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Subconsciously Riding High: Red Riders

A combination of guitar-driven melodies and shoegaze pop delivered in a high octane post-punk style, Red Riders delivers music that owes a bit of debt to classic indie bands but manages to maintain its own character. Much of the band's disposition comes from its front man, Alex Grigg, whose unmistakable vocals and delicate balance of self-deprecating humour and nervousness are crucial to its aesthetic. I recently sat down with Alex to discuss the Sydney quartets’ sophomore album, Drown In Colour...

From audience interaction to simply hanging around meeting fans after a gig, it seems like your want to build a level of immediacy with your fanbase.
Definitely. So much about being in a band for me is really just about having cool experiences and meeting people. And you know, that’s what I get a real kick out of – the fun stuff that happens, and all the strange stories. At the end of the day I guess I want to have cool stories to tell my grandkids or something.

It’s sometimes easy to gauge the bands that want to do something beyond just making good music. The thing I admire most is when bands put their security on the line. It’s frustrating to see them demand their audience to clap their hands or whatever. It feels contrived.
I hate that. There was a band I saw play at Come Together festival, and they were like, ‘Can I get a hell yeah?’ I was like, what? What is this? I’ve never liked shows like that.

I like shows where you feel like you’ve got something in common with this person on stage and there’s a connection rather than someone being really impersonal and doing that whole universal, ‘Is everybody having a good time? Wooooo.’

The first time I listened to Drown In Colour, there were a few tracks I remember that stood out. All Mine was one because it didn’t sound typically like something Red Riders would have produced. It’s a really strong stand-alone piece.
That’s great. That’s what we wanted it to be as well. We definitely had in mind that we wanted to make a guitar album. I had been listening to Deerhunter and it was one of those realisations where I thought, hold on, this is the kind of music that I love; indie guitar. It’s what I knew I had always liked growing up, so it was the kind of music I wanted to make, and I think we had all had that thought independently.

With your song lyrics, they have the capability to work symbolically, literally and associatively. Are you conscious of the listener’s point of view when preparing a song and writing it?
I’m not hugely conscious of the listener. Some of it is really autobiographical and some of it is really imagined, like a story. I always find writing lyrics the hardest thing to do, and a lot of the time I really hope that the lyrics just come out in the process of writing the song. When I’m playing it back over to myself and singing nonsense I’ll try and get the key sort of lines and the mood and fill it in later on.

As you’re writing music across certain periods of your life, do the ideas change about the type of music you want to make?
Writing for me is so weird because I don’t sit down and think okay, the album needs a slow song and then write that. I just write songs. I’m not conscious of it as a craft, and I kind of like that because for me it’s a weird sort of mystery I guess. I don’t understand it. It almost feels like I’m just receiving it. It’s this weird kind of magical thing.

I like not being too self-conscious about music. I like not knowing. I like that I don’t understand.

You’ve played a lot of shows this year. Are you finding that your fan base is expanding?
It’s weird. I feel like Ordinary picked up a lot of fans that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s funny, and I don’t know if this is true or not but the bands that I really like aren’t really big in Australia, and I wonder if by making the music I like more that I might be isolating fans. Maybe people like the aspects of Replica Replica that I find a little bit cringe worthy. I think with Drown In Colour, we all like it a lot more but I feel like maybe it’s a little less obvious than the first record. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while we may have gained a whole bunch of different fans, we may have lost fans, because like you said – it is different.

Any band will say the same thing; if you just keep doing the same stuff you’ll be bored. With that change, there are potential gains and loses.

You can catch Red Riders playing at the Purple Sneakers New Years Eve House Party at Manning House on December 31st.
First and second release tickets have sold out but final release are now on sale and are only $59. You can grab tickets from the website.

Side Street, Sydney has a double pass to Purple Sneakers to giveaway, so one of you poor saps with nothing to do on New Years Eve may get your hands on the Golden Ticket. Simply send an email to explaining why you should win in 100 words or less by 5pm tomorrow, December 24. If we choose you, you’ll hear back from us by that evening. Merry Christmas to you, too. xx

words: Jacinda Fermanis


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