California’s Night Riots at Belly Up Aspen |

California’s Night Riots at Belly Up Aspen

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Night Riots will perform Tuesday at Belly Up Aspen.
Jonathan Weiner/Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Night Riots

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Tuesday, Dec. 15, 9:30 p.m.

How much: $5

Tickets: Belly Up box office;

Night Riots is the rock ’n’ roll success story of your junior high garage-band dreams.

The members of the California-based band began performing together in middle school — they learned to play together, explored different genres together and eventually formed the rising band that’s now on its fourth national tour of 2015.

“Our relationships as people and friends is the core of everything,” lead vocalist Travis Hawley said recently from the road. “There isn’t that tension in the studio. We’re all working for a common goal. We’re on the same page. It’s like telepathy when it happens.”

The Night Riots tour that comes to Belly Up Aspen today is in support of the EP “Howl,” which came out last January and followed 2013’s crowd-funded, self-released “Young Lore.”

The new record includes the band’s first hit single, “Contagious,” which melds danceable synth-pop with an anthemic ambition, and has earned Night Riots a growing international following. It distilled a sound the band had been working toward for years, blending guitar rock with synthesizers and soaring pop with a subtly gothy brooding spirit.

“It was the song I was the most passionate about and that I felt was the most representative of us,” Hawley said. “The whole goal was to find a sound on that record. I think that song does that.”

The gloomy pop sound and the timbre of Hawley’s voice have invited comparisons to The Cure and Robert Smith, which have surprised him and the band, who came of age playing and listening to punk rock.

“It’s funny,” he said. “People come up and say, ‘Oh, you listen to a lot of The Cure and AFI,’ and I really enjoy both of those bands, but I can’t say I’m any more influenced by them than by Paul Simon or Johnny Cash or Kanye West. But those are timeless bands that I have no problem being associated with.”

Each time they’ve crossed the country — including a slot on last summer’s Warped Tour — more people are showing up to gigs, with more of them singing along to the words to the songs

“We’re having these shows where we play and a couple hundred people come,” he said. “At the beginning of the year it was 10 or 15. People are catching on now.”

The Night Riots live show mixes an eager-to-please showmanship with an enduring punk spirit.

“We started out playing punk music, so we still bring that energy,” Hawley said. “So it’s this weird dichotomy at this point of theatrics and punk energy.”

After the band plays Aspen, it has two more gigs elsewhere, closing out what’s been a turning point of a year for Night Riots. In the new year, the band is staying off the road and getting back to work on new songs.

“You’ll definitely see a full-length from us in the early part of the next year,” Hawley said.

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