Los Angeles dark-pop rockers RIVALS offer up a little bit of something for everyone with their infectious fusion of heavy rock, electronic and pop elements, which they summarise as “heavy emotional pop.”
The quartet of Kalie Wolfe (vocals), Micket Woodle (guitar), Sebastian Clarke (bass) and Josh Alves (drums) formed in 2014 and set about honing an engaging sound that instantly drags you in and has you begging for more.
As Micket describes it: “3 cups rock, 1 cup pop, 1tbs of whatever we feel like doing at the moment, a sprinkle of electronic and a whole lot of HELL YEA!” And as Josh adds: “It’s like adding an espresso shot to your chai latte. It’s an extra kick but a little dirty.”
They just released their second album Sad Looks Pretty On Me, which eases us in with its light, fun opening title track. That flows into the excellent Lavenders, which starts out with Kalie’s light vocals that intensify to a big singalong chorus “‘Cause all I smell are lavenders, As the world burns down around me, around me, And all I smell are lavenders. I’ll ignore all this pain around me, around me, Lavenders.” Check it out in the video below:
Alkaline also starts with light vocals and funky electronic sounds that build up to an engaging chorus supported by stabbing synths. A second chorus drops into big synth sounds over driving guitars and drums before booming guitar sounds under Kalie’s more intense vocals, which drop into a final chorus.
Things intensify on Fake Rich, which features the heavy vocals of Elijah Witt from Cane Hill. It starts out slowly but drops into heavy guitars that feed into a big chorus of “Is too late to die young, Got our hands on loaded guns, This world has made us so numb, ‘Cause silence is better than bullshit, They wanna say, Like it’s gonna change a thing, This world has made us so numb, ‘Cause silence is better than bull.”
A second chorus drops into Elijah’s vicious vocals and a huge sweeping guitar riff, which feed into a final catchy chorus. Seb calls this out as his favourite on the album, saying: “Because I always wanted to play a breakdown with the band and jam out too.” Check it out in the video here:
Kalie calls out Strawberries as her favourite track on the album, telling us: “It was the first time I got to show off not only my poppy side but a darker side of my past with alcohol and drugs. It felt good to get that all off my chest and I can’t wait to play that bop live.” Check it out here:
That’s followed by Change Things, which features fellow LA artist Dutch Melrose and again showcases RIVALS’ musical diversity. It opens with engaging vocals and synth sounds that build up to a big catchy chorus with a cool diving riff supporting the vocals “Can’t seem to change things, Wearing white to my funeral, I’ll probably die alone, So bitter and I’m staying cold, Wearing all white Gucci in this chapel, Knowing I can’t change things, Flexing that I’m stronger than I really am, But I can’t, change me.”
The heavier side of RIVALS comes out on Are You Listening?, which begins with light synth and vocals but explodes into a huge chorus led by Kalie’s intoxicating vocals “Can anybody hear me, Where am I supposed to go, You don’t even listen, It’s all I know, Can anybody hear me, Where am I supposed to go, I don’t wanna live in this broken home.” A second chorus ends on spinning synth and guitar chords, then light vocals burst into a big final chorus. Give this huge track a listen here:
The album offers a little bit of something for everyone, with heavy moments, melodic moments and light moments that fuse a wide range of genres into a catchy yet hard-hitting record. And all of that is encapsulated in the final two tracks To Dom and the big, catchy closer Why.
On the album as a whole, the band tell us: “It’s been truly amazing to see so many people hyped to hear all the new music, we weren’t really sure how it was going to go since we released it in the middle of the pandemic but honestly, it went a lot better than expected! We are so happy to have new and old fans along the way for the craziness that’s about to come.”
For even more of the RIVALS sound, check out their huge previous single Moonlit and fantastic cover of Twenty One Pilots’ Heathens.
On what inspires their music, Kalie tells us: “My topics range from emotional healing to emotional distraught, to hypothetical break up songs, songs about suicide, and songs about growth, but mainly I write about sad stuff.”
And Josh adds: “As a drummer I’m highly influenced by rhythms. Whether it’s Hip Hop, Metal, Pop, or world music.”
We discovered the band through As Everything Unfolds singer Charlie Rolfe name checking them on a podcast we listen to. And Kalie tells us: “I wanna say that Charlie and I followed each other on social media? I actually cannot remember but we actually talk quite a bit! Were becoming international besties!”
There’s plenty more to come from RIVALS this year, including several gigs over the next couple of months. More info on their gigs is here.
And the band adds: “Listen to RIVALS, listen to As Everything Unfolds, go listen to You, Me, And Everyone We Know ( they have a new record coming out), and go to a show or 10, we need all the help can get right now!”