Put your phone down, embrace each other, look after the planet and FFS smile!

By Beverley Knight

The pandemic changed life as we knew it and stopped the world in its tracks. Before we paused, Melbourne in Australia boasted of a booming pub-rock scene, with the likes of AC/DC as their guiding light. Over the years, subgenres of psychedelic rock, stoner, shoe-gaze and a pretty healthy metal scene emerged. Now, you’ll find four-piece Riff Raiders doing their thing in those rock and roll dive bars but equally at home in theatre venues. They’re incredibly grateful to be back out playing in the wild after the lockdown. Band mum Jenni Powell says, “We complement lots of styles. Our reputation is we please audiences that dig anything from indie pop rock to thrash metal.”

Jennie was 19 when she spotted an ad in a magazine with her eagle eyes. Singer Wanted. From there, she met the Riff Raider boss Marty Powell. Is the name familiar? Later down the line, Jennie and Marty tied the knot. Very sweet. She’s appreciative of Marty’s gift for songwriting, crafting melodies and his ability as a guitarist. “The man can shred like a demon! He’s been under the spotlight since he was 12 as a total force. He’s left-handed but plays as a righty.” Because of the songs Marty consistently churns and his meticulous care in their delivery, Jennie believes they’re not just another rock band.

“We’d known our mate Josh King, the band jester, for years. He’s played for renowned bands in Melbourne’s rock scene. In 2017, he joined us, building our live sound and energy; this became an integral part of the band.” Post-pandemic, they collected Scott Wilson, the quiet one, and later Marty Wags, the nice guy. “We gelled with Scott instantly. He’s a musician’s musician and has a huge bass presence. Marty W joined us two years ago – he’s a big part of the Raiders family.” A pure love for rock and their unwavering drive to be creative with it threads them together.

For many reasons, we ponder how we made it through 2020. The Raiders are the same. “Our city was the most locked down worldwide. There were curfews in place and a 5km restriction of movement for the best part of two years.” Things were going swell before this. They built a robust live following, played great support spots and released music. 

“We embarked on an East Coast tour to promote our imminent release of our album Rock’n’Roll Daydream. Of course, after we were halfway through and had visited three cities, we had to cancel the tour. The record dropped about a week after the toilet paper ran out.” There are a few more vinyl copies of the album under Jennie’s bed than she’d hoped, but Riff Raiders is still here, ready to climb again. We can travel more freely now, but it’s quite a trek from Australia to London, nearly 22 hours by flight. It can dishearten Jennie. “Sometimes the distance is great for us to get to our followers. We have strong fanbases in Europe and the US, but it’s hugely expensive to bring our live show to them.” 

Thinking of the positives, people seem to be less snobby about rock music, especially from younger folk. “There’s less of an emphasis on the fashion of music, not the cool clothes we wear, but people judging you for your genre, and more openness to enjoying a good song in whatever form. In saying that, making music is always great.” 

Where does Australian culture feature in the band’s identity? “From the kangaroos we rode to school! Ha ha. Seriously, we’re lucky and inhibited by being born in Australia.” You’ve got your golden beaches and the crisp fresh air – Jenni even lived wild in the woods in her mid-teens. However, career-wise, there’s less awareness of the band than in the UK, Europe and the US, where they find people dig their thing most. 

“The frustration of blockages to reach a bigger audience has sometimes inspired some powerful music.” Marty’s Dad is British. He came on a boat in the 50s as a lad. Because of this, there are influences in their music from their ‘mother country’. “A song on our upcoming album called Sound Mirror is about those historic structures you won’t find off the coast of Victoria!”

Playing gigs in LA, making albums and visualizers and supporting their heroes like D-A-D and Baby Animals are noteworthy to Jennie. But the best achievement of Riff Raiders is doing justice and staying true to their songs. “I truly feel amazingly privileged to deliver the melody of these tunes. I would be the band’s biggest fan if it was someone else.” After their experiences over the last few years, Riff Raiders stick by that good old rock’n’roll attitude. They want to live life as fully as they can. “Put your phone down, embrace each other, look after the planet and FFS smile!”

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