Exploding onto the thriving Minneapolis scene in the fall of 2005, White Light Riot are brothers Mike (vocals, guitar) and Mark (drums) Schwandt, Joe Christenson (lead guitar), and Dan Larsen (bass). Though the band during their brief existence have gained a rabid following and a reputation for turning out smart, radiant indie pop gems (“readymade singles”—Minneapolis City Pages), it wasn’t always champagne and dead flowers for these four lads from the icy north: The four friends met in high school but didn’t manage to find their destiny until several years later, when Mike returned from studying in the U.K. with no degree, no money, and a blazing passion for Britpop
That enthusiasm would prove to be the spark that lit the fire: Following a brief stint during which the band labored under the moniker of a popular line of women’s cosmetics, The Evening Glow (“I knew it was a ladies’ cosmetic line,” admits drummer Mark Schwandt. “I just didn’t think anyone else would know!”), the band changed their name to White Light Riot, blew the doors off a couple local clubs with their rough, challenging pop, a shimmering blend of Blur, the Kinks, and day-one Weezer, and immediately began earning accolades and invitations to play all over the country
Following the 2005 EP The Dark Is Light Enough, produced by Erik Appelwick (Tapes ‘N Tapes), White Light Riot released their first full-length, Atomism, for 50 Records, in late 2007. Produced by Brent Sigmeth (Grant Hart, They Might Be Giants), the album is a lightning-hot 50 minutes of brilliant, swaggering pop, laced with jagged hooks and shot through with anthemic choruses. It’s not all bluster and bravado for this restless young band, however; beneath the finely crafted melodies and soaring crescendos lurks a dark and moody undercurrent that conjures a longing and disaffection peculiar to a generation that came of age just after the Xbox, and just in time for the Iraq war
In a blurry world of faceless emo and bland prepackaged pop, White Light Riot are intent on delivering smart, complex indie rock with the passion and soul of an era that came to glory before the phrase “indie rock” was a glint in the media’s eye. Though the band’s nervy, modern sound has landed them on bills with national acts like the Features and the Von Bondies, White Light Riot aren’t afraid to look back to a rougher, more ragged age, when rockers strutted and old ladies tutted. As guitarist Christenson bluntly puts it, “We haven’t forgotten who the Rolling Stones are.
Last year saw White Light Riot enjoying heavy airplay on college radio; “Out of Sight,” the first single off of Atomism, continues to chart nationally on specialty radio. On the strength of that release, the band were invited to play legendary music festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, where they are booked solid for the duration of the festival following a quick-and-dirty tour of the Midwest. Also in the works for 2008 are a full U.S. tour, a highly anticipated string of dates in the U.K., and a stint in the recording studio, as these ambitious boys continue to blaze toward 2009.