Interview with Nathan Ward of THE RIOT BOYS

riot boys

So, how's the album coming along?

We start recording around mid-February. We're all pretty happy with how the songs are turning out, and it's definitely defining our sound.

How long you been working on that thing, like 50 years?

Actually, just 2 or 3.

That's a long time!

No, I’m fucking with you, it's been in the works since late October, I'd say.

So, what's the deal with Moonchild spending all the band money on popcorn?

Well, he's kind of a… big dude.

Yeah, I noticed.

He's kinda like a living cartoon character. Everyone knows his name, and I'm proud of his negative approach on everything.

You guys seem to have alot of fun at his expense.

It's the only thing that's keeping him in the band!

What, the jokes or the popcorn?

(laughs) Well, we had some fun with the popcorn at a show we played at a bowling alley back in July. We won't be playing there again anytime soon...

Why, what happened?

Well, it was the first show with our second guitarist, Evan, so we decided to make the best of it. We played a really long set, and there was a pretty decent crowd, so we threw popcorn everywhere during the last song. Nobody really liked that but us. Joey especially hated it.

Because that meant he couldn’t eat it.

Surprisingly, he liked rolling around in it more than he liked consuming it.


So it's really our humor that keeps us all from hating each other.

So what's this "new direction" your music's been going in? I remember the first song I heard was "Cramp", and it was really good. Alot of that stuff sounded like your typical streetpunk stuff, with like Agnostic Front and Minor Threat thrown in for good measure. But I read on your blog that it's going more in a “Bad Religion” direction, but all the new stuff I've heard sounds like more of the same, albeit a lot more aggressive.

Well the "new stuff" we've been posting on our page were actually old songs that we wanted to record, but didn't want to put on the full length. They're going on a split we're doing with a band called Positive ( Basically, [the new album] is an even mix of the hardcore, fast shit, and steady paced, almost Bouncing Souls-style anthems.

I like the style of "I Don't Need It". I was kinda hoping for more of that.

There's definitely going to be a lot of that. All of those are my style of writing, so for as long as I'm in this band, we'll have songs like those. Joe, me, and Alex are all really into [old school] hardcore, like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Agnostic Front, etc. What the hell, Mike is too.

I managed to snag a copy of "Work to Pay to Live" for the short time that it was up on your page. Is that the kind of "Bouncing Souls" type of stuff you mean?

A little bit. It's an older song, I guess you could say the new ones are a little more complex or something. As far as tempo goes, that’s about as slow as the songs on the full length will get.

That's good... What the hell happened to Bouncing Souls, anyway? The last thing I heard from them was some goddamn emo song about pizza...

Well, by "Bouncing Souls" style songs, I meant that all our new songs are going to be about pizza.

(laughs) Tell me about Mein Skampf. Are all the members of Riot Boys in there?

Yeah, all except for Evan.

What, Evan don't like to skank?

Well, none of us do. It’s nothing against Evan, he just lives the furthest away. And Alex, our singer [in Mein Skampf], wanted to play guitar. He used to in the Riot Boys, ‘til we met Evan, and the rest of our friends played horns. We're shooting for more of an “old school” ska sound, but the songs on the page don't represent our style well at all.

No, it's pretty clear, especially with "Stand By My Side". All you're really missing is a percussionist. And some soul. But you can't really help that.

If that’s a knock on Joey [about the percussion], thank you.

(laughs) No! I mean like hand drums accompanying the kit drums.

(laughs) I got ya.

"Skalloween" sounds like the Independents.

That's pretty funny, I don't doubt it at all. That song is borderline ska. (laughs)

Who are some of your favorite bands to play with?

Positive, for sure. We're pretty good friends with them. SSCP, the D-Bags (broken up now), and Rotten Reason. Us and Positive know all of each other’s songs, so we sing along and are really supportive of each other. And they blow. SSCP has some awesome music and are never boring to watch.

How'd you guys get into the music you play and are influenced by?

Well, me and my brother, Alex, got into punk like Ramones and all that early shit when we were in like, 5th grade. And we spread the word to Mike around the same time, and I don't know Evan's history with punk music. His brother used to play guitar in one of my favorite broken up Cleveland punk bands, the Radikills. And Joe used to be a long-haired, classic rock loving bum and eventually turned into a skinhead. Which are two extremes that make me giggle.

Well, ya know, you live and learn. No one stays the same forever.


Where do you guys normally play gigs when you get them?

Houses. House shows are the most fun. There aren't really any venues in the area ideal for locals without ticket sales or money in mind.

True dat, homie. (laughs)

We played a lot of venues in the beginning, but we got sick of feeding promotion companies money and ripping off our friends.

Yeah well, promotion companies, mainly ones who don't understand or care about punk, are usually all about the bottom line -- Money.

I don't remember the last time I've seen a flyer made by a promotion company hanging around town.

That's because they expect the bands to promote, which is just ludicrous, because—

It's their job to promote, isn't it?

Yeah. Exactly.

But it's, "Who gives a shit about the band, I spend my work day messaging bands on MySpace. Gimme money."

(laughing) I do that too, but I ain't made shit for it!

Yeah dude, but that’s another story.

I haven't asked for anything, though, either. ‘Cept maybe some free CD's, wink wink. (laughs)

(laughing) Don't worry, I'll "hook you up".

Oh wow, thanks! That's very nice of you (laughing), I didn't mean... (trails off)


So are all the Riot Boys still literally "boys", like still in high school?

Yes sir. Evan graduates this year.

Doesn't that ever conflict with playing out?

Eh, not really. Sometimes weekday shows are pretty shitty. We usually don’t even do ‘em, unless it's a national act.

Who're some national acts you've played with?

Flatliners, Time Again, Mustard Plug, Deals Gone Bad. Not too many.

I just listened to Deals Gone Bad, they got a great sound. I actually thought the singer was black. He's got one hell of a voice.

Yeah he does. Their new CD is awesome, too.

Oh yeah, speaking of CD's... I forgot we were supposed to be talking about yours!

(laughs) Right.

When do you anticipate that hitting the streets?

I hope by late February. We were expecting to release it last December, but you know how it goes.

Yeah... I do. How do people get a hold of it, once it's out? Any distro deals in the works?

Basically, all DIY for now.

Like, on your--

If people want it, we'll mail it to ‘em.

Like on your MySpace page?

No, like, literally a package. Complete with a lyric booklet, etc. And yes, they will be shrink-wrapped.

Yeah, I mean do they message you on MySpace, or what?

Oh, yeah. We'll definitely be making a real website to make it easier, too.

--Sam Sinister, 01/17/08