THE RIOT's new single See It Believe It is out now! We caught up with frontman JD to chat about the release and more.
Image: Jordan Kirk
Aussie three-piece THE RIOT are making a statement on their new track, See It Believe It. Bringing their signature fusion of rap and hardcore sonics, the track creates one sublime and captivating soundscapes, with lead vocalist JD performance commanding your attention.
Opening with booming choral vocals, the track was written in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, responding to the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global protests in support of the movement. However, the track serves as an anthem for anyone feeling disenfranchised. Be that people of colour who saw themselves and their oppression reflected in the news over the past year, the LGBTQI+ community, impoverished and suffering workers, women facing gender inequality daily, and the list goes on.
The release is accompanied by an official visual directed by Australian creative Jordan Kirk (Xinger Xanger). The evocative clip flashes between a variety of scenes that conjure vivid imagery, continuing the conversation started during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. One of the most striking vignettes comes as a scenes between JD dressed as an angel, whilst dancing with his co-star who dons a pig snout.
See It Believe It is out now! Read our interview with
So nice to meet you and congratulations on the new song. It's so amazing, the video clip as well, which we'll talk about in a bit, but firstly, could you tell us a bit about how The Riot formed and your background in music?
My background in music is I come from a hip hop R&B background. I am a solo artist in that field and have been for years. I worked alongside, my friends Blessed and Manu and The Kid LAROI at a studio. And, we all kind of created hip hop music then. But then I also had a very big passion for kind of, you know, alternative rock and roll grungier, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, you know, kind of vibes that, I’d kind of set myself out to try and find a way to kind of create a, a unique sound with the band. And then basically, I met the two boys in the Gold Coast when I was up there on the Gold Coast just trying to, I was trying to write some music for the band project. And I went and spent like three months at a friend's house in the Gold Coast and my last night there, I decided to go out and, play a, I'm gonna go out and watch a show at a nightclub. And I bumped into, uh, Tyler and Scotty trying to get into the venue and, saw that I was struggling to get into the venue because I mean, they lived kind of like south of the Gold Coast, which is more like Palm Beach, Burleigh area, where we were like in Surfers, which we kind of looked at each other and gave each other this look like we're kind of out of place, like what are we doing here, you know, we kind of could tell we were more of an alternative side of things and yeah, and then they said, “hey come on, I'll sneak you in through the back through the back.” And they sneaked me in through the back, and that’s yeah how we met. And then I just, you know, we, they came to Sydney. I came to the Gold Coast for the next two years. Since 2016 we’ve been together so, for the next few years we kind of just went back and forth.
Like you just said there, you formed in 2016, but started releasing music late last year. Did you guys kind of use that time to hone in the sound?
Well basically, what ended up happening is like we, when we started as a band, we created like seven or so songs that were really amazing. At that time I had no idea about bands, you know, I didn't know how they work. Who's putting them like, where do we put it together? Like who’s, what's happening, you know? And they had other projects that they had going on at the time. So I didn't expect them to like jump out of their projects and run and start figuring out how to make this work. And really was a bit of a, like a dream that I had, it wasn't for at least another year till we like figured it out and we all felt it and were like, okay, this is a real thing. Like we're a band of brothers. Like we are like connected beyond just this music thing. You know, cause we've all come from a place where we've tried to make it individually on our own, you know, and it's like the unity of coming together is really what has given us this sound and this, these opportunities. So, yeah.
So the latest track, See It Believe It, was written in the wake of the 2020 Black Live Matter movement, but also serves as an anthem for anyone feeling disenfranchised. How important was it for you to use this track as a vehicle to kind of keep the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement alive, especially almost a year after the biggest protests?
Well, you know, again, having this opportunity to be signed to a major label and having this platform, you know, we all have platforms whether big, small or not, and you kind of decide and choose what you want to use your platform for. I don't know, all of our songs that we’ve released have been really strong messages, whether they've been Same Blunt, which is super fun and crazy, that's basically talking about the message of the hierarchy between, you know, us getting confused about wanting to be the celebrity, which is really just a normal human being at the end of the day. You know what I mean? All these, all this systematical kind of ways of trying to get us to be, when individuality individualism should be celebrated, you know? So, I feel like, and even Dog In The Shade about the, inner depression that we feel as well, so I feel like it was important for us when we went in this time last year, April last year is when we wrote this song, we just, we kinda got into the studio, we sat there, we were all kind of sombre about the whole thing. We're like, man, what is going on? And then, you know, Alex started playing some chords and, you know, we went and expressed the way we felt. I mean, Tyler's sister is part of the LGBTQI+ community, so he understood the oppression that she felt through her. You know what I mean? And then I, and then him also being Maori and un-white as well and understanding that he was, you know, that he'd gone through that. And then me obviously through the oppression that I've gone through as well, and even Scotty, the oppression that he's gone through, it's just a normal human being, trying to fit in within society which sometimes society tells you you're not doing the right thing. So, it was very important for us to really speak that message on the platform that has been given to us. And that was, yeah, it was a no brainer. We said we did the song, there were talks about having it out earlier, but we wanted to hold it back to re-spark the talk, the conversation, you know, we didn't want it to be in the midst of everything that was going on. We didn't want it to feel like it was a grab opportunity. We wanted to come out with it when everyone had almost forgotten about it. You know what I mean? And everyone had almost forgotten that there is a real problem and the solution has not been found yet.
