Gracing listeners with a sensationally infatuating persona that takes shape from the influence of iconic ’80s new wave heartthrobs like The Cure and Depeche Mode, the Southern California-based quintet Night Riots are currently taking the alternative world by storm. With a vibrant and captivating stage presence that genuinely reflects their youthful spirit, this is a band that will truly make your heart skip a beat, and leave you weak at the knees.
Upon the release of their latest studio effort, Howl, the band received immediate acclaim once their leading single, “Contagious,” racked in a lot of major satellite radio airplay on SiriusXM’s, Alt Nation. As they continue to climb higher on the alternative rock radar, Night Riots also announced that they are joining as support on the Vans Warped Tour this upcoming summer.
Making their return to the East Coast for the first time since their performance at the CMJ Music Marathon back in October, Night Riots recently embarked on a North American tour, which also included support from the likes of Armors, Draemings and Pianos Become The Teeth. Right before they began their journey on the road, I had the chance to speak with Night Riots frontman Travis Hawley about the creative process that came to life while they were writing Howl, as well as their radio chart-topping success.
Pretty soon, Night Riots will be starting up a solid North American tour. What are some things are you looking forward to about these dates the most?
I think some of the major cities are always exciting for us. We have a couple of big California dates. We’re hitting up Colorado, Chicago… and New York are big highlights for us.
I am pretty excited to see that you’re going to be making your return back to the East Coast on this tour. Will this tour be your first time playing in New York City since CMJ?
It is our first time! So… I don’t know, we’re really excited. We like it up there; on our last tour there, there were a lot of people that showed up and we had a lot of support and whatnot, so we’re excited to get back and play to all of the people that we met.
I actually had the chance to catch your set CMJ. Did you have the chance to see any shows throughout that week?
Well, I remember it was raining really hard that week, so we did some press stuff. We were coincidentally “on tour,” and were passing through CMJ. I didn’t really know about it and all of the bands that were there, so I kind of missed being able to check out what I wanted to see. So after we left, I was like, “Fuck, we missed a lot of cool stuff.”
It’s cool like, the whole vibe of New York City is exciting for us. And I don’t know if it was that time—I get the feeling that it’s like that all of the time—but there is so much music and so many things going on, which is kind of exciting.
When I first saw Night Riots live, the immediate thought that came to mind was your presence on stage truly reminded me of frontmen like Davey Havok of AFI and Brandon Flowers of The Killers. Would you consider them both as influences to a certain extent?
It’s funny I guess, me personally, I listen to a lot of that genre of music and that’s what got me “into” that kind of music. We’ve been getting a lot of comparisons to AFI. I’m a big fan, but I was never really into them—a couple of the other members in the band were. I mean, I’ll take it because Davey Havok is amazing.
As far as other things, we’re drawing influences from all over the place. But there is definitely a little bit of that—you know, we’ve had comparisons to The Cure and Depeche Mode. [Depeche Mode vocalist] David Gahan was a big influence for us. We kind of like more modern stuff like hip-hop… and I don’t know, we really try to listen to as much stuff as possible. And what comes out is a combination of those influences.
Howl is a record that embodies the youthful spirit of modern pop music, but also has an infatuating sound that can be traced back to dark, yet romantic influence of ’80s new wave. How do guys bring these musical elements to life into your style?
That’s a good question. I was actually talking to somebody about that last night, and I was kind of saying how… I do believe that when you create art, you’re always going to be influenced. I don’t think… you know, some people might have it “pre-mediated,” but for us it’s not… it’s totally an “organic” thing. It will come from just a stem, it will be the root of something. It will either be a groove or some beat, or maybe a different sound, or something that kind of like, “introduces” you to that song that you’re writing.
And then, the song… you do move it forward, but it usually has a mind of itself. I can’t say that if it is pre-mediated or like, “we are writing this song”—I feel like most of the time, you pull it out of some inspiration.
