There’s something infectious about the songs of The Riff, four creative, talented and slightly mod lads from Swansea, Wales.
If you’ve not heard them yet, consider this your introduction … Ben Curtis handles lead vocals and the lead guitar, while his twin brother, Sam, pounds the keys, Chris Betts slaps the bass and Tommy Evans gives a sound thrashing to the drums. It all comes together in beautiful harmonies.
I happened on them by accident, when a fan (thank you, Sammi-Jo Bridges) brought them to my attention. One listen to “Jezebel” and “Better Than That” and I was sold. I could easily see what she heard in them and I definitely wanted to learn more.
“Jezebel” storms in with a down and dirty bass line from Chris and Tommy “The Animal” (explanation in a bit) banging away on the skins … a wailing sob of keyboards from Sam and smooth vocals from Ben — all blend together perfectly.
“Better Than That” takes it up a notch with a great hook and toe-tapping melodies. The playing is spot on across the board.
In researching the band on YouTube, I found The Riff playing a live in studio show at the “Cornerstone Sessions” and was quite impressed with their performance. As it happens, I was watching it when the interview with Ben began, so we just dove right in to start there.
Hi Ben, I’m just watching the “Cornerstone Sessions” video … Awesome tunes!
Ah yeah, that was a while back now. Thanks, glad you like them!
Are these tunes going on an EP you are recording?
There’s no EP… the plan is to release a single August/September time and then hopefully have another single ready for release before Christmas. There’s a high possibility there maybe one or two of those tracks on there, but no guarantees as of yet. We are still awaiting the mixes from the studio last week before we make any decisions.
How many songs did you record?
We managed to get two songs done. One of them will be our next single. Until we get them back, we’ve no idea which one!
The other song will then either be released later in the year as our third single or we may even head back in and record something new.
Good to have lots to choose from. I liked all the ones I heard in the Cornerstone video. “Treason” jumped at me most.
“Treason” is an old one, we actually recorded a four-track EP of demos in March 2015 called “Take One.” It was the first four songs we ever wrote and “Treason” is one of them.
Ah, nice! So let’s go back to the beginning … When did you first pick up the guitar?
Well my dad is very much a “bedroom guitarist” and as long as I can remember, I’ve been surrounded by them. I probably first picked one up around 2 or 3 years old, but never really took a serious interest in playing until I was probably around 10 or 11 years old.
And your brother plays the keys … Did he start the same way?
We both started playing guitar, but being competitive as brothers are, as soon as I picked it up quicker, he soon got pissed off and turned his attention to the keys.
Haha, do you play any other instruments?
I don’t really, no.
We both played a bit of saxophone in primary school, but no …. He’s definitely come off better. He’s a lot better when picking up the guitar than I am on keys anyway!
Does he sing at all?
Yeah, he’s not a fan of it, but he’s on backing vocals in the band along with our drummer, Tommy.
How long have you known Tommy and Chris?
Well, Chris and Tommy both went to the same secondary school as us, although they were four years below us. Chris actually went to the same primary as well, so I’ve probably known Chris since I was around 10 and he must have been 6.
I didn’t really know about Tommy in all honesty until he started playing drums in school. He must have been 13.
They still look pretty young too! How long have you been a band?
We’ve been together for nearly three years now. We got together in January 2014.
Is this your first band?
No me and my brother have been in bands since we were 15 nothing too serious though.
So you are on the same page, musically?
Yeah, all our influences are similar. We’re fans of British rock and roll. So The Beatles, The Who, The Jam, Stone Roses, Oasis etc., although American bands such as Kings of Leon (the older stuff when they were good!) and The Strokes do occasionally get a listen in the van and dressing room.
I was going to ask about influences … How does the songwriting go?
It’s very much a collective process. Normally me or Tommy will come up with an idea, a riff on the guitar or some lyrics and melody, and it goes into the practice room then to iron out any creases and allow the boys to put their stamp on their individual parts.
That’s good, a total group effort. Tommy really gives those drums a work out!
The bloke is mental honestly.
He is like a human version of The Muppets’ Animal!
I think he’ll take that! He’s been called a lot worse!
I bet he loses 5 pounds a night, or would that be a stone?
He can’t afford to lose any more weight, I know that much! I don’t envy him. It’s good job he’s a lunatic.
Haha … How is the music scene in Swansea?
It’s not great, especially with Indie music. Heavy rock/metal seems to be in demand in South Wales.
Are you getting outside the area much to play shows then?
Yeah, don’t get me wrong, there’s a few venues that are decent in Swansea, but yeah, we do try to get around we play wherever we can and have recently been to Cardiff, Bristol and Leicester.
Those towns are definitely more indie, as well as Leeds and Manchester. How often do you play?
We gig every weekend even if it means playing pubs — playing live is what we love to do. As great as the recording can be, gigging is why we do it and we’d love to be a touring band.
Oh, for sure! Are you able to play mostly originals or do you have to add covers?
We do add covers in now and again, but we’re trying to put them in less and less … we want to be ourselves and for people to hear our stuff.
Do you have any festivals coming up?
We’re only doing one this year it’s called Smile Festival, I believe, in a place called Ross on Wye in August.
I’ll have to look it up. One festival can always lead to another… It’s all about exposure.
Yeah definitely, we’re looking forward to it, although I think it’s just a local one nothing major.
It still counts. Has the video for “Jezebel” been getting a good response?
Yeah it’s had a tidy response in all fairness, we only put it on Facebook this week and it’s had like 7K views so all good so far!
That’s great for a new video! I know I have been trying to get it out there a lot too. Also the video for “Better Than That.” I love that one as well. Such great tunes!
Thank you very much!
You can find The Riff on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/the-riff-official, on Twitter @TheRiffUK and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Theriffuk/ and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCut8WzX2ZNs_EEsXL_woEEA.