Yeah, definitely. And like you said there, it opens it up differing communities that have faced oppression and persecution. What kind of messages or thoughts do you hope to provoke in listeners when they listen to the song?
I just want them to see themselves within it as well. You know, I want them to not see the whole like black guys hanging a messaging, you know, sending a message, no. It's more like go within yourself, listen to the feeling of the lyrics and listen to how, where it takes you when you go there, what was your, what is your suffering? You know? What do you need people to see to believe? You know? So we want people to really just take an introspective moment within themselves in that, and then try and figure out how they can be empathetic towards anyone else that's going through anything, you know? And give people their roses and give people the opportunity to, you know, not gas light people because you know, everyone's, if you've got a problem, that's your problem. You’re allowed to say it, you know what I mean? Like there's too much of this whole gaslighting. Is that the right word? Say what you want to say and don't let anyone make you feel like you can't say.
The track also arrives alongside like a super superb visual, directed by XingerXanger (Jordan Kirk) an Australian creative. There’s quite like clear symbolism and imagery in the song that relates to conceptual nature. I think one of the most striking kind of vignettes comes as the scene between you and your co-star, you guys are dancing and, she is wearing a pig snout, which is quite like visually poignant and symbolic. How involved were you guys in conceptualising and coming up with all those little hints that went into the clip?
It was yeah, look to be honest we had big brainstorming sessions with all of these things. We maybe had two, three different ideas, which we worked into the idea that you're seeing right now. We wanted to send a message without being politically super like you know, police beating you or something like that. So we like, how can we beautifully, but then really show that pain within the relationship between, the authorities and ourselves, the powers, the systems, we didn't wear police colours because it didn't have to be police as pigs, it’s all sorts of different people everywhere, you know that disrespect and treat people in all sorts of ways. You know, they act beautiful with you at the beginning, you know, and say it's there for your safety, or these people, you know, humans, are humans at the end of the day, you know, sometimes, but we can find an empathetic path within ourselves, which we wanted to symbolise with that whole, you know, the authority kind of coming through and seeming to be nice and then really showing its true colours, meaning our system is not completely fixed. It's quick blankets. So many different meanings in that one scene, it’s like the relationship between a black person and the police, the relationship between the system that is set up for us to fail.
You touched on this earlier, that you kind of have like different musical influences. How did you guys arrive at the sounds that we hear on, See It Believe It?
If I was to tell you, you probably wouldn't believe me! But we just go in, we literally just, we don't follow a formula for these songs that we've been making, especially for our EP. We're really blending our styles. So Tyler comes from a classical rock background, punk rock kind of vibe. So he's going to shred whatever he's going to shred on the guitar, you know? Me, I grew up, you know, R&B hip hop, pop culture, rock a little bit as well. So I kind of just channel myself in those emotional, I just channel myself to be emotionally true to myself, you know what I mean? And then that comes out vocally, and I find myself obviously naturally, without even knowing paying homage to some of the influences like Jimmy Hendrix, like Lenny Kravitz and Kele from Bloc Party, and I know those type of things, like those are my influences. Musically Pharell and stuff. So like I find myself delivering that, those vibes as feels that it gives me from the depth of my soul, and then Scotty comes in and he thrashes it with, you know he comes from a real like punk rock, kind of, emo rock drum background. And boom, we put that together. And then Alex Henriksson kind of comes together and like stitches it up. He just stitches it up and we look at it basically, we have very R&B core verses, and then really rip it in the R&B verses, and then rip it in the chorus very more traditional rock. And then like, even some parts of See It Believe It have like, literally like track cadences, you know what I mean? Like, like a proper trap cadence, which we deliberately put in there. Yeah it’s really, we throw it in the melting pot, and we make beautiful goulash.
You just mentioned the EP there, what can we expect from the rest of the songs?
Basically, yeah, we finished both of our EP’s. Our next EP, our first EP, will be a lot of the stuff that you've heard, like obviously See It To Believe It, Same Blunt and Dog In The Shade, but then we've got a couple of other, like really 90’s kind of punk rocky, like Nevada-ish kind of feel songs in there that are kind of pretty straight forward, but also have a bit of craziness within them. And yeah that will be the rest of the next project. And the second EP is very much very, we went somewhere amazing with that too, which we're very excited to show people as well.
