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Riddlin' Kids  

Riddlin' Kids (sometimes referred to as RK)

“Everything we’ve accomplished has been through hard work and touring, sweating in a van, being out on the floor talking to kids after the shows,” says Clint Baker, singer/guitarist/songwriter for Aware/Columbia Records band Riddlin’ Kids, as they prepare to release their sophomore album, Stop the World.

The product of more than two straight years of non-stop roadwork, Stop the World reflects that whirlwind of activity on feverish rockers like the first single and title track, which admits: “I’m walking on broken eggshells/Trying to make some sense of this/Trying to save face with false appearances.”

“You have your whole life to do your first record and three months to do the second,” says guitarist/vocalist Dustin Stroud, who founded the band with Baker in Austin, TX, as a punk-emo counterpart to the city’s roots-rock scene. “With the combination of people involved on this record, and how diverse an amalgamation of things coming together, the record’s a melting pot that sounds like a cohesive whole. The same amount of energy and time, not to mention blood, sweat and tears, were spent on each of these songs.” Half of Stop the World was recorded in Chicago’s Gravity Studio and produced by Chuck Gladfelter (formerly of Aware Records’ band Dovetail Joint) and the other half with Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down) who produced the band’s debut record Hurry Up and Wait.

“We worked really hard on it,” says Baker. “We didn’t want to lose our sound from the first record, but at the same time, we’re older and more experienced. We wanted to grow a bit, do something a little different. I think we achieved the perfect balance between keeping what we had and stretching out. I’m proud of the record. I can’t wait for our fans to hear it.”

The album shows the elasticity of the group’s brand of emo rubber soul. You can hear it in the propulsive Beatlesque/Cheap Trick pop of “Never Live It Down,” the country-western twang at the start of “Apology,” the Ramones-like drive of “I Want You to Know,” the Who-inspired intro to “Revenge,” the heavy metal beats of “Ship Jumper” and “Just Another Day.”

“People ask us what we consider ourselves,” says Baker about the various elements of punk, emo, metal and pop in the band’s music. “It’s a super-cliché thing to say, but we’ve always said we’re just a rock band. We’re punk-influenced, but we have just as many pop, metal and ‘80s new wave elements. Stir everything together and the end result is the Riddlin’ Kids.”

And while the band’s debut, Hurry Up and Wait, sold more than 100k albums, an impressive total for a new group, Baker realizes the pressure is on to justify a major label investment.

“Recording this album was like being in boot camp,” says Stroud. “It pushed our comfort zone. It made us grow as people and musicians.”

“I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown,” nods Clint. “We wanted to meet people’s expectations for the band. We felt like, not only were we writing for ourselves and our fans, but for the record company, also. We had to be true to that, but this is the music business.”

The Riddlin’ Kids managed to turn that conflict to their advantage. Lyrically, they began to deal with more mature subject matter. In “Apology,” Baker addresses the situation faced by the leader of the Interscope band Pseudopod, who came down with a brain tumor just as his debut album was about to be released. “I realized, when I was having a bad day, that things could be so much worse,” he says. “I tried to put myself in his position. The song is about him apologizing to his wife that she has to deal with his illness. I could never imagine having to go through that.

“Revenge,” “Turn Around” and “Ship Jumper,” the latter co-written by Dustin and bassist Mark Johnson about the band’s management, road crew and tour manager bailing on them in the middle of a tour, represent the group’s frustration with the music business.

“I really felt like I had full reign to do what I wanted to do on ‘Ship Jumper,’” says Black Sabbath fan and Kids drummer Dave Keel, who emulates his idol Bill Ward’s heavy thump on that song and “Just Another Day.” “Live, I get to play what I want to play and, of course, I overdo it.” “I felt I was able to contribute a lot more to this record,” says Johnson, who also wrote the music to “Apology.” “It was a completely different process this time. The pace was pretty hectic.”

“I Hate You” is “about couples who love to fight with one another and then the next thing you know they’re in the sack together,” says Baker. “Promise You Anything” is “just trying to get some action the guy way… by being willing to say whatever it takes,” he laughs, citing the phrase, “Tell me everything about you/Anything you want to say/I’ll forget it anyway.” “Talk of the Town” is about gossip-mongering in the small town atmosphere of Austin, while the closing “Just Another Day” celebrates living life to its fullest without regrets. “It’s about being young and not wanting to grow old without taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you,” says Clint. “About not being unsatisfied with your life.”

After two years, the Riddlin’ Kids have new, Chicago-based management, a new road crew, a new album and a new lease on life. For those who were already fans, Stop the World will mark a most welcome return. For new fans, a sterling introduction to a band that is gradually growing into a world-class act.

“I’m a little nervous,” says Baker. “We have a great record to work. Whenever we hit a low point, we bounce right back. We’ve been pushed to the edge, but we never fall off. No matter what happens, we’re going to be around.”

With their new Aware/Columbia Records album of the same name, the Riddlin’ Kids might want to Stop the World, but they are not nearly ready to jump off… In fact, they’re just getting started.


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