As a teenager filled with wanderlust, Chad Stokes started jumping trains. Stokes continued to ride the rails through college and once jumped freight trains across the country with his brother. Between the mountains and prairies of our great American landscape, he found inspiration.
“Its just this amazing way to see the world,” Stokes said in an interview with The Badger Herald. “It’s a whole subculture out there that ride the trains: from down-and-out veterans to people who can’t afford to get from point A to point B and are using the rails, to gutter punks and anarchists.”
Stokes, of Dispatch and Chadwick Stokes, put the tales of those gutter punks and anarchists of the rails to music on State Radio’s latest record, Rabbit Inn Rebellion.
As one might expect for an album inspired by a journey, the songs come from all over. The song “Take Cover” was inspired by the veterans Stokes met on the train. “Freckled Mary” is a song about the kids of south Boston and their interactions with the police. “Adelaide” is a track that tells the love story of his brother and a girl he met on a reservation in Arizona. And the last song, “Black Welsh Mountain,” tells the story of a kid from Stokes’ hometown who was caught sleeping with a sheep.
“I turned it into a love song, albeit a rather dark one,” Stokes said. The songs are all based in his own experience, then twisted a little bit, he said.
All the stories of rebellion, love and politics are threaded together by a yearning for voyage and progress.
“For me what brings [the album] together are these counterculture kids and their journey in the summertime. They leave home and take this journey across the country and these songs are what they find along the way,” Stokes said.
For State Radio, this method isn’t new. The band’s lyrics are typically a politically-charged call to action meant to promote human rights and inspire fans.
This year, State Radio is doing its Rabbit Inn Rebellion tour in conjunction with a marriage equality campaign organized by Calling All Crows, an activist group the band started in 2008.
“It’s a human right; it’s a civil right; and it’s totally ridiculous in this day and age that people of the same sex in many states cannot get married,” Stokes said.
The group is rallying and protesting in the cities it goes to on-tour to push for the legality of same sex marriage across the nation.
In Madison, State Radio will also be working on a pre-show service project with Habitat for Humanity.
“We’ll probably be right in the thick of things, if anyone wants to join us,” Stokes said.
Beside activism, the band will also bring its new tunes and tales of rebellion to the Majestic Theatre Saturday night. Its new material is pure rock, featuring raw guitar and drumming, with some grunge, ska and reggae influences.
“We kind of came into our own as a band,” Stokes said. ”We were all on the same page and we were playing tunes that the three of us all agreed on and played to our strengths.”
Stokes will be joined by Mike “Mad Dog” Najarian on drums and Chuck Fay on bass. Special guest singer Sarah Jaffe will join State Radio for the show.
“Mad Dog is all energy and Chuck is just an amazing rock bassist,” Stokes said. “As a concertgoer that’s what I’d be excited about, just to see these guys do their thing.”
State Radio will play at the Majestic Theatre in Madison at 9 p.m. Saturday night. Doors open at 8 p.m., and tickets are $17 in advance and $19 at the door. For more information on Calling All Crows’ service project with Habitat for Humanity, visit callingallcrows.org.