The Simple Radicals are a retro rock band from the great blues and rock city of Chicago, Illinois, featuring John Malkin on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and John Griffin on lead guitar and vocals. We spoke to John Malkin about how the band came to be, what to expect from the new album ‘New Revolution’, as well as his own musical influences.
What are the origins of the band, how long have you been playing together?
I developed the concept and wrote the songs for the “New Revolution” album and began laying down the construct of the songs in the studio such as the rhythms, lead beds, drums, and vocal tracks. I reconnected with my former lead guitarist John Griffin who I played in a band with a few years ago and asked if he would listen to the tracks and consider laying down the leads. He loved the tracks and laid down some absolutely incredible shreds and then the rest is history. Simple Radicals were formed.
How did you feel performing your first gig? And how was it?!
It was absolutely exhilarating. We worked really hard on the album “New Revolution” and practiced the songs in the studio with our drummer Griff Johnson and bass player James page. We were invited to play a music festival outside of Chicago, Illinois and we really crushed it. People loved the songs and our sound.
What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe yourself?
We love to perform live and our fans know that. We feed off their energy and passion and try to give it right back to them in the way we play our music. We also try to interact with the audience as much as we can since our songs are so personal to many. There is nothing more rewarding than watching people sing your lyrics back to you and lose themselves in your music. It’s intoxicating.
The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out from the others trying to build a name?
The music industry today has incredible opportunities but also huge challenges. From an opportunity standpoint, with such advanced technology and portability, you can create some amazing music in your bedroom and even collaborate with people without having to be in the same room. You really don’t even need a label anymore. On the flip side, there’s thousands of songs being released on Spotify and other platforms every day so the ability to break out and get noticed is highly challenging. Unfortunately, the industry is not really looking to develop bands anymore. The first thing they ask now is “how big is your social media following?” You’re on your own to develop your sound, talent, and audience and then you can try and make it. And, there’s no money in the business like there used to be. You only make your money off of touring and selling merch and to do that you need a big following. Tough times no doubt and it’s only for the diligent and resilient bands that want to really invest in their music and build an audience. You constantly have to think and rethink what it takes to break out and get noticed.
What are you working on at the minute that people can check out?
We continue to push our album, “New Revolution” (https://open.spotify.com/album/4rgBmqnv7h3p5gYPGjiXfU) which has the guitar-God Vernon Reid from the band Living Colour playing lead on the track “Medicate”. We just released a song and video called “Rich Man Wanna Be King” which provides a scathing lampoon of President Trump. It was just released on YouTube and it’s already racked up over 100,000 views and climbing. And our video “New Revolution” has already racked up over 60,000 views and climbing.
What band out there at the minute do you feel that you would be best suited to open for?
We would love to open up for the Foo Fighters or Pearl Jam. We’re a retro/alt band that combines sounds and styles from some of our favorite classic/alt-rock bands like the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam. I’m absolutely infatuated with the writing of Eddie Vedder and David Grohl and try to capture the messaging, passion, and energy that they do in their songs. If I can even come within a million miles of what they do I’d consider it a success.
Who do you feel is the next band to break out?
You have to check out this American indie-groove band from Norwalk, Connecticut called Goose. They are going to be the next huge jam-band.
What are your first musical memories? And what was the light bulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
As soon as I first heard the power chords of AC/DC and UFO I knew I wanted to play music. I was just blown away by the simplicity and complexity of their music and how it brought me to another world. I actually started out as a drummer before moving to guitar.
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
Elvis Costello at the famed Capitol Theater in New York. And then the apocalypse came.
The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
“Are We Not Men We Are Devo” from the band Devo. Absolutely incredible band and album that was produced by Brian Eno and features an insane version “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2020?
We have a lot going on and coming up. In addition to pushing our album “New Revolution”, we’re about to release a wicked cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” where we collaborated with an incredible husband/wife team called Che-Val. It’s a very non-conventional and unique take on this iconic song. We’ll be releasing a quarantine video to our song “The Optimist”. And, we’re about to release a podcast called “Music & A Brew” where we crack open a cold one with musical artists including Kenny Aronoff (drummer for John Mellencamp and tons of others), Todd Sucherman (Styx), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Daxx Nielsen (Cheap Trick), and Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling from the Howard Stern Show.
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?
We are very active on social media adding new material and engaging with our fans. We’d love to have your readers check us out!