Seriously, these are some of the nicest dudes on Earth. Ever.
Australian indie trio City Riots made the long ass trip to NYC for CMJ 2013. In addition to CMJ, the group will be playing 3 more shows around NYC the following week, as well as having a listening party for their latest album, Sea Of Bright Lights.
But why wait for that?! You can download their latest single off the album, “Wait For You, right HERE to get a taste of what City Riots is all about. I spoke with the entire band in Washington Square Park prior to their performances to talk about their debut album, the Australian music scene, and where the group will be going before the end of the year. And take note, if you leave 2 Aussies alone for more than 5 minutes in NYC, they will rent bikes and cause trouble… Loveable bunch those guys in City Riots are!
R- What an intro! That was fantastic!
G- Strong, baby! Strong!
So first and foremost, thank you guys very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five!
R- A pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for having us!
D- It’s a good excuse to hire some bikes!
G- 2 of the members just rented Citi Bikes by the way, and they said they haven’t gotten into any trouble yet, but that’ll be coming very, very soon.
R- About 3 minutes. (laughing)
G- We’ll get them for a few minutes here first. Just don’t fall off the bikes, guys.
First and foremost, for some of our readers who haven’t heard of City Riots before, let’s go ahead and get some introductions. Tell us who you are, where you’re all from, and what you all play.
R- OK. My name is Rickey and I play guitar and I sing, and I’m from Adelaide, S. Australia, and I’m the older brother to this guy next to me.
G- Dunt dunt duhhh.
D- Which is myself, Daniel, Rick’s brother, and I play the drums.
G- Excellent. And yourself, sir?
M- I’m Matthew and I play guitar and am also hail from Adelaide.
G- Ok, so the location is right… No plane trips for practice. That’s good.
Tell us about the history of the band… How long has City Riots been around and when did you first get started?
R- We’ve been a band for about 4-5 years, and it started… Well, Dan and I are brothers, and we started jamming in what was my mom’s dining room, now a rehearsal room.
G- Ok. Commandeered.
R- Yeah, our parents are very supportive. Soon after, we found Matthew over there lingering around some of the venues we’d hang out at, and he looked like he should be in a band, or should be in a band and wasn’t in a band. So, we thought ‘Can you play anything,’ and he said ‘Yeah, I dabble’ (laughing.)
D- And he literally came around the next Sunday for a jam and we said ‘This seems to be working.’
M- That’s pretty much it.
G- Alright! That’s what you gotta do. Good deal!
Now, you guys are currently touring in support of your debut album, called Sea of Bright Lights. How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record at this time?
R- Yeah, the reception has been really good. Back home, where the band already had some kind of profile established, it was a mix between people who hadn’t already heard the band already loving the record and being totally into, and people who were already familiar with the band loving it, but I guess recognizing that it was different from our earlier releases that we’d done. We’d done a couple of EPs and a couple of singles that we just put out ourselves.
So, there was definite growth and maturity in the band’s sound. It took us maturing as a band to kind of find our unique sound as a band. It took us those releases and EPs and that time jamming to the point where we could find that sound.
So at home, it’s been great! The reception from magazines and press has been fantastic…
At this point, a guy comes up and asks us if we have any rolling papers. Gotta love NYC.
This guy wants a rolling paper!
G- Welcome to Washington Square Park! Sorry, man… All out.
R- His hair is awesome! He’s got a comb in there! He looks like the drummer for The Roots.
G- He’s just trying to get down.
R- Yeah. But, we love America, so we thought let’s get some songs out to college stations here. And by some, I mean all. But like I said, it’s going amazing well, better than we could have imagined. It’s been really exciting!
Now, we’re here at CMJ because of it, playing lots of shows and meeting lots of new people and lots of new bands and just spreading the word about City Riots really.
G- Excellent! So tell us about the recording process for the album… Where did you record it, who was behind the boards this time around, and how long did the release take to record and get ready for release?
R- We started demo-ing the songs in November, and we did a tour in Australia with this well known group in Australia called Gyroscope, and that was a chance to try new songs on the road. A couple of songs we stuck with, and other ones we moved on from, from that tour. It was a chance for us to work out what songs were working and what ones weren’t.
Then, we started working on more songs over our Summer, which is the middle of your Winter. And then around March or April, we went to the studio in Melbourne, which is like an 8-hour drive. We took 2 cars, put all the stuff in the back of the cars, and drove over and worked with this crazy guy by the name of Woody, and he worked on a song for us previously called “Matchsticks,” and we really love working with him. He really understood us as a band, and what we wanted to sound like and who we were as people and what we wanted to be as a band. That’s important. I think a lot of bands go work with producers and the producers just do their thing without really acknowledging what the band is all about. So, he really got us and understood us, and we knew going in that we wanted him to do the record.
So, that process took about 5 weeks, something like that. I mean, Dan does drums, so he was done in 5 days (laughs) and then, he played FIFA on Playstation. (all laughing) And we left ourselves a lot of time for guitars and vocals. Vocals took 2 weeks alone, and another week of guitars, 10 days or longer.
