RIFFLORD: Get Ready for Big Amps and Dirty Sound

by Sonja O’Steen

Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, a Burke, S.D., native, will be bringing that rough 1970s sound to ICON Lounge on Tuesday, April 4, with his band RIFFLORD.

“We’re always excited to play, you know. We don’t get to see each other very often and we, and I honestly mean this, we all really dearly love each other like brothers and sisters,” he said. When we do get together, that alone excites us. And so the fact that we get to play music too is just, you know, the cherry on top.”

With band mates being scattered around the U.S., it’s a big deal for them to perform as the travel logistics can be a bit daunting. The last time they played together was in Las Vegas in August 2022. They last time they played in Sioux Falls was in 2021.

The band started in 2007. While they’ve gone through a few lineup changes, Bartlett is the only consistent band member from the beginning. And while the other band members play multiple instruments, Bartlett is primarily a guitarist.

“You know, like I can play the bass a little. Everyone can play like every single instrument out of the sun. I’m the only, like, one trick,” he said. “I always joke about it, but I feel like it’s true. Like I’m the least talented member in the band. I just surrounded myself with people with just ridiculous talent.”

Tell us your story …

Growing up in the small town of Burke, SD, where he still lives on his family’s ranch, Bartlett didn’t experience a ton of variety.

“There’s no one here,” he said. “I went to this church camp or something, and there were these kids for talent show night and they started playing like hardcore punk rock music and it was freaking everyone out. It resonated with me immediately. I became friends with them.”

Bartlett was then introduced to several other Sioux Falls musicians and started driving the two and half hours to see shows in Sioux Falls.

“I got really heavily influenced by the Sioux Falls music scene and then moved there when I was about 20 and then, you know, started playing in bands.”

He lived in what he called a “punk rock house” with eight other people where they did shows in the basement of the house. It was there at RIFFLORD was born. The house was located right next to the University of Sioux Falls and was torn down just last year.

“We started RIFFLORD because everyone was doing like punk bands and thrash bands,” he said. “I was listening to more like Black Sabbath and a lot of the earlier, slower, stonier stuff. And so it just kind of went that direction.”

Let’s talk about the music scene

Since Bartlett started his music career he’s seen a lot of incarnations of music come and go over the years in South Dakota.

“Everything ebbs and flows, you know what I’m saying? Like it seems like there’s periods of drought and then periods of just endless amounts of music and venues and then people get, you know, almost burnt out by it and they take it for granted and then it dies and then they wish they had it again and it comes back and so it’s, you know, it’s I’ve seen the pendulum swing a few times.”

And while some smaller venues have opened up their doors to live music, like Total Drag, Full Circle Book Co-op and Club David, there aren’t a lot of places for all ages shows or venues that are setup with the right acoustics for local and indie bands to perform.

“It would be fantastic to see something happen where you know, a room was set up acoustic wise and had a good PA and a good sound system, but, you know, post COVID, things have been weird,” he said.

Post COVID, things got weird

The band was slated to release an album in 2020, that didn’t happen.

Having finished up their album in 2019, they took time in 2020 to get ready for two tours. They were going to headline a festival in L.A., then to Texas, and had all kinds of things lined up when they started seeing shows cancel.

“And I’m like, ‘Oh, this will blow over.’ And then obviously it didn’t,” Bartlett said. “We put a halt on everything like pretty much everyone else did, including that album.”

Not only that, but the label they’d been on for the new album decided to take a break. RIFFLORD was left looking for a new home for its album.

“So our album hasn’t even come out yet and it’s scheduled. We finally just signed a deal with Ripple Records. And so that is scheduled to come out of February of next year once everything gets final plans.”

The show at ICON Lounge on April 4 will be one of very few shows the band plays this year. Bartlett said it might be their only show. And they are bringing the sound.

“The presence of large amps and the air and the volume that moves that, it’s a different experience. Like you feel it. It forces you to either step into it or leave the room, you know, it’s kind of commanding in that sense.”

Bartlett said that digital sound loses something in the process. “That’s why we still use big old amps from the 70s and large speakers. There’s just something about their presence.”

Going on Tour

“Our plans are to low this year and then next year we have some European tours in the works. And you know, upon the release of the album we got a bunch of stuff kind of lined up to jump on,” he said.

This will be the band’s first time venturing into Europe.

“You know, you always hear stories about how well bands are treated in Europe and we’ve got some friends that have done it before. They’ve kind of given us the lowdown of how it works and what to expect and kind of who to get a hold of. And so that’ll be interesting.”

While Bartlett knows they will be hitting some festivals, he doesn’t know where the band will be touring yet.

Don’t miss your chance to see RIFFLORD with Weedeater, Telekenetic Yeti and Adam Faucett. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Get yours here!

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