The room was moderately packed for a chilly Friday night at the Marquis Theatre when I arrived after a tedious battle with the pothole-filled streets to get downtown. It had been snowing all week, but you couldn’t tell from the warm buzz of the crowd once you got inside. “We always pick the coldest time of the year to come to Denver” guitarist Mikel joked, wrapped in a peacoat and boots as he met me at the door and walked us downstairs to meet the rest of the band. Playing that night with locals The Epilogues, the Denver music scene has become a welcome friend to Night Riots. They’ve played this city a slew of times over the past few years and were paired with The Epilogues as local support so often its lead them to ask the group to now accompany them on some tour dates through California and along the west coast. Although the band has continued to grow and change, Denver’s familiar crowd is refreshing amidst their newest endeavor: their first full national headlining tour. Kicking off on January 19th, the band will be out until the end of March, a lofty endeavor for any group regardless of size or tenure. “It’s been surprising how awesome the shows have been so far” lead singer Travis Hawley admitted to me on their green room couch. “It’s been nerve-wracking to be the headliner for the first time, but it’s going well so far”. “We think our drummer has dysentery, but he’ll pull through” guitarist Matt joked.
The past year has seemingly been one long, eclectic experiment for the band as they played with a crazy variety of different artists throughout the year. Touring with experimental rapper K Flay, playing festivals with The Mowglis and Cage The Elephant, and even a few Saosin reunion shows in the fall, the group has certainly stretched the limits of their dynamic sound, one which I’ve been known to describe as “brooding disco meets alt-pop”. When asked about their unique sound, Hawley said “We don’t wanna write the same song every time. All these pieces, each song, should be a different story, but they’re all from the same life. We’re always trying to relate pieces that are an adventure through (coherent) lifetime.” From the simple, poppy bass lines and piano of “Young Lore” to the emotive, 80’s style lyrics of “Back to Your Love”, into the dark and mysterious tracks of their newest release, 2014’s Howl, Night Riots might not seem to “fit” any of the bills they’ve been booked on, but it’s been made clear that they are the square that can become the rectangle, not the rectangle that cannot be the square. “It’s been really interesting to watch how fans react to us in each situation” Mikel concedes to me while we chat, “It hasn’t been planned for us to play such diverse shows, but it’s certainly been surprising to see how each show goes. Not all the fans at every show connect, but there’s been a good portion of fans that have been interested in what we do. I think that K Flay’s fans were the most surprising because she’s so different from us, but then again, she has a really varied fan base to begin with.”