummers from the early 70’s/late 60’s who had that hard-hitting style.
Brain Cycles came out in April, on this next tour are you still focused on that album and those songs or have you been doing any writing?
I’m going to get back into it a bit more now that I have some free time since we’re not touring quite so much. We’ve got one new song we’ve been playing live lately. We haven’t got a ton yet but we’ve got a couple ideas going so far.
Just in looking at the album art for Brain Cycles, you can tell that besides blues you also embrace psychedelia in your music and aesthetics. But, what does being psychedelic mean to you?
To me it means your music has less limits. You have room to freak out a little bit.
Earlier this year as part of SXSW (South by Southwest) you performed at an event called the ‘High Times 2009 Doobie Awards’ alongside Priestess and a number of other groups. How did they approach you about taking part in that?
The editor of High Times, Bobby Black, just gave us a call kind of last minute and asked if we wanted to jump on and we said, “Yeah, definitely, we’d love to get on the show.” I’m a fan of magazine so it was an easy decision.
What do you remember about SXSW?
South by Southwest was pretty crazy. It was really fun but we were sleeping in the back seats of cars. We got pretty worn out but had a great time.
Was it the same way touring in Europe – sleeping in the backs of cars?
No, in Europe they usually treat us pretty good. But at South by Southwest there’s so much going on. There’s no place to stay – and that’s why we were sleeping cars.