So yeah, it was from November, and we finished doing the record in maybe May, so that time was writing and finishing recording. I think it’s not that long of a time, I guess. But for us, it was a big operation. That’s all we were working on for that amount of time. It was all we were doing.
Ok, I’m going to deviate from my script just a little bit because you’re from Australia and I have you here. Fosters – Is it really ‘Australian for beer?’
M- Someone asked us that last night.
G- Ahh shit. Redundant.
R- What was the answer?
M- No, nobody in Australia drinks Fosters. You can’t buy it anywhere there.
R- It’s more of an export beer.
G- You can’t even buy it?
R- You’re shattering the hopes of so many Foster’s drinkers!
G- You heard it from the source, folks: Fosters is decidedly NOT Australian for beer. But that’s alright, we’ve got plenty of beer here in the states, and we’ll be drinking a lot of it this week. And while we’re on the topic of cross-cultural collaboration here…
R- Does everyone drink Budweiser here?
G- I’ll drink whatever is cold and free.
R- (laughing) That happens in Australia, too!
G- It’s a good thing. Free beer!
But since we’re talking about beers in Australia and beers here, how about the reception you’ve been receiving in the states, and how does it compare with your performances abroad, both in terms of how you play and the audience reaction? Honestly, where do you like to perform more, and where’s your favorite spot to play?
R- I love performing in America because you guys are wonderful. You always take so fondly to Australians. I don’t know whether you’re like that for all the internationals…
G- It’s the accent, guys. We watched Crocodile Dundee when we were kids.
R- I actually had to borrow a knife from someone in a pub the other day, and he just looked at me like ‘Is this a set up?’
Like, ‘Are you having me on?” We had just arrived in the country, and all our stuff was taped up, our guitar cases, and I was trying to cut them open. So I asked him ‘Do you have a knife,’ and he was ‘Ahhh that’s awesome!’ But no, I really needed a knife! But no, I really needed to get my guitar out. He thought we were reenacting the script or something.
Anyways, he gave me his knife. He actually had a knife on him, I didn’t! But we love playing America because the reception is always so positive for us, and Australians in general. Yesterday, we played 2 shows at Cake Shop ad it was awesome. And Lit Lounge, which was missing half of the stage, like the front bit of the stage! Matt was on the floor, and we were up on the stage…
M- I was like a foot shorter.
R- Like a midget! I wanted to jump down there to make sure he still felt…
D- Yeah, he’s normal height, too!
G- (laughing) That’s awesome! Just play on your knees next time and you’ll all be level-headed.
So, are there any particular places that you hope to hit in the near future?
R- We’re hoping to get to some of these states that have been playing the record at their colleges. We’re hopefully going to go to West Virginia next week. I just met a lady who wants to have us up in Boston, which sounds really fun.
D- Cook us dinner maybe. Cook us in her basement.
R- That could happen!
G- Yeah you can’t say that here… That could happen!
R- Where else? I mean, there are so many places to play in NY alone. I think the population of Australia is the same as NYC. Actually, the population of Australia did the Columbus Day Walk! I mean, c’mon? There are so many places to play here. It’s amazing!
In Australia, we play in Adelaide, and then we have to drive like 10 hours to get to a place where there are actually people. Otherwise, we’re just playing to kangaroos.
Here, it’s amazing. We play here and walk up 10 blocks and play somewhere else. It’s amazing!
G- I’d also like to recommend Austin, TX to you guys.
R- Yes. Hopefully, we’ll be at SXSW next year. So Austin, we’re coming for ya!
G- Nice! We’ll have to meet up and have a couple of Lone Star.
R- Some ribs!
G- Why not!
R- Some good ribs!
G- Maybe some Foster’s as well… The big oil cans!
So let’s get everybody’s take on this… Do you have a favorite song you have ever written or one that you enjoy performing the most? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard City Riots before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
R- Whoa… These are big questions!
Ok, favorite song of City Riots is probably track 5 from the record, “Closer,” because I think it really captures everything I like about the sound of the record is in that song, the melodies and the guitars and everything.
But, if I was to give a song to someone to say this is City Riots, I’d probably be “Wait For You,” which is the first single off the record, so it’s good that we made that decision. Dan?
D- My favorite track that we recorded, and still is now, is probably the last track on the record, “It’s Been A Long Time.” When we started jamming it, even before we recorded it, I liked the vibe of it, enjoyed playing it, and still do now. And we often have people come up to us and say ‘I really dig that track.’ So, it’s nice to have that yourself, and have other people like it as well. It’s rewarding.
So, the last track on the record is mine.
M- And how about you man?
R- Matty, get over here!
M- I’d agree with Daniel.
D- Be different!
M- Yeah I just agree with everything he says. “It’s Been A Long Time” is definitely one of my favorites, too. It really gets the audience going.
R- Matt gets to play a guitar on that one, and I just sing.
G- Right on. Lots of laughter going on here… This is definitely the most fun interview I’ve had here at CMJ so far. It IS a riot in the city.
