“I  have always been pretty open. I definitely go across genres and there isn’t a type of music that I’ll tell you I flat-out hate because I can probably find something I like in it.”

From the very beginning, California based band Night Riots have indulged a host of diverse musical influences. Band mates since their school days in Templeton, CA – Matt DePauw, Nick Fotinakes, Mikel Van Kranenburg, Rico Rodriguez and Travis Hawley have continually drawn inspiration from an extensive list of musical artists, some diametrically opposed to the other. AFI, Thursday, Vampire Weekend and the Killers have all been previously named as primary influences, although the group’s penchant for an original, dynamic sound has taken them far past their own alternative rock roots. Praised by MTV and Rolling Stone, the group routinely tackles a wide-range of styles that traces their own changing tastes and evolving musical approach.

Weeks before the release of their brand new EP, Howl, lead singer Travis Hawley sat down with Pancakes and Whiskey to shed new light on his earliest musical memories, deepest inspirations and his favorite records.

Like most people, Hawley’s earliest musical influences come from his parents.

“First off when I was a kid, it was the Gypsy Kings. It’s a weird parent band that I used to listen to a lot because my parents listened to it. I just really liked it, it’s like Basque music, I’d guess you’d call it.” Moving away from the progressive rock of the popular 1970s band, a teenaged Hawley found himself enamored with the pop-punk surge of the late nineties, describing Blink 182’s Enema of the State as a “huge album,” for him.

Blink 182

Blink 182

“I was really into more punk and stuff like that for a while, and it kind of spread me over in all sorts of directions because Blink was very pop. So it allowed me to listen to more mainstream stuff, but then it also had their roots, like Cheshire Cat and Buddha. So I was able to get into Blink 182’s influences, which started off with more punk stuff from the earlier nineties or whatever. And then it also started to go into a little bit of the eighties new wave thing, too. But then I guess I sort of fell out of love with that genre for a while because nothing new was coming out of it. And I guess I fell into more older stuff.”

“So I remember my brother was listening to Paul Simon a lot, and he said I should check it out. At first I didn’t really like it, I didn’t really like Graceland that much. And then something hit…I started listening to Graceland a ton and I just got super into that album. I mean, the whole way through…I think it’s an amazing piece of art.” Though he describes his reverence for the Paul Simon masterpiece to be “a bit of a slow burn,” Hawley credits the lyrics of the album, as well as the bridge to the title song “Graceland,” for making a long lasting impression. Even though, Simon’s earliest work hadn’t initially impressed him to the same degree.

Paul Simon

Paul Simon

“Simon and Garfunkle was playing in my house when I was a kid, as well. I knew Simon and Garfunkle, so yeah, I kept checking that out, but I’m definitely the type of person that gets really, really into one album. Because I’ll take the breadth of work, and just really dive into it.”

And though it was Paul Simon’s poetic delivery that grabbed his attention, Hawley acknowledged that when it comes to lyrics, he is most often influenced by novelists. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is a favorite book, as well as the complete works of Cormac McCarthy. Surprisingly, it was this same regard for classic storytelling that eventually led him to two very different music worlds.

“I’m from a pretty rural area and country’s really big here. And I feel like I shouldn’t like country because nobody likes country, but sometimes I’ll just flip it on just to hear it. I’ll listen to the radio and there will be some really simple, relatable lyric or an extremely hooky part. I’ll just be like, “Why do I like this?” But it’s kind of cool.” And while the genres are not inherently alike, Hawley’s love of verse led him to explore the earliest days of rap and hip-hop.

“I like that hip hop, especially older hip hop, like late eighties, early nineties, there’s always a lot of storytelling going on. I really like that a lot. And again, taking back to country, which people are going to hate me for, but the allure of it is that it’s good storytelling. And that’s the same thing with Paul Simon; they’re taking you to a place and they’re showing you, they’re not telling you. And for me, that’s ideal.”

Although Hawley’s appreciation for rap music also stemmed from two of his earliest rock and roll influences.

“I’ve been into older music for a while because I hadn’t found something modern that I was really liking. And one of the weird ones that I was really into was INXS, the album Kick. That’s my favorite album, that and Rebel Yell, Billy Idol, production wise. And I really love the production of them- they kind of started to get a little less lo-fi. I mean, those are pretty hi-fi albums, they’re recorded really well. So that kind of allowed me to start listening to newer stuff and I started just trying out everything, like hip-hop…I got into Kayne West Graduation.”



Another recent favorite is the rap group, Death Grips. Describing their sound, Hawley stated:

“It’s just so much noise and so much aggression, and it’s just like nothing I’ve heard before. And it’s really, really enjoyable to me.”

Miles away from the frenzied energies of Death Grips is the garage rock mastery of the Strokes. And while he enjoys the complete Strokes catalogue, First Impressions of Earth remains his personal favorite.

The Strokes

The Strokes

Is This It is probably better pound for pound, I guess, for songs. But I don’t know, I like the recording quality of First Impressions a lot, and I like the whole album as a cohesive thing.”

Most recently, Hawley has become a follower of the New York based band, Francis and the Lights. Describing himself as an instant fan, the Night Riots’ frontman was most impressed by the varied musical styles present on their records.

“It has kind of an indie, I want to say Americana thing going on. So it has a little Bruce Springsteen, has a little Tom Petty, but then there’s a little electronica in it, too.”

Examining the many genres present in his album collection, Hawley reflected on his own musical history before recognizing how each member of the band has undoubtedly shaped each other’s love and knowledge of music.

“I’m from a pretty small town and my brother started playing guitar. I think most kids play guitar for a little while, or some instrument. And I couldn’t play guitar because he was playing it, so I started playing drums. And then since I was the drummer, there were only a few of us in our school, so every band wanted me to be in the band. And then from there I met a group of friends, and I mean, we’re still friends. We’re still in a band together, we’ve been friends forever. And I guess we’ve all kind of influenced each other to check out new music and build platforms for different genres and different things like that.”


Howl is the new EP from Night Riots

Night Riots - Howl

Night Riots – Howl

Available on iTunes January 20th

Article by: Caitlin Phillips

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