Backstage with punk rock outfit The Riddlin’ Kids, I sense something’s missing. No slashed clothes, no spikes, no beer. This is the new face of punk rock: lovelorn bodies packed tightly in T-shirts, legs hidden beneath stonewashed jeans.
Love it or hate it, emotionally- driven pop-punk is capturing the hearts of mainstream America. Riding the wave of the genre’s success, The Riddlin’ Kids, out of Austin, Texas, have recently hit the mainstream, bringing their tales of heartbreak along for the ride. Though success might be new for the band, touring certainly isn’t. Clint Baker (vocals, guitar), Dustin Stroud (guitar, vocals), Mark Johnson (bass) and Dave Keel (drums) have already made the rounds countless times playing with bands such as New Found Glory, Fenix TX and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
The band’s recent LP Hurry Up and Wait (Columbia) has garnered national attention, creating a sudden surge in the band’s popularity. Success might make the boys happy, but fear not, fans, The Riddlin’ Kids have still got plenty of break-up stories to tell. As singer Clint Barker explained in a recent Hatchet interview, wounds of the heart leave scars that last forever.
Hatchet: You guys do a lot of songs that are centered around girls, relationships, heartbreaks and stuff like that. What’s up with that? Why’s it so popular?
Clint Baker: With me, the biggest problems I ever had were with two things. I delivered pizza, and I had trouble paying my bills and surviving. And then I had a lot of trouble with girls. A lot of the songs are about my friends, just seeing trouble with them.
H: Are all the songs about girls you’ve known?
CB: A lot of them are about girls. Some of them are about my friends’ girlfriends, like, “Why did you put up with that crap?” A couple of the songs are about not knowing how you’re gonna make it, having a bunch of bad shit happen. Wondering, ‘why in the hell is this happening to me?’ I’m a good person. What did I do to deserve this?
H: What kind of stuff has happened to you?
CB: There have been a lot of points in my life when I’ve been stretched out to the max. I have no money for my bills. The hot water’s turned off. I’m about to get my electricity shut off. My car’s about to break down and I’m a pizza delivery driver, so if it breaks down I’m screwed.
H: How’d you get through that? How’d you deal?
CB: Not to go emo on you or anything, but I would literally pull over on the side of the road and cry and wonder what the hell was going on with my life.
H: And you had problems with girls on top of that?
CB: Girls have driven me up the wall. They’ve made me crazy at times, and I wrote songs about it. Girls have also made me happy, and I have had some really great girlfriends.
H: You have lots of evil girl stories? I’m in a great relationship right now, but I know I’ve got some great stories.
CB: Oh, yeah. Our song “Blind” has that part where I say, “Leave that bitch tonight.” That’s written about my best friend’s girlfriend. Me and my best friend and his girlfriend all lived in the same house, and she was a bitch. She drove me crazy. Instead of dealing with the situation, he stayed with her for way longer than he should have.
H: Why do you think guys do that?
CB: I don’t know. I mean, girls do it, too. But that’s what the song is about. It’s just me looking at his situation and it pissing me off, and being like, “Dude, just leave that bitch.”
H: Any more songs like that?
CB: Another song, “Here we Go Again.” Dustin and I both had crazy ex-girlfriends. I combined them both. I took their psycho characteristics and made a super-villain of an evil girlfriend character. It’s a ridiculous song. Those girls weren’t that bad. I mean they were pretty bad.
H: What’s it like now? Has being in a band changed the way you look at relationships?
CB: Being in a band makes it hard for you to find a new girl, meet her and really get to know her because you’re gone all the time. It’s hard to build the foundation for a real relationship. I meet a lot of girls that I think are really cool, that I wish I could get to know better.
H: Do you feel like there’s a presence of traditional partying in the pop-punk scene? It seems like it might be really clean cut.
CB: I can tell you there is a presence of traditional partying. We partake. We drink beer and have a good time. That’s part of being on tour. We’re not really into drugs or anything like that. After the show’s over there’s always something going on.
H: What’s it like on the road for you guys? You’re rocking a van, right?
CB: The Ford Windstar is hot, dude. The reason we’re in a Windstar is because the transmission went out on our van. We had to rent a van.
H: Is it tough being on tour, though?
CB: It’s not rough. What’s rough is when you run into snags, like your van breaking down and stuff like that.
H: Why don’t you take a collection, get it fixed?
CB: We’re not rich. A lot of people think that just because you hear our song playing in the background on “Total Request Live” or in a commercial we’re rich. We’re not rich at all. I wouldn’t say I’m hurting, but I can say my phone’s shut off.
H: At the end of the tour, are you gonna have to go back to the pizza shop?
CB: Oh hell no, we haven’t delivered pizza in two years.
H: You ever gonna do that again?
CB: I certainly hope not.