State Radio frontman Chard Urmston talks about music and awareness

At a time when lyrics brim with romantic clich?s and theatrical complaints, State Radio dares to ask questions instead. This Boston-based trio creates music fueled by activism. Whether prompting questions about humanitarian crises or America’s international policies, their lyrics send an unmistakable message: be aware and get involved. And unlike most, they lead by example.

State Radio’s sound is an eclectic blend of punk-rock and reggae, with jam-band acoustic aspects mixed in. Lead singer and guitarist Chad “Chetro” Urmston’s melodic voice, along with the energy of bassist Chuck Fay and drummer Mike “Maddog” Najarian, highlights their unique musical blend. Basically, State Radio’s music fuses together the best aspects of every rock genre. It makes you want to pump your fist as you scream along with Chetro and also makes you want to change the world.

Urmston, previously the lead singer of Dispatch, epitomizes the passion for action found in his own lyrics. Whether playing in front of a sold-out audience at Madison Square Garden with the temporarily reunited Dispatch or singing mellow acoustics at a random vegetarian restaurant in Massachusetts, he clearly has his heart in the music.

“I don’t actually prefer huge venues,” Urmston said in an interview with The Hatchet. “I find that all the production gets away from the music when you can only see the faces from the first four or five rows.”

It’s this unfazed enthusiasm, this humble focus on the songs and the fans, which unites his political poetry with the band’s classic kickass beats. It’s all about the music.

In between high school and college, Urmston traveled to Zimbabwe for a year, which was a profoundly influential experience. Together with Fay and Najarian, Urmston has worked closely with the Elias Fund, a group he created to bring hope and aid to Zimbabwean youth. They’ve been outspoken on bringing awareness to the genocide in Darfur, which is an issue Urmston hopes students will be increasingly involved in.

“I think that the genocide in Darfur is a major issue,” Urmston said. “It needs support from people in this country to influence the government. With elections coming up in 2008, it’s important for people to take part and vote, as it’s a power we all do have.”

He highlights this hope in a song entitled “Sudan.”

In general, State Radio songs include piercing messages filled with facts and symbolism. In an early fan favorite “Camilo,” Urmston weaves the story of Sergeant Camilo Majia, who was arrested for choosing to become a conscientious objector after serving six months in Iraq. Songs from the new State Radio album, “Year of the Crow,” out just last week, are equally as socially conscious. The song “Barn Storming” continues to convey an anti-war message, while in songs like “Guantanamo” and “CIA,” State Radio does an exceptional job of entwining calls for change with poetic narratives.

However, the songs extend beyond politics. In “Wicker Plane,” Urmston crafts a personal story about “.prejudice against people who are different, but it’s also about a lonely boy, who’s a dreamer.” Urmston also said that some of his most personal lyrics came from the new song “Rash of Robberies,” which deals with an elderly couple coming to grips with losing each other to death and insomnia.

Ultimately, their lyrics incite passion to push for change, while their chords rock hard. So whether you’re drawn in by the post-Dispatch hype or Chad’s fuzzy blond fro, it’s State Radio’s music that will keep you hooked.

State Radio will be playing at 9:30 Club (815 V St. N.W,) Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $17. “Year of the Crow” is now on sale at http://www.stateradio.

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