An Interview With Night Riots: Something Personal

Night Riots are an on the rise alt-rock band hailing from a small town in Southern California. The bandmates—Travis Hawley, Nick Fotinakes, Matt DePauw, Rico Rodriguez, and Mikel van Kranenburg—started playing together in their garages while they were still in high school and are currently touring all over the United States. The guys started out with the name PK and self-released their debut album, Into The Roaring, in 2010, and gained a following from touring college campuses and small music venues. The group changed their name to Night Riots shortly after releasing this record, but still stayed independent. They fundraised in order to release their first EP as Night Riots, Young Lore, in July of 2013.

The quintet has since signed with Sumerian Records and have played dozens of shows and music festivals all over the country. On October 21, the band released their first full-length album, Love Gloom, and will begin The Advanced Placement Tour with SiriusXM on November 5. Night Riots have already had their first single off of Love Gloom, “Nothing Personal,” become very successful, having a lot of air time on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation, appearing in the radio station’s “Alt 18” quite a few times since the single was released.

I had the pleasure of speaking to the band’s frontman, Travis Hawley, about his creative process while writing Love Gloom and some of his musical inspirations.

You guys just released your first full-length album. What would you say was the biggest inspiration behind Love Gloom?

Oh man! I’d say the ups and downs and turmoil of life and relationships. I mean, honestly, it’s the people and events and experiences that I’ve gone through in the last two years.

Who came up with the name Love Gloom?

It was myself. I had a big list of names and we wanted something that was sorta this collision of emotions that the record is, kind of this contrasting thing. There’s songs of like elation and love and yearning, and then there’s also this kind of dark, broken side to the record. I think that it was important to us to kind of represent that with the name and I think that kind of represents us as people as well. So, you have love, which is this beautiful word, and you have gloom, which is kind of darkness.

Would you say there was one specific event that inspired the album or are you guys drawing from a bunch of different things that have happened?

It’s definitely a lot of different things. Sometimes, one song will be about one specific fight or conversation or moment in a relationship, and then some of the songs are about a bigger picture thing, something more humanistic and maybe just, kind of a perspective on even our society at the moment.

Okay! So, “Contagious” was your hit off of the Howl EP. What made you decide to rerelease it on Love Gloom?

We just really like that song. I don’t think we were tired of it and it garnered us a lot of success and I think we just wanted to. I know that we’re gonna be reaching a whole lot more people with this album and we feel like it’s only fair for more people to be able to hear it.

Yeah, it’s a great song! So, you guys have the “Introduction – Ego Sum in Columbrum,” “Interlude I – Manus Loquimini Veritatem,” and Interlude II – Ego Flos Sum Luna,” and they’re three solely instrumental pieces, what made you guys want to include something like that?

Well, we kind of felt like this is our chance to do a full-length and we felt like when we had all these songs that we’re filming different feelings and moods, it almost kind of played out like different acts and they kind of just wrote themselves, honestly. We were trying to create the soundscape and the story of the record and so there’s one that’s like dark and industrial and kind of, like, introduces some of the songs that might be a little bit more aggressive and maybe angry. And then there’s one that’s like beautiful and it’s organic and it kind of represents the other part of the album.

There’s a lot of threes in the record and I don’t know where it came from but while we were writing it I just kept on seeing the number three, and so there’s kind of three symbols that we based a lot of stuff off of and it just, sort of stabbed its way through all of the songs.

Are those song titles in Latin?

They’re in Latin, yeah.

What do those song titles mean?

Well, again, I mean, it’s weird. There’s so much that’s put into it that I don’t think we even necessarily need people to know, it’s not a concept record or anything like that, it’s more of a personal thing for ourselves.

Going back to inspiration for the record, there’s kind of always been this wanderlust and I was watching a lot of Federico Fellini movies, which is this famous Italian director, and it kind of just seeped its way into this record somehow. But the actual song titles are kind of about, I mean in a brief summary, it’s about ego and shadowed selves and coming to be. So those titles are about the serpent, the hand, and the moonflower.

That’s really cool! Do you have a song off of the album that you feel most personally connected to or do you just feel connected to them all the same?

There’s a couple. I think lyrically “As You Are” and “Tear Me Apart” are pretty personal to me and I think that they’re just honest and they’re words that were spoken in conversation, you know. And I think “Nothing Personal,” that’s a pretty special song for myself.

Those are all three great songs!

Thank you very much, I appreciate that!

I read that you recorded the album in the same room that Led Zeppelin recorded “Whole Lotta Love.” What does it feel like knowing you recorded in the same space as one of the most iconic bands of all time?

It was intimidating! I mean, it wasn’t even just them, The Doors were in that studio, like there’s pictures of Jim Morrison leaning on the console that we recorded through. And when you walk into the main studio, you walk through this hallway of all the records that were recorded in that room and it’s just, at first, I was intimidated but then, I guess, I sorta took it as kind of a confidence booster. I mean we’ve made it far enough to be able to be recording in a place like this and it was kind of inspiring, honestly.

Do you think that that’s a “good omen” for the album?

I sure hope so! It felt good! That’s the thing, this record was not influenced in the sense that we felt like a need to impress anybody. It was just us doing what we do and I think that that was a special thing, like it was a really good experience recording it.

What’s it like to see the band you guys started in high school becoming more and more successful?

It’s huge! I mean, what we do is very difficult and I don’t know if it’s always been like this or if it’s just now, but like the image of the “rockstar” has kind of changed. You gotta work really hard to get anywhere and sometimes you’re so focused on what you’re doing and getting around playing shows you don’t even notice your growth.

But I think that it was honestly just like two weeks ago we were flying, we’ve been doing a lot of flying dates recently, and I was just sitting on the plane and the guys were all around me and I just kind of had this realization that we went from playing in our garage to flying to shows in Canada and Mexico City and all over the United States.

Yeah, that must be like one of the greatest feelings ever!

It is a gratifying feeling and I think it’s important to stop and pay attention to that.

How does it make you feel to be compared to bands like The Clash and The Killers?

I will not deny that, that’s for sure! It’s cool, I mean, I think it’s people’s tendency to categorize, like that’s how people make sense of what they perceive. So, it’s always interesting for me to see how people perceive it, because like that’ll be the first thing when they hear it for the first time. They’re like, “Oh my God, this singer’s voice reminds me of”… whatever, The Cure or The INXS, I always just like to see where people put us.

What are some concerts are shows that you’ve been to in the past that have inspired you as musicians and performers?

I would say, early on it was going to more punk shows. I mean, they’re kind of no-name bands that were just playing in like dingy clubs around our area where we grew up and that was just because of the energy and the rawness of the performances. I thought it was important to see how as much as the band was energetic, the crowd went off of that and threw it right back at them. That was always very inspiring.

Then, you know, I saw Billy Idol and that was actually a pretty inspiring concert. I wish I had been able to see him in the ‘80s cause I bet it would’ve been insane. A lot of the iconic frontman bands are what I take inspiration from. And because you guys are in Jersey, I have to say Bruce Springsteen is in there as well! The best frontman of all time! And Bon Jovi too!

What are your plans after this tour?

Honestly, I’m hoping to just get home and start writing again. It’s funny, it’s like we just released a record and I don’t want to undercut that but I’m just very excited to create art. Probably a little bit of time to do that and then in the new year, start up touring again!


Don’t miss Night Riots on The Advanced Placement Tour on Nov. 12 at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City and Nov. 17 at The Foundry at The Fillmore in Philadelphia. Their new album, Love Gloom, is available now through Sumerian Records. For more information on the band, visit their website: