German four-piece band Rikas sounds more like it hails from Southern California than Stuttgart with its breezy, upbeat indie pop, complete with Beach Boys harmonies. The group has racked up lots of time on stage in recent years, with more than 300 shows across Europe including festival plays at Germany’s Fusion Festival and MS Dockville and support slots with Milky Chance, Alt-J and Alice Phoebe Lou. Rikas will make its U.S. debut this month in Austin with its first South by Southwest appearances. The band’s schedule features performances at The Luna Collective Unofficial SXSW showcase March 11, Parkside March 13, Gillian Jean Creative at Icenhauer’s March 17 and Seven Grand March 19.
Rika just released the single