Toronto's Red Light Riot isn't just girls with guitars

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Red Light Riot

IF WE DYED OUR HAIR ALL BLACK, PEOPLE WOULDN'T TAKE US SERIOUSLY. Red Light Riot comes to The Salt Lounge this tomorrow. No word yet on the hair dye samples.

For the female rockers of Red Light Riot, nothing matters more than staying true to their music.

In their early teens, Red Light Riot lead guitarist Donna Grantis and vocalist Francine Scala joined musical forces.

The Toronto-based duo was inspired by bands like Led Zeppelin, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Aerosmith.

“When I watch a Zeppelin DVD, I’m so inspired,” Grantis says. “I think the reason I started playing in the first place is because I was so inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Slash.”

Though Grantis and Scala teamed up as teenagers, they didnt form Red Light Riot until they joined with bassist Dave McMillan and drummer Kevin Mendes last year.

“I wanted red to be in there because I was thinking of high energy,” Grantis says. “Red is a very passionate colour, and it’s very bold.

“I was thinking of riot in terms of something different. Francine and I first started writing at a time filled with Britney Spears pop. Since then, I think some very good rock bands have emerged.

“As for light, it seemed to fit well with the band’s individuality.”

The band’s passionate and bold name also reflects its performance style.

“Our music is pretty strong and energetic,” Grantis says. “I think it surprises people and it surprises guys when they see that.”

Red Light Riot’s debut album, War and Ribbons of Euphoria, which references the Hendrix song “Bold As Love,” was released in January.

“Francine and I were checking out song lyrics, and ‘war and ribbons of euphoria’ is a reference to one of my favourite songs,” Grantis says. “In that song, [Hendrix] talks about different colours and the line ‘My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of war and ribbons of euphoria’ really spoke to us.”

The album was recorded in a shed studio located in the small town of Hillsburgh, Ontario.

“We thought [Hillsburgh] was really cool because it was in the middle of nowhere,” Grantis says. “We stayed there for about two weeks, and we were totally focused on playing.

“Had we recorded in a studio in the city, there would have been distractions. There are always distractions at home.”

In the past, Grantis says there have always been more guys than girls at the band’s shows. However, she believes this dynamic is changing.

“I love seeing women out in the audience,” Grantis says. “People like to see women rocking out, and doing something that’s a little more aggressive than usual.

“I’d rather be known as a great guitar player than a great girl guitar player. We don’t want to get caught up into thinking we need to act a certain way just because it’s a male-dominated industry.”

Red Light Riot plays The Salt Lounge tomorrow night with Proposterous and Tracenine. The show starts at 9 p.m.

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