Seattle trio The Salt Riot embrace the somewhat punky, somewhat funky, but always badass sounds of the best kind of ‘90s alt rock… much of which is actually quite indebted to their hometown… Frontwoman vocalist/guitarist Julia Vidal could easily be heir to the heroine’s throne of Nina Gordon (I’m only now, as I’m writing this, seeing the endearing irony in that…) Bassist Jack Machin and percussionist Nick LaPointe provide a rhythm section that is equal parts the grunge and funk rock that was ruling the airwaves of Alternative Nation and the stages of Lollapalooza in that golden era of Rock’N’Roll. The band recently released their debut LP, Dead Star, which is as beautiful of a “rock” record to come out all year, without succumbing to any of the cheesy pitfalls of those striving for arena rock stardom or those hoping to dominate hard rock radio. I recently got a chance to chat with Julia about all of these things and just what The Salt Riot is all about.
Izzy Cihak: First of all, thank you so much for sending me a CD copy of Dead Star (I still don’t do digital music.) and also for “following” me on Twitter (It’s my only social media outlet.)
Julia Vidal: You are welcome. Thank you. We totally understand how running more than two or three social media sites can eat up all your time and take you away from the good stuff like writing music or about music 🙂
Izzy: So this band is still kind of new, so I’m curious, is there anything you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about your process of writing and recording or your aim as artists?
Julia: We strive to be the kind of band that we always looked up to growing up, the ones that wrote their own original material, played their instruments. I mean it sounds like simple stuff but we really wanted to have this organic sound that only comes from three people getting together and playing their instruments and writing from their souls. We track live in the studio and always try to record with the process of,”How we can re-create it live?” Essentially we don’t want to be accused of “pushing play” or losing that live feel, even when we are recording. Our aim as artists I think are to push the rock sound forward. We wanted to particularly develop a place for a female voice in a very rock sounding band, without losing any depth or power.
I personally use the lyrics as a way to explore a lot of current issues, events, political and social. We strive to be a modern band in this way, but we also recognize these human (social and political, economic) themes that have been happening for years, centuries. In a way that’s a testament the name “the salt riot” as well. Here you have a historical event, or many really, of human struggle and strife over resources that we now find so common place it’s sitting in a jar at every table in a 24 hour Denny’s. Now we fight our wars over other things, but the irony remains, and so do the themes.
Izzy: Do you have any personal favorite highlights of the band so far, whether experiences it has afforded you or feedback that you’ve received from critics, fans, or audiences?
Julia: Writing, honing, and recording our first full-length album and putting it out there… All of the love we have received here in the northwest from fans and musicians and critics alike. We recently placed in the top ten NW albums from 2015 from a reader’s vote at northwest music scene. And we have just been hitting show after show, venue after venue, in Seattle, and our community has been so supportive and receptive. We couldn’t ask for more from home.
As a band I think we have found that the harder we push ourselves in respect to the music, the more fans connect to that work. Fans can really see us putting it all in front of them, and I think we have responded to this idea that we are not just doing this for ourselves, but for the real visceral reactions we see when people get “turned on” by the music and the sound. And it in turn pushes us harder as working musicians ourselves.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences behind Dead Star, both musical and otherwise?
Julia: Dead Star is first and foremost a tribute to Seattle music and the West Coast rock sound. We all grew up listening to all the greats from here, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, STP, and more. Dead Star also has an uncanny pop vibe which I think really lends itself to the lyrics, as they are heavy in nature and it helps balance the tone as well as create the irony that I seemed to be obsessed with. Jack, the bass player, will tell you he is into funk and the blues. The drummer is a metalhead and I grew up playing mostly classical music. It’s a great blend and we are really happy we could all creatively meld our completely varied influences into something holistic and meaningful.
Izzy: Hopefully this isn’t insulting, but has anyone ever told you that the album rings of a cross between Veruca Salt and Luscious Jackson? They’re like two of my favorite bands of my childhood and whose reunion tours have been some of the most magical experiences of my adult life. So I’m totally saying I love what you’re doing, haha.