So, I have 3 of you here, and I’d like to know if you have a feasible 3-band dream lineup that you hope to be a part of…
G- And since there are 3 of you, I’d like to get one band from each of you.
R- Ok, so 3 bands on a bill, plus us?
G- That’s right.
R- Hang on hang on. Disclaimer: I’m a very indecisive person, and I love music. I need to think about this.
G- Ok, I’ll queue the Jeopardy them song.
D- There are so many bands we want to play with… I got one already, but it’s a pretty big one.
D- It’s pretty big, though. I don’t know.
R- Come on!
D- I’d say Blur. It’s a big one. I think that’d be cool
G- Blur is a big one. Very good choice. I’d like to do that, too. I should get a band going.
R- That’d be cool, yeah.
G- Ok so we’ve got Blur. Who else?
M- I’d say My Bloody Valentine.
G- Another one that’s been coming up a lot lately. I’d just like to get a ticket to see them!
R- And they’re touring again, so that’s feasible!
G- And now the indecisive one…
R- Well, if I say some of my all-time favorite acts, I’d be too nervous to focus on the show, like Morrissey is standing over there or something, you know what I mean? I’d try to get his attention. Still, I wouldn’t say no.
G- Yeah, you wouldn’t pass that up, would you?
D- He’d make us look bad, too. Show us up.
R- True. But also, a band that we could feed off the audience, like a band where the audience would share similar fans with us.
We played the Smashing Pumpkins tour a few years back, which was awesome and not a tour you’d ever pass up. But at the same time, as amazing as it was, it was a very tough audience to win over. Firstly, who goes to a Smashing Pumpkins gig to see the support band? And secondly, there are definitely some musical sounds that we don’t share. So, we had to work really hard to win over the audience, but it was amazing at the same time.
M- So, just choose a band, Rick!!!
R- Good point.
D- Maybe at SXSW, he’ll be able to answer these questions. (Laughing)
G- I can put a ‘To Be Continued’ on this. That’s fine, guys.
R- I was thinking maybe a band like Phoenix, a cool band that I really like, and I also think the audience would really dig it and go buy our record after, you know what I mean?
G- So we’ve got Phoenix, Blur, MY bloody Valentine, and City Riots.
R- Yeah that’d be cool!
G- It’s an amazing lineup, but it’d probably be like a $900 ticket!
M- Yeah, and how did we get booked on it? (laughing)
R- And that’s in Amercian! Just imagine bringing them over to Australia! It’s so much more expensive over there. It’d be like $2000.
G- It’d be pricey, but it’d be worth it!
G- So just to finish up today, you’ve toured with Smashing Pumpkins, and you’re along way from home right now…
R- 30 hour travel time, yeah.
G- But you’re doing it, living the dream, and building. Kids look up to you guys because you’re doing what they want to be doing. So, from your experience, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands that want to do what you’re doing and look up to you for inspiration.
R- Oof big questions… I like this! Big questions and good questions!
I think it’s really important for bands, and it was really difficult for us in our hometown starting out, which wasn’t that long ago, in Adelaide which doesn’t have a big, strong music scene and community, to become friends with other bands of a similar genre in their hometown. They can put gigs on together and have some fans, and their fans can tap into the other band, really creating a community and a friendship group between, bands and putting on shows together at that really DIY level. I think that can be really important, and I think it can spread really quickly, especially when it starts to connect with the audience. I know that’s what has been happening at home now. I wish we were doing that originally, because it would’ve been good for our hometown and we wouldn’t have had to spend so much time away from home to start off.
So that’s really important… Finding like-minded bands, putting on shows together, and creating that synergy.
G- Alright. And you, Dan?
D- I would say getting an audience in your hometown is pretty important. And then from there, don’t think too much about it. Do what you love, writing songs and playing music, and don’t be afraid to hop in the van and go on tour. Get out there and do it, because that’s the only way you’re going to find out if there is some kind of response. At the end of the day, you just have to tour, tour, tour, and keep liking what you’re doing. As soon as it becomes a chore, then make it fun again.
G- Nice! And you notice he didn’t say ‘quit,’ he said ‘make it fun again.’ So don’t quit, guys. And to finish it up, Matt?
M- You just have to spend a lot of years touring… Lots of hours in the van playing dirty clubs to nobody…
R- Which we still do sometimes, particularly in a new town! When you do that, it makes the gigs that are full of people more special. It all comes around.
R- Yeah. I think really early on, we just wanted to play, and the first time we came to America, we didn’t even think about it so such. We went to the travel agent and said ‘We’re going to America’ and she was like ‘What’s the name of your band,’ and she’d never heard of us. So, we just bought tickets, came over here, and played shows. We didn’t think about it too much… We just wanted to play, and America being such a great country to play, we did.
G- Love it! By far, my favorite interview of CMJ thus far! So, that’s awesome!
We just got finished speaking with City Riots from Australia, and they’ll be playing all over the city this week.
Guys, I want to say thank you very much again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five!
R- A pleasure. Anytime!
G- Best of luck this week, and just be safe in your travels, play hard, and I will see you again in the future!
R- Thanks, mate!