The Cinematic Darkness of Night Riots
  • MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015

  • Posted by: David Pitz

I have never been to San Luis Obispo California, though flipping through photos on Google, I get the impression that it's a lush, idyllic slice of the central Californian coast. The visuals look warm, sun-kissed, yet rugged. They look extremely inviting. I want to go... now, pretty please?

This vibe stands in stark contrast to another one painted by director Joel Schumacher in the 1987 horror flick, The Lost Boys. In that particular cult classic, Santa Carla, a similar sort of Californian beach town, is terrorized by a gang of teenage vampires. The atmosphere is ink-black and shadowy. There is a constant fog blanketing the town. The bloodsuckers could strike at any time... and they do, often to the tune of 80s sonic stalwarts like INXS or Echo and The Bunnymen playing in the background. And then, of course, there's this magical musical moment:



I bring up the film because it's the first thing that jumps into my head when considering the music of San Louis Obispo's Night Riots. On their new EP Howl, I imagine the battle between Jason Patric, The Coreys, and vampire heartthrob Kiefer Sutherland raging endlessly in my head. As singer Travis Hawley explains, "There's always this vein of darkness that runs through. Even though a lot of the messages are positive, it kind of hovers in the sound".

That sound is festival friendly, in the same way that say... Passion Pit's music is festival friendly. There are driving beats, sing-along choruses, and plenty of glitzy, synthetic sheen. But there's something menacing boiling below the surface as well. "We've been saying gloom pop lately. It's kind of a silly name but I think it fits us well because at heart we're an alternative rock band. We're pop music," explains Hawley. Pop music in the same vein of The Cure, Simple Minds, and/or The Faint.



The band is also extremely versatile. When we premiere our session with the band later this week, you'll hear 3 of Howl's songs recreated in a very different light. With banjo, accordion, acoustic guitars, and anguished vocals, the band strike a much more dust-bowl-inspired version of macabre. It's quite a transformation.



Whether making a sea of festival goers jump to the sound of their synthy, industrial "gloom pop" or spooking listeners with post-apocalyptic folk, Night Riots paint vivid imagery in the mind's eye... like The Lost Boys. "We're always trying to build a picture... we're always kind of making movies in our heads", says Hawley.

Sneak a preview of the session in our interview with Hawley and Nick Fotinakes below and do be sure to check out Howl. As Fotinakes puts it, "It kind of came out exactly how we want the EP to sound... it's the first piece of work that we're really proud of". Indeed they should be.
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