Amplif[ie]d | Inside Riot
By: Natalie Bates
"Open till 4 o’clock in the morning . . . chicken and waffles. Check it out."
"Is anyone else scared?"
"I thought we were going to get mix-tapes."
These are the things that are heard in an alley behind Mission Tobacco Lounge in Downtown Riverside on a Friday night at 11:00p.m. as I met up with the members of alt/pop rock band Inside Riot before their show that same evening. We didn't really intend on doing the interview in a dark alley late at night, but somehow these things happen, and when all was said and done, it just added to the experience of hanging out with this entertaining group of musicians.
With a sound that transcends multiple genres (but always keeps a unique brand of hard rock), Inside Riot is a highly energetic band with melodic vocals, powerful guitar riffs and a chest-pounding rhythm section that brings together all the best things about live music. I will be the first to admit I was tired that night when I set out to attend the show, but before Inside Riot’s first song was over, I felt completely revived and didn't leave the dance floor until the very end of the night. This band is amazing at getting audiences pumped and ready to rock!
Inside Riot is made of Fawn Baxter (vocals/guitar), David Strickland (vocals/guitar), Albert Burrola (guitar), Matt McKnight (bass) and Robbie LaGumina (drums/electronic percussion). Based in Redlands, Inside Riot was formed at midnight on New Year's Eve 2013 after founding members Baxter and Strickland met through a mutual friend.
"I had been in the area doing music stuff, and a friend said, 'I know this girl—she's an amazing singer.' Then Fawn and I met randomly through Ashley Madison . . . no, that's not true. We actually met at a karaoke bar, went to a party, talked for days, she beat me at pool, and the next thing I knew we were playing in a band" recalls Strickland. Baxter added, "We played open mics together, and he really encouraged me to play my own songs. It was pretty cool."
"These two were meant to be, and they just recruited the rest of us," stated McKnight, who joined Inside Riot after playing with them a few times as a hired bassist. Baxter said, "We couldn't afford to pay him anymore, so we offered him a trip to Hawaii, and he became our full-time bassist." LaGumina is Strickland's "evil twin," according to Baxter. The two of them met while working together at Guitar Center. "We pretty much looked the same for awhile," said LaGumina. "Yeah we did," agreed Strickland, "Before the mohawk." (LaGumina had his hair styled into an impressive mohawk at the time of the interview.) Burrola was introduced to the band through shared management from other bands and was recruited to join. And so Inside Riot found its current line-up.
Inside Riot is a group of exceptionally talented musicians, most of whom have been playing their respective instruments for the majority of their lives. Baxter grew up performing with the school choir, eventually learned to play guitar with the help of some friends and then moved to the Inland Empire from Cincinnati, Ohio, to start producing her own music. She found her true calling through performing live, stating, "It's cool to just let go of yourself onstage . . . you get up there and want to give off a specific impression, but then you just get into it and let yourself go and not worry about what people think."
Strickland grew up performing, starting at age six in the church choir in Mexicali, Mexico. "I kept singing, then decided to learn the violin when I was eight, then when I was 12, I decided the guitar was much cooler and went from there."
"I kind of grew up with music," says LaGumina, who recently moved to the Inland Empire from Eugene, Oregon. "My dad plays music. He actually played in the band that opened up the show tonight [The Doux Boys]. So there was always a drum set around, and there were always band people around. I actually hated music when I was younger . . . but eventually I started playing, and in high school, friends knew I could kind of play, and they hit me up, and that's how it started."
"He got hooked on drums," jokes Strickland. LaGumina added, "It was my gateway instrument. It led me into situations, and now I'm addicted."
"Same with me," says Burrola. "My dad and my grandfather and my family all played drums. Guitar!!" Strickland jokes, "You're trying to steal his story bro!"
(Burrola to LaGumina,) "And then what happened . . . ?" (laughs all around). And then in all seriousness, Burrola finished the real story, "They all played guitar, and it was just a natural thing. It wasn't a surprise or something different. Everyone played in my family so it was just a natural thing for me." Baxter interjected, "I feel like he's being modest. Like, he's amazing. What were you saying a few weeks ago? You learned to play the solo in Hotel California when you were 12?!"
McKnight originally moved to Chicago to pursue a career in playing guitar, but then realized, "Everyone plays guitar. So I became a bass player so I would always be in a band. And I've been in a band every day since." Strickland added, "Matt is the smartest one out of all of us."
When it comes to finding inspiration and writing new songs, it is a collective effort. "We get together, and the music just sort of happens," says Strickland. Baxter added, "It kind of started out like Dave and I would write a lot of the songs, but now with the five of us, they all write a lot of cool music . . . it's a group effort. It's something we're still trying to figure out." For LaGumina, "I feed off of what everyone does. So if somebody else has an idea, and it's like really cool how they are interpreting it, I do my thing, and it just kind of bounces back and forth." Baxter draws a lot of inspiration for song lyrics from what she is going through in her life. She shared, "Being the girl in the band, what I'm feeling, what I'm going through . . . I just kind of put it out there."
The chemistry this band has doesn't end with fluid songwriting—live performances by Inside Riot are high-energy and keep the crowd dancing and rocking until last call. Playing a mix of cover songs and originals (depending on the show), this is a band that is best experienced live. For Strickland, the best part of performing live is "the reaction you get from people; seeing on their faces the same sort of feeling I would get when I first started going to shows before I was playing in any bands. It's just such an amazing thing." It is obvious in watching them perform that every band member is completely passionate about what they are doing and was born to play music.
The future is looking bright for Inside Riot. The band members are going on tour this summer to the Midwest, are currently recording new music and will be opening for Eve 6 this September at the Boiler Room in Temecula. "We're basically planning world domination," says Strickland. If you want to catch them live, they regularly play at Mission Tobacco Lounge in Riverside, M15 in Corona, Roscoe's in Chino Hills and Whiskey Business in Yucaipa (where Baxter also bartends).
For more information, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, and Instagram @insideriotband. Check out their music on their YouTube channel. To contact the band for additional information, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. See them live April 16, 2016 at The Vault in Redlands and April 30, 2016 at Whiskey Business in Yucaipa!