We recently came together with Riot for Romance to talk about their latest cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” The American post-punk act broke down their approach to putting their own spin on the classic by incorporating a variety of sounds, creating a seamless fusion of keys, guitars, and piano. The band members also discuss the themes behind “The World And Its Weight” and “Less For Regret,” both inspired by personal struggles and relationships. They explain that they hope to connect with listeners and provide transparency through their music.
Additionally, Riot for Romance gives a glimpse into the upcoming album, which builds on the self-titled EP and explores the concept of unburdening ourselves from toxic worldviews and forming our own identities. They describe the sound as ranging from cleaner tones to more saturated tones, with their synth and keys cutting through at times. They also share the challenges they’ve faced as a multi-state band, such as elongated times in songwriting and preparing for performances.
Read the full interview below.
“Karma Police” is such an iconic song. What made you decide to cover it, and how did you approach putting your own spin on it?
Radiohead is an influence for all of us. Their creativity has always challenged the status quo of pop music. There is something satisfying about putting your own spin on a classic song you love. It’s one thing to simply cover a song exactly as it was first released but interpreting it in your own ethos while still paying homage to the original is its own artform. Honestly, it puts yourself in a vulnerable spot as a musician, because you’re being judged through the lens of the original. “Karma Police” holds great dynamics to it while being centered mostly around the piano. Our approach was to emphasize keys and guitars with piano playing the role of atmosphere instead.
“The World And Its Weight” deals with the stress that the pandemic has put on relationships. Can you talk more about how that theme inspired the song, and what you hope listeners take away from it?
The band formed at the onset of the pandemic, so it was timely to write about it. This was and is an ordeal that most people can relate to whether you are single or not, as the shelter-at-home orders challenged and stressed relationships of all kinds. If you were living with a romantic partner, roommate, or alone, the struggle to maintain relationships near or far were very real. Acknowledging that in my own life gave me an opportunity to express the difficulty. It was my way of saying to my wife, “hey babe, the weight of the world is heavy right now, but no matter how hard it is there is no one else I’d rather do this with. Let’s use the pressure that life is dishing out to make us like diamonds.” (I’m a romantic at heart.)
I strive to write lyrics that evoke emotions that resonate regardless of an individual’s circumstances. So, even if you aren’t experiencing the same situation as me, you can relate to the overarching theme. My hope is that listeners are able to identify with the challenges and stress of having sheltered at home and are encouraged that they are here now and made it through that tough time.
In “Less For Regret,” you touch on the challenges of parenting. How did you navigate the delicate balance of expressing vulnerability and honesty in the song, and what motivated you to share such a personal message with your audience?
Music has always been a life-filling force for me; especially, when a song is wrapped in authenticity. I want to provide that same transparency and send a message to others, “You are not alone.” “Less For Regret,” like most of my songs, isn’t overt in its message on parenting. Rather, it attempts to focus on how we can let our loved ones down, and if we aren’t careful, we can get lost in that feeling. Instead, humility and owning mistakes can go a long way reinforcing the relationships we hold dear.
You’d mentioned before that you’re working on a new record. Without giving too much away, can you provide a general idea of the themes and sounds that fans can anticipate from your upcoming album?
We are stoked for sure. The songs we have in motion all build on our first release taking this new LP through a natural progression. With “Less For Regret” being one of the last songs written and recorded on our self-titled release, I think that one gives the best launching point for the upcoming songs. Sonically, I’m using a couple of different amps and guitars, so the layering and atmosphere will range from cleaner tones like we did on “Karma Police” to some more saturated tones. Our synth and keys will cut through more at times too. Thematically, lyrics are circling around this idea of unburdening ourselves from some of the toxicity of worldviews that we’ve been handed and exploring how we are forming our own identities. But as always, lyrics will strive to connect with emotions we all relate to regardless of where listeners are in life’s journey.
What has been your favorite performance or tour experience as a band so far, and why?
It’s a tie from a recent tour we had. We played a show in Atlanta at Aisle 5 sponsored by Live Nation. The staff was so warm and accommodating. The sound was fantastic, and the vibe in the venue had incredible energy. You don’t always have that on the road. And it impacts the band’s performance and audience’s experience. All was right in the world that night. We all had a blast.
The other was a small record store in Tampa called Microgroove. It was old school where there basically was no proper sound, we had no stage, and no room to really move while we performed. But with the place packed, it was a very intimate experience. I could see every face and connect with people from the stage. It was a different energy than Aisle 5 but equally as satisfying. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing to 50 people or thousands. Once you take the stage, you tap into the experience and connect with the audience.
Can you share any specific challenges you have faced as a band due to your multi-state arrangement, and how you have overcome them?
The biggest challenge has just been elongated times in song writing or recording since we can’t always make decisions together in real-time. We map out a timeline of milestones, so we can plan ahead and keep things rolling. We use technology to our advantage leveraging cloud-based files to share ideas and record. We jump on a video call or phone call to discuss as needed. It’s worked out quite well! The other has been when preparing for performances. We use a click live with backing tracks for ambience, so Kelly sends tailored rehearsal tracks for us to practice on individually. We meet a day or two before a performance or when a tour kicks off and practice a few hours in-person, and the next day is usually showtime!
For those who are just starting out in the music industry, what words of advice or encouragement would you offer?
We would encourage others to remember that success is subjective. That means you have freedom to define what that means to you as a band or as an artist. Once you have that, build your music business around those goals. There will be a lot of distractions, but if you stay true to your own success, you’ll feel fulfilled in your music.
Check out Riot for Romance’s music below: