Pairing dream-like synth tones and melodic vocal hooks with a chill, southern California vibe, Let Em Riot has established himself as a prominent act on the frontiers of retrowave. The artist has been innovatively mixing ‘80s nostalgia with modern music as Let Em Riot since 2010, creating a unique and compelling take on established songwriting conventions. His newest album, The Futurist, is a milestone for both himself and the synthwave genre.
Alan Oakes is the one-man band behind Let Em Riot, and the diverse influences heard in his songs are the culmination of decades spent soaking up new music and playing in bands. An ‘80s baby, Oakes’ earliest influences came from pop culture of the decade. Movie soundtracks were especially important in those formative years, with artists like Cyndi Lauper capturing his imagination from the reels of VHS tapes. Along with other pop acts of the era like Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode, these movie soundtracks remain prominent influences on the music of Let Em Riot.
An early love for Mötley Crüe also marked a pivotal point in Oakes’ music interests, and rock and punk became increasingly influential as he grew into adolescence. Immersing himself in skate culture, he discovered punk bands that were integral to skate videos of the era, and those artists left a lasting impression on his creative direction.
Growing up in a southern California college town, Oakes also had plenty of opportunities to see local bands ply their craft. Watching live acts and listening to DJs spin records became a favorite pastime, and spending his days around the college’s radio station introduced him to a wealth of new music including emo, ska, trance, drum and bass, and other contemporary genres.
Oakes joined his first band as a freshman in high school and quickly began developing his skills as a singer and guitarist. In time, his role in these acts expanded, and soon he was forming and fronting his own bands. He spent many years in this role writing music, playing shows, and doing the legwork promoting his bands, though as each new endeavor fizzled out and Oakes was left to start from scratch, he found he was tiring of the grind and felt the need to strike out on his own musical journey.
This led to the creation of Let Em Riot, a fresh and liberating solo project that combined everything Oakes had learned over the years as a music fan and artist. For the first time, he was free to synthesize his many influences into a focused, cohesive, and unmitigated musical expression of his own design. The project quickly developed a unique sound, picking up loyal followers from diverse genres along the way. In early 2018, his career hit a high mark when he released The Futurist through NewRetroWave, the leading record company in synthwave music.
With his songs reaching a new audience and shaping an exciting new genre of music, Oakes continues to refine and develop the sound of Let Em Riot without ever losing touch with his roots.
written by Iron Skullet