SXSW 2014: Night Riots x Vinyl Mag

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What would you get if U2 and The Killers had a baby?  Night Riots – that’s what. Hailing from central California, this rock band has such an infectious sound that both MTV and Rolling Stone have taken notice. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat with them during their stint in Austin during SXSW, so read on to hear about how the band formed, their influences, one band member’s premonitions, and what’s in store for Night Riots down the road.

Vinyl Mag: So you guys have playing together since you were teenagers, how did the band form?

Travis Hawley: Well Matt and I met in middle school, and then the rest of us started playing together when we were little kids. We grew up playing music together and it has just been that way ever since.

VM: Comparisons have been drawn between Night Riots and big names such as The Killers, The Clash, and U2. How would you define your sound?

Nick Fotinakes: Sort of like a mix between The Killers and U2. I don’t know; I like it. I think it has the nostalgia of U2 or maybe some 80’s stuff. But, we also grew up listening to a lot of punk music, so it still has a lot of angst and darkness. I don’t know; it’s just rock with a listenability.

VM:You guys had to change your band name due to copyright infringements. How did you guys settle on the name Night Riots?

TH: It came to Mikel in a dream.

NF: Mikel has a lot of premonitions. Like on the flight over here, he thought we were all going to crash.

Matt DePauw: No, he saw a ring of light, and it was hopeful. He grabbed my wrist and was shaking, and then his eyes went completely white, and he saw a vision…

VM: You raised the money to put out your EP Young Lore independently. How was that experience?

TH: It was fun; it was a actually a cool way to give back to our fans. You know, they would donate surprising amount of money, and then we just tried our best to make worthwhile things to give back to them. So, we just had a bunch of cool little perks.

VM: Who would you guys say are your biggest musical influences?

TH: I like INXS.

NF: Travis.

MD: Dr. Dre, 2001. I mean it, it’s a great album. It inspired me a lot.

VM: So, welcome to the heaven that is South by Southwest! Any really cool experiences yet? Or anything you guys are really looking forward to?

Rico Rodriguez: South by Southwest is just pure chaos. You have people throwing up on people, Lady Gaga flying around on meat, barbeques.

MD: Pretty much in the streets, too. She’s throwing up on stage, then you walk outside. Mikel saw that one in a premonition. He saw us eating gyros later, too…

VM: What is your favorite venue you guys have played?

TH: I like the Great American Music Hall in San Fransico; that’s pretty awesome.

NF: I like this place called Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego. It’s like a big outdoor amphitheater. You saw people on their boats pull up and watch the show.

VM: You were featured on Rolling Stone and on MTV Buzzworthy in 2011 and 2012. How did that feel to get that exposure?

NF: Pretty cool – like surreal. It’s something you never really think is going to happen, but then it does, and I don’t know. It doesn’t really click in until someone tells you it’s cool, and then you think it’s cool. I am really peer-pressure-influenced.

VM: How would you say your music has evolved since the beginning of the band?

TH: Since the beginning of time. It has just evolved. It has all been pretty organic, and I think recently we have been exploring a lot more textures and sounds and rhythm, so I think that’s the biggest thing. But also, just pushing ourselves to be a little bit more outside of the box.

VM: If you could play a live show or collaborate with any band or artist dead or alive, who would it be?

MD: Freddy Mercury. Or that guy Death Grips.

VM: What can we expect from Night Riots after SXSW?

Mikel Van Kranenburg: Lots of gold, gold rings. That’s what I saw.

TH: We are going to come home, and then we are actually just spending a couple of months just writing music, get[ting] a couple of music videos done. A bit of touring, and then we are going to start it all over again.

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