State Radio Biography
Stokes has long remained true to his artistic ideals and political leanings. Raised in a free-spirited household with values grounded in equality and individuality, Stokes, lead singer and guitarist of State Radio, is a natural activist eager to spread his message through music. While growing up as part of a large musical family on a farm in the small town of Sherborn, MA, Stokes realized his goals stretched beyond local borders. After taking time off after high school to live in Zimbabwe, Stokes enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont and along with two friends, formed his first band, Dispatch. Over eight years Dispatch became a phenomenon in the world of independent music and grassroots marketing and went on to sell over 400,000 copies of their independently released albums.
But Dispatch was only part of the story. During that time, Stokes went on to create the documentary, How’s Your News?, with novelist Arthur Bradford. The film, financed by South Park’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, chronicles disabled individuals conducting man-on-the-street interviews in an original and often humorous way. How’s Your News? went on to play at major international film festivals and was later distributed by HBO/Cinemax. Most recently, the HYN team has finished a soon-to-be-released DVD on the 2004 presidential campaign , where the undaunted reporters traveled to the Democratic and Republican conventions to conduct wonderfully candid interviews with: Sen. Hilary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, Sen. John Edwards, Gov. Howard Dean, Newt Gingrich, Peter Jennings, Larry King, Michael Moore, Ben Affleck, Andre 3000, and many, many more.
After Dispatch’s amicable split in 2003, Stokes enlisted Philadelphia native Chuck Fay, previously of the Philadelphia hip-hop collective Princes of Babylon. In search of a drummer, Stokes and Fay discovered Brian Sayers, a shining star in Boston’s fledging underground reggae scene, to fill out the band's lineup.
With the final piece in place, and in marked contrast with the vindictive tropes of political rock of the past, State Radio seeks not to condemn those responsible for society’s wrongdoings, but rather to focus on the positive and potential of the future. And with standout tracks catchy enough to compel listeners on their own, the band’s musical mission is well within reach. “We write what we feel,” Stokes says, “and often, I won’t deal with songs that are too self-serving. I don’t think my stance is any more important than the next guy’s, but I do feel that, with State Radio, we have an opportunity to create some awareness and get some change in this country. We need it in a big way.”
In each and every town State Radio has played to date, their socially conscientious message has been well received. In the fall of 2004 alone, the band played more than 35 concerts in various swing states leading up to the November 2nd election. Although the popularity of the music is what brought out most fans, listeners left the venues imbued with the importance of registering to vote and showing up at the polls.
On the road during the 2004 election time, Stokes became familiar with the story of a conscientious objector, Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia of the Florida National Guard, who was imprisoned for refusing to return to Iraq. Stokes immediately sought to support the soldier’s right to not fight in an unjust and unnecessary war—a war with no end in sight that continues to take countless lives. The product of his support is the powerful song, Camilo, named after its inspirational subject.
Even though Mejia was released from prison on February 15, 2005, State Radio will release the song on the band’s upcoming album, Us Against the Crown, to bring the issue of conscientious objection to light. The songs on the album are stories that deal with subject matter from the rights of the elderly and the disabled, Mr. Larkin and Right Me Up, to the struggles of the lower class, Riddle in Londontown, The Waitress and Rushian.
Since its inception, State Radio has played hundreds of concerts across the country with various acts such as Ozomatli, The Wailers, Donavon Frankenreiter, Matisyahu, G. Love & Special Sauce, OAR, John Butler Trio, Xavier Rudd, Slightly Stoopid and many others. Their dedication to touring is paying dividends with acclaim from a national fanbase, and with the release of their upcoming album, State Radio is primed to take their act to the next level. The path now lies ahead of the band, but rest assured that State Radio will blaze their own trail to the future of socially conscious music.