City Riots are making themselves known little by little. Well that last bit mightn’t be true, it’s been faster than that. They’ve supported The Smashing Pumpkins, played with headline Aussie acts and even been showing their sound off to industry big wigs in the US. All this and more has happened in the space of two years and it looks like 2011 is shaping up as an important one for the Adelaide band with the release of their debut album set to further cement their name in our minds. Currently on tour with Ball Park Music playing shows around the country they took time out to speak to Music Feeds about their whirlwind history as a band.
Music Feeds: Ricky and Dan you guys are brothers, why did you guys decide to form a band? What had your lives been like before the idea for City Riots?
City Riots: Our father was a drummer and we always had music playing around the house. We started learning a bunch of different instruments at a really young age. I guess it was just inevitable that we would start jamming together. Our dad used to make us jam The Beatles, Dire Straits, Elvis, Credence Clearwater and the Easybeats. In year 9, I could play the guitar solo to Dire Straits’ Sultans Of Swing for my class. When I finished studying I travelled overseas for a few months where I played with lots of different musicians and did lots and lots of writing. When I returned, I told Dan that we should start jamming and recording these song ideas. Soon after that, we started supporting friend’s bands around Adelaide.
MF: Not many new Aussie bands could boast they’d been to SXSW, CMJ, played a show for LA’s Filter Magazine with Klaxons and The Black Lips and played support slots for British India all in the space of one year, that’s not even including a support spot for a little band called The Smashing Pumpkins! What’s going through your heads at the moment guys?
CR: At the moment, we’re really excited about working towards our releases that we have planned this year and letting people hear our songs. We’ve been doing a lot of shows and at the start of the year we recorded a bunch of songs with Woody Annison in Melbourne. We’re really excited about these new songs and the recordings and we can’t wait to put them out so people who may have caught us at these shows can have something to buy. We’re also really excited about having our sights set firmly on Australia this year and next.
MF: Tell us about this friend of a friend who put you in contact with Bjorn Thorsrud, who has actually worked with the Pumpkins. Was he the one who put you in touch with the band?
CR: His name is Jon Lemon (when said in conversation, often sounds like John Lennon!). He’s a close family friend. He’s been working with Billy for a long time doing front of house sound for the pumpkins. Jon heard we were looking at doing a record, so he passed on our demo’s to Bjorn who he was working with at the time on doing some of the new Pumpkins songs at the new studio. Bjorn really loved the demo’s and was looking for a band with the kind of songs we were writing, so we decided to do some recording with him at the studio in Chicago.
MF: You’ve landed a couple of singles on triple j, for you guys; what does it mean to get your songs played on radio?
CR: For a band like us, it’s really exciting to have your songs reach an audience through radio. It a nice feeling after having work on a song that you were once jamming with your brother in the back room of our parents home to then have exposed across national radio. We also understand how extremely important of a tool it is in building your audience in Australia especially when touring and playing the regional shows and well as the capital cities like we have been doing this year.
MF: Tell us what’s been happening since you returned from overseas?
CR: It’s been crazy busy. Within a few days of getting home we did a couple of You Am I supports, then played the opening of the Adelaide Fringe Festivale with John Steel Singers. We then started working on the songs with Woody Annison in Melbourne before heading out on the road for a couple of months with British India which took us all around Australia. Our single In My Head came out last Friday along with two other tracks She Never Wants to Dance and Stupid Questions. We’ll be supporting Papa Vs. Pretty and Alpine this week before we head out on the road supporting crazy brissy kids Ball Park Music, which is going to be a lot of fun!
MF: So you recorded with Bjorn and then you’ve been working with Aussie producer Paul ‘Woody’ Annison (Children Collide, Red Riders). How has it been?
CR: Working with Bjorn was an extremely full on and intense experience. He’s a really interesting guy and we often had no idea what he was talking about, but he was so amazing to us. He let the four of us stay in his little two-bedroom apartment in downtown Chicago for 3 months. Working and living in each other’s shoes. By the end of the three months, I think he was excited to get his own space back. We were incredibly fortunate to get to work in the studio that we did for the amount of time we were given as well as have access to all the gear. Bjorn was very much into his big, elaborate sounding production. He introduced us to an abundance of new sounds and recording approaches. We also spent a lot of time looking at song arrangement and hooks and creating what he felt were strong songs that could not only be played by a band but could be performed alone on an acoustic guitar and still work. Woody on the other hand was the complete opposite working environment. We immediately struck it off and get along incredibly well and we were both on the same page from day one about the sound we wanted to get and how we wanted to songs to come across. He also had a lot of the same musical influences, which helped. Working with Woody was a really relaxed and natural process and we were able to create a sound that was a really true representation of what we are as a band and a great representation of what we naturally sound like live which was really important to us. Woody also went above and beyond his duty as a producer and we ended up working for almost a week longer then expected to ensure that we got the songs to the level where they need to be to be fully appreciated.
MF: It must have been an incredible experience getting to play at two of the most revered music conferences in the US. Tell us what happened when you played. Did you guys spark the interest of any important industry big wigs?
CR: Music conferences are great fun and you get to meet some great people and play with some great bands, but they’re really only as good as you make them. With so many bands vying for people’s attention, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd, especially when you’re just a little band from Adelaide. Luckily though, we had some good people who were really into the band helping us out over in the US and there was some strong groundwork done before we played the shows. We played on some killer bills to some great crowds as well as being a part of the Aussie BBQ showcases, which was awesome! US audiences in general, are always fans of Australian music, so it’s an exciting environment to be in. We got our song into a couple of films and got some great reviews and write ups, but like any activity overseas, to really make the most of it and capitalise on any opportunity in a big way, you need to ensure you have constant presence which means basing yourself over there. At the moment, our focus is on touring and releasing our songs in Australia, but we have some great infrastructure set up in the US, so when the time is right, we’ll be able to capitalise on the opportunities.
MF: What do you guys hope the rest of 2011 holds for City Riots? What can we expect to be hearing?
CR: You can expect lots more touring and new music. In fact, between the Melbourne and Brisbane shows with Ball Park Music we’ll be heading into the studio with Woody for a couple of days to record a new song that we’ve recently done that we’re really excited about. It will be on an EP that will be out late this coming September along with some other new tracks followed closely by the debut full length.
LR: You’re supporting Ball Park Music this month and will be playing shows in four of the five capital cities including your native Adelaide; are you guys excited to get back in the tour bus to win over as many Australians as possible?
CR: Absolutely!! We really started to feel that we we’re really hitting our stride near the end of the British India tour and we were really bummed out and a little lost with ourselves when that tour ended. It was 25 shows, but it went by so quick, so we can’t wait to get back on the road and play some more shows. We had been doing a version of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark where we would have some of the guys from British India and Boy In a Box join us on stage. We’ve been working on a few new cover options for this tour. I haven’t met the BPM dudes yet, but if their youtube videos are anything to go by, the shows should be a blast and hopefully there’ll be some kind of collaboration.
City Riots are playing at Last Night this Friday 15th July with Ball Park Music