You guys will also be taking to the stage later this month in Burleigh Heads in Queensland, what can audiences expect from one of your live shows, and do you have any touring plans or any other live show plans after that?
Yeah, we've got a couple of tours happening towards the end of the year I can’t mention yet, but they're pretty exciting and they're going to be some big runs and hopefully get to go quite around the place and really share our music and just share our vibe, our energy. I think when people come to our show expect to find a band of brothers out to go to war, you know, and out to really just like rip things up, you know, and the sound is big, energetic, direct, we're very interactive with the crowd and I think, yeah, you'd be in for a show. It's a show with antiques and all. It’ll be fun, it’ll be really fun. What I'm really excited about is our live performances. That's why we got together as a band it’s because we all wanted to play live. And we, from the moment we started playing live, we've been live. We've been playing live for our entire lives together.
Biggest musical influences?
As a band, our biggest musical influences would be Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, Prodigy. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tame Impala. What else do we listen to? We like, IDLES, love those guys. Fever 33. Yeah, those, kind of like Frank Ocean, Brock Hampton, those kinds of energies are definitely influences within the style about there.
There’s a few, our dream collaboration probably just be Rick Rubin to be honest, love to work with Rick Rubin. Just get him to rip to shreds our songs. [Laughs] Just tell us how bad it is. [Laughs] I've just heard stories about him being very vicious like that, but we're ready. We just want, we want to work with someone like Rick. I would love to work with Pharrell, eventually. I would love to work with Kevin Parker from Tame Impala. But I would say Rick Rubin, Kevin Parker, Pharrell.
An album that has had the most impact on you?
Led Zeppelin III. Zeppelin III really was my introduction into rock and roll. And then after Zeppelin III it was Jimmy Hendrix, into like real rock and roll, obviously I loved Bloc Party and all that stuff, but like, you know, that real rock and roll stuff was Zeppelin III, Jimmy Hendrix right after that, that was the first time I picked up a Jimmy Andrews record. And currently, IDLES. Just love it. It's such a great project. It's such a great band, so aesthetically different, as well as just different, you know, it's really cool.
If you could soundtrack any film, which film would it be?
Dragon Ball Z. Or Naruto! I don't know. If we could soundtrack, I'm thinking what else, I'm just trying to make sure that this is a movie that we all like, what would I soundtrack, what would we soundtrack? I watch a lot of movies, so I don't know why, let's just go with Naruto.
Best concert you've ever attended.
Best concert I ever attended was the Lauryn Hill concert in Sydney. That was probably one of the best concerts I've ever attended. So that. And then following, watching Tame Impala play Falls Festival. I was watching that whole set with Daniel Johns. And it was amazing because he was like, frothing about how much he loved the band. And, and I was like, dude, how much I love you.
If you could go on tour with any artists, who would it be?
If we could go on tour with any artist. It would be, we’d tour with Rage Against The Machine.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry?
I mean, man, Jimi Hendrix, his aesthetic, his whole rock and roll concept. The backwards way of how he could play things without actually knowing anything, you know? He comes from a background I think a lot of us come from, you know, he probably had ADHD, probably was dyslexic, is probably a bit of a dysfunctional kid, but music and guitars and playing that was his medicine and it was his healing. So definitely I reckon Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley really did bring something, as well as The Beatles, I’m not going to lie, to really bring something that is more than just the music, you know? All three of those guys, I mean Jimmy really did it unconsciously. He was just that type of character. Bob Marley was leading nations, turning whole countries into believers of him. And The Beatles with the whole concept of that No War thing that Yoko Ono and John Lennon were doing in their hotel rooms and just with their messages and everything that they were doing. It's like that’s another amazing thing that's beyond the music, you know, it's beyond themselves that they really wanted to create some sort of change within the world. Yeah.
What advice would your current self give your future self for a year from now?
Never second doubt your ideas. Never second doubt who you are, never doubt that you are beautiful, you are loved, you are strong, and regardless of what current situation you're in right now, you are destined for greater. And you don't get told that a lot. I feel like I went through a lot of those times by myself and having to figure that out, build that strength out within myself, but just to let people know, you're not alone, keep striving at your goal, your ideas are beautiful. You, you are beautiful who you are, what you like to do, where you like to go, what you like to wear, you are beautiful, regardless of what the world and society decides to tell you, I feel like I listened to a lot of people's opinions on myself, which is stupid because that's their opinion. And they’re their people, their person. And I’m my person. And I sometimes wish I would've known what it's like if I hadn't listened to them as much, maybe life would have been a bit more, you know fuck the world and just do me.