[Interview] Night Riots

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Night Riots’ catchy tunes and heartfelt, romantic lyrics combined with their polished, boy band-like image have managed to catch the attention of music fans and critics alike. I caught up with three of the five members of the band to speak about their rising success before they opened a sold-out show with the Mowgli’s. The alternative rock group, formerly known as PK, comes from San Louis Obispo, California and has been named one of the “Top 16 Unsigned Bands in America” by Rolling Stone Magazine. It’s no hard task to ponder why.

The vocals compares to that of The Killers, while the band’s subtle guitar riffs and powerful choruses parallel the alternative hits that are played on repeat on the radio. Surprisingly, the band members were not offended or surprised when I compared their music to other artists, but rather accepted it with humility.

“Those are great bands,” said guitarist Matt DePauw. “We get compared to The Killers, U2, The Cure… I honestly love them all so if people can find that in our music, it’s a good thing.”

Guitarist Nick Fotinakes also chimed in: “You don’t ever want to be compared to something but people are going to do it and if they’re going to compare us to those bands, it’s better than being compared to Raffi or something like that,” he said followed by a laugh.

“Wait but I wouldn’t mind being like Raffi either though!” DePauw responded, which then lead to a banter between the two guitarists while vocalist Travis Hawley quietly waits for them to settle down and gets them back on track.

Another thing about the band that caught my attention was their independence and self-sustainability. Currently unsigned and previously self-managed, Night Riots still managed to book their own shows and create a large and loyal following. Now, as the band is getting more and more attention, they are slowly adding members to their team to do some of the legwork for them.

“It disperses a little bit of the weight,” Hawley said. “Sometimes we have so much work to do that we get overwhelmed, but now we have specific people for the job. Ultimately, we enjoy doing all that stuff, but at the end of the day we want to be creative all the time. So the more time we have to be making art and making music, the better it is for the band.”

Being an independent band comes with creative freedom, but it also comes with its limitations – the biggest one being financials. A label funds projects including producing and marketing an album, but as an unsigned band, Night Riots found their own way to fund their album. The band’s first EP,  Young Lore, which was released a year ago, was funded entirely through crowd funding.

“The community really got behind us,” DePauw said. “People donated a lot more than I thought was going to happen. It means a lot.”

“And the cool thing for us is having people feel like they’re a part of it too,” Fotinakes added.

With the confidence of knowing that they can fund and release and album independently, Night Riots has the ability to be picky when it comes to choosing a label and finding the right fit.

“I think for a while we wanted to get to a point where we knew who we are and we’re going,” said Hawley. “And now it’s a matter of working with a partner who has the same vision in the long run.”

Part of the band’s vision is perfecting their live show. Videos convey their performance as very high-energy and interactive. “Sometimes you see a band and it’s just five guys standing onstage,” said Fotinakes. “We want to make it more of a spectacle, and something fans are excited to see rather than just hear.”

To check out Night Riots’ upbeat performance for yourself, stop by one of their shows on their summer tour of the western United States with New Beat Fund. I definitely recommend sticking after the show to say hi. The guys are extremely down-to-earth, never hesitating to respond to wall posts on Facebook or chatting with fans in line.

If you’re not fortunate to live in a city where they’re stopping by, give their songs a listen if you haven’t already. If you’re like me, their songs will remind you of the background music of a closing scene of a heartwarming coming-of-age indie movie.


Lan proudly finds her roots in Long Beach, California, but spends most months of the year in Chicago, where she studies journalism and psychology at Northwestern University. In her free time, she enjoys photography, watching indie movies, exploring nature and watching ABC Family television shows when no one’s looking.

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