Parker Griggs might just be crazy.
A naturally gifted guitarist, Griggs practically needs a revolving door on the side of his tour van. Radio Moscow plays as a power trio, but Griggs has been the only constant in the band’s decade of life, sharing the stage with a dozen different musicians at one point or another.
The Story City native is something of a paradox in the life of Radio Moscow. The fact that the band has as big of a following as it does can be attributed entirely to Griggs. He writes the songs, he hires the musicians, and it is his guitar that people are paying to see. Meanwhile, the fact that the band isn’t bigger than it is can also be laid at the feet of the Radio Moscow front man, about whom rumors circulate calling him aloof, mercurial and difficult to work with.
All of those things came to a head most famously in 2012, when Griggs essentially fired his entire band on stage at DG’s Taphouse in Ames.
“It’s not my most favorite thing to talk about,” Griggs admitted in a phone interview. “Frustrations had built up from the previous tour, and (bassist Zach Anderson and drummer Cory Berry) told me before the show that they weren’t going to do the new tour. I had driven all the way from California the day before, and I was upset, and I guess things went a little far.”
Griggs and his bandmates sniped each other on stage all night. Finally, after the final song, Griggs tossed his guitar at his drummer, who picked it up and threw it back, hitting Griggs in the head and opening up a wound that required 14 stitches. But, illustrating just how much of a back seat the rest of the band has historically taken to Griggs’ guitar prowess, the front man had a new bassist and drummer in tow the very next night, and his tour never missed a beat.
That seeming interchangeability, however, might now be at an end. Last year, Griggs added bassist Anthony Meier and reunited with erstwhile drummer Paul Marrone.
“Paul has been in and out of the band a few times now, so it was just lucky that we got to get back to together with him,” Griggs said. “When we got back together, I asked him if he had any suggestions for a bassist, and he mentioned (Meier). Everything kind of went from there.”
Longtime fans of the band have noticed the difference, and Griggs seems more comfortable with this lineup than he has with any iteration of the band in the past. That’s most noticeably reflected in Radio Moscow’s latest album, “Magic Dirt.”
“Magic Dirt” marks the first time that Griggs has brought his full trio into the studio. For the first decade of the band’s existence, Griggs handled the lion’s share of the writing and recording duties and played the drum parts himself, relegating his drummers to touring status.
“Paul is one of my most favorite drummers, and we wanted to be able to play the album the way we do live,” Griggs explained. “I like playing with these dudes.
“It sounds a little more laid back and natural this way. There’s no overdubbing, and it’s closer to a live show.”
And that’s reason for fans to rejoice, because it could mark the point when Radio Moscow stops being Griggs and the guys backing him, and starts being a more collaborative band.
“I’ve always kind of (handled songwriting) by myself,” Griggs concurred. “But I think these are the dudes who are going to record another album together, so maybe this is a new Radio Moscow.” CV