Photo courtesy of Richard Fusillo
Local rock band Night Riots is making a tour stop at home with a show at SLO Brewing Co. on Feb. 21.

Brenna Swanston

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Local rock band Night Riots spent the past month circling the nation, but will return home to play at SLO Brewing Co. on Feb. 21.

Night Riots, formerly known as PK, adopted its current band name a little more than a year ago, and has since plunged head-first into the music scene, touring the country and releasing its first official EP, Young Lore.

Guitarist Matt DePauw said he and his bandmates have played together since their high school days in Templeton, Calif., with the exception of drummer Rico Rodriguez, who joined the band later on.

“We’re the five best friends you’ve ever had,” DePauw said. “We’re like brothers. Nothing can break us apart. We have a solid core.”

In fact, since the band’s initial formation, the only obstacle to separate the five was their attendance of different colleges — and that didn’t last.

“We went to college and did our own thing for a while, then decided that real life kind of sucked, and we wanted to go back and play rock ‘n’ roll music,” DePauw said.

DePauw attended the University of California, San Diego until his junior year, when he realized he’d rather pursue music. However, he doesn’t regret trying college.

“It was probably best that we went off and tried something else and decided we really want to do this,” he said.

Since 2011, the band has reunited, rebranded and recorded.

“We want to be the biggest band ever, as all bands will say,” DePauw said. “We just want to make our music as good as we can and reach as many people as possible.”

Night Riots intends to turn the band into a lifelong career, he said. Therefore, touring is essential.

“The Internet is big and wide and reaches everybody, but with every person, you have maybe one second to get their attention,” DePauw said. “If you’re live in front of them, you have them for those 30 minutes.”

But chasing their dream had its ups and downs for the band. From playing for empty rooms to carrying music equipment by hand for a mile to a venue, touring has presented a big challenge.

“You learn to deal with living with four other dudes in a van for a month at a time,” DePauw said. “There’s some serious personality growth right there.”

Luckily, the bandmates’ cramped time in the tour van has only brought them closer, DePauw said.

“We call it the eternal sleepover,” he said. “I get to hang out with my best friends every day.”

DePauw said he works through the discomfort of the touring life by focusing on the music.

“You’re not at home,” he said. “You’re always gone. You have to pack light. You might not be able to wash your clothes or your body for a week. You’re gonna have to sleep on some couches or the floor, but you have to remember there’s a reason you’re doing it, and all the positives of it will outweigh the negatives of it.”

Ultimately, DePauw is grateful to be doing what he loves, he said.

“I can’t complain,” he said. “I’m not behind a desk or in a cubicle working. I get to play music.”

DePauw said the most rewarding part of touring has been getting to know the fans.

“People tell us about struggles they’ve gone through that our music has helped them with,” he said. “That’s amazing to me. I’m like, ‘Really? I’m just a guy, and I’m able to help you through that? I’m just some random dude. Do I really have that power?’ That’s just crazy to me.”

One such fan was Night Riots street team leader Shayla Daetwiler, who met the band at a show in San Diego three years ago and has since become their close friend.

“They take the time,” Daetwiler said. “They’re not rude about it, and they really take the time to get to know their fans and make that special connection, even if it’s just remembering people’s names.”

Since meeting the band, Daetwiler has watched them progress musically, she said.

“It’s really awesome that I’ve gotten to see that happen, and I’ve gotten to see that change,” she said. “I’m really proud of them. They’re such hard workers. They put everything they have into their music and into growing.”

DePauw said Night Riots’ musical evolution is exemplified in Young Lore, which was intended to serve as a transition from the band’s old style to its newer, more mature sound.

The EP did its job, he said.

“It was definitely a big jump for us musically,” DePauw said. “It was a new, different thing people hadn’t necessarily heard from us before.”

Fans have seemed to enjoy the fresh sound, he said.

Cuesta drama junior Brandon Pascal has known the Night Riots members since middle school, and been an avid fan since the band’s formation.

Young Lore is a prime example of how Night Riots has expanded its musical palate over the years, Pascal said.

“They’ve really honed their craft,” he said. “They have a good understanding of what they want their audience to hear, but also of what their audience wants to hear.”

The band’s new sound takes a comfortable, catchy tune and adds a unique, intriguing flavor to it, Pascal said.

“They’re ahead of the curve,” he said.

Though Pascal enjoyed the EP, he said Night Riots’ strongest points lay in their live shows.

“Whether they’re playing to 10 people or 10,000 people, everybody in the audience has some sort of relation to the band that makes them want to get up and enjoy the music,” he said.

Pascal has seen Night Riots perform live countless times — but they never play the same way twice, he said.

“Even though I know all the words and the songs and the transitions, it’s very different in the sense that they’re so tight together live,” he said. “They have this musical understanding onstage that seems rehearsed and unrehearsed at the same time.”

Night Riots’ current tour began Jan. 22 and has taken them through Texas, Missouri, Colorado and Utah. They have endured negative-30-degree blizzards and 10-hour van rides. Now, they will return to California for the tour’s final shows.

Its SLO Brew show will begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

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