A lot of people have different ways of doing it. I think I remember reading a quote by [songwriter, composer and visual artist] Brian Eno, and he was saying how he would produce everything in the studio in a way. And he said that the writing wouldn’t get done until they were recording it. I feel like, the more songs we write, the more and more that is true for us as well. You can write a demo, and then re-record the exact same song at a big studio—and if you want to maintain the vibe, and it always changes…
Whether that’s good or bad, sometimes it’s either/or, but it’s always going to chance and it’s not going to be that same song that you wrote initially. I don’t know, you will always have these little ideas in your head, but I think a lot of it comes out when you’re in the moment “creating it.” I mean, it depends on what mood you are in, when you’re [recording] or performing, or how your fingers are performing the guitar parts—all of those little things come into play and that’s what creates the “big picture” of the song.
In the long run, do you think that truly reflects how Howl came out during the writing process?
In a huge way, and I think our band has always been interesting because we’ve played together for a really long time. There are some bands—and I think it’s awesome, and I can’t understand how they do it—but some bands find “what they are” immediately and they don’t stray from that. Like, they have a sound, you know?
And then, there are other bands where they think they’re always going to evolve—not like they’re always chasing after something new, but they’re always experimenting and pushing things. Again, there is no pre-meditation, it is just like… “What is in their lives at that moment?” “What’s influencing them?” or, “What’s inspiring them?” And I think we’re one of “those bands.”
So with Howl, there was a lot of experimentation. We kind of pushed ourselves to try new things and you know, there would be these “happy accidents” that we just run with, rather than say, “Oh, we can’t do that.” And I think we created something special and I think it’s possible that we will evolve into something else, so the next release by us will… well, who knows where it’s going to take it.
Considering that you’ve been receiving a lot of extensive satellite radio airplay thanks to your single “Contagious,” would you say that you’re satisfied with the general reception of this EP so far?
It’s been incredible. We’ve always done well, especially on the West Coast. You know, we have strong markets out here where we can play and sell out. We have a strong-core fanbase, but it’s grassroots, and it’s been like “person-to-person.”
So I think for the last month, there’s been some really interesting things, like weird things would happen, where all of a sudden, we’re kind of making sort of leaps and bounds. Who knows how long it will last, but it’s been really exciting.
You know, the Alt Nation thing sort of came out of nowhere. We got on the Top 20 list and you know, the Top 20 list is the biggest bands in the world—I mean, there are just huge bands that we’re being put beside. And then all of a sudden the next week, we were like, “We’ll hover at the same place, or be off the list or whatever.” All of a sudden, we jumped dramatically—we went up to like number 10 or something crazy. Then each week, we kept jumping up, whereas the last couple of weeks, we stayed within the top three out of the Top 20, which is… I mean, we’re next to Modest Mouse and like, Vance Joy, and these crazy… to us, huge bands. It’s really exciting.
Kudos to you guys. It’s also pretty exciting to hear you’re going to be playing the Vans Warped Tour this summer as well. How did this opportunity come about?
You know, that was another strange one. I can’t say that I ever saw ourselves playing Warped Tour. But I guess Kevin Lyman [Warped Tour founder] reached out. He had heard us and was really excited about the song “Contagious” and basically said, “We want to have you guys one here. I think you could be really good for the tour.” It’s a huge opportunity for us to reach a massive amount of people and you know, also be able to do what we love to do, which is touring.
Normally, Warped has been praised for its punk roots and has within recent years branched out and opened its doors to many different genres and varieties of bands new and old. What kind of dynamic do you think you’ll bring to the table for this year’s Warped considering the lineup so far?
I tell you what; I know that we’re going to stand out. And I think we have been, more and more, aligning ourselves with things that have us “standing out.” We’re starting to enjoy the role because I think we can run with it. It [Warped Tour] is predominantly a “hardcore punk, alt punk” environment, and we’re an alternative rock band. I think we could mesh really well, while at the same time, separating ourselves and do our own thing, which is exciting. So, I think we’re going to connect with a lot of people.
Pretty much aside from this North American tour and also with Warped Tour lined up for the summertime, what else does the future has in store for Night Riots for the rest of the year?
Well, right now we’re going to leave this week for a month and a half for our tour. Come home, we’ll probably write, start working on more music for April. Then we do Warped Tour and we’ll probably again just continue writing; we want to get a full-length out as soon as we possibly can. But at the same time, you know, keep the momentum of the touring life going.
Night Riots will be playing at the Studio At Webster Hall in Manhattan on March 9. Their latest EP, Howl, is available now on Sumerian Records. For more information, go to nightriots.com.