Julia: Hey. Not insulting at all! I love it. I have actually heard the Veruca Salt comparison, haha. Not Luscious Jackson though, but I will take it! I love when fans, musicians, critics or anyone hear something that they have truly connected to, in our music. I think it’s the biggest compliment you could get, regardless if you personally can hear it or not. Really what it tells you is that the individual is also connecting to what you are doing. We love it!
Izzy: While we’re talking about the ‘90s, I noticed on your social media that you mourned the death of Scott Weiland, who was another major figure throughout my life, so I’m curious if you have any particular favorite compositions of his or experiences seeing him live?
Julia: Yes, we were grieving along with many other fans, musicians, and community members here in Seattle, the NW, and beyond. I don’t think any of us had the chance to see him live but we grew up with his music. He particularly influenced me lyrically. There was never a time I could listen to “Still Remains” and not get hung up on each part of that song. He truly put his heart into what he did. He was such an iconic rock figure head, with all the good, bad, and ugly that the known life brings with it.
Izzy: Okay, I promise, final ‘90s question I love your music videos for “Boom” and “Angel,” which remind of me of 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation and that golden era of music videos, so I’m curious: What inspires the visuals of The Salt Riot?
Julia: We are super fortunate to be able to work with really creative, talented video teams and directors here in Seattle. Jay Conrad from jay& and pushpulse productions was the woman who made it happen for “Boom.” We shot it over a few days in her studio in Pioneer Square. There are shots of us in the street too, and there was colored powder flying around everywhere in that studio. I think some of us are still washing it out of our hair. Jay is a wonder to work with, and as a fellow female in this world of rock and video and art we really bonded over the material, working together, and the past, present and future for women in the industry.
“Angel” was done by smokescreen media llc, Joe Moore and Brian Quarrella, who basically just drove us straight to the cliffs out on the eastern side of the state and told us to not fall off and play our hearts out. No one was hurt and the video came out beautifully! The waterfalls, the rocks, the gorge, it fit really well with this particular song, which is more ballady in nature. And it doesn’t get any better than the desert look of the rocks in Vantage, WA. Absolutely stunning.
We just got done filming our next video single for “Get There” with smokescreen again. It feels great to work with talented visual teams who understand how to paint a visual story to our music. We couldn’t ask for more. This next video is going to be wild. All we can say is glitter everywhere and a shot of me falling into Lake Washington in the middle of December.
Izzy: And what do you think of the music and arts scene in Seattle at the moment? I feel like I interview a lot of really cool acts from the city that are doing a lot of fairly different things. I’ve always had a pretty profound love of the city (despite never actually being there) indebted in equal parts to grunge and Ken Griffey Jr.
Julia: This city has so much variety and talent it is extremely overwhelming. We have fellow musician friends who play anything from jazz, to EDM, to hardcore death sax. (That would be the shout out to David Miner, who produced and recorded the album Dead Star at his studio, Chartreuse Muffin Studio. He also, besides being a brilliant audio engineer, just happens to be an insane death sax player. Go figure.)
There is so much inspiration to draw on in Seattle that you never feel boxed in. You can channel any genre, any style, any music, any instrument, any culture. It’s fantastic and we love calling this city our backyard playground.
Izzy: Finally, what are your most significant hopes and plans for 2016? Any resolutions? Any chance we might get to see you out here on the East Coast?
Julia: We have a feeling 2016 is gonna be one of the best years for The Salt Riot. We worked really hard on getting this album done and we are just excited to be out playing it, showing the world our blood, sweat, and tears.
I have a sister in NYC so if I can make the East Coast happen, we will be there in a heartbeat. We will of course stop by PHILTHY MAG and play you a show anytime. We only need about ten feet each way (We found this out after playing the Spud Goodman radio show, tight spaces, can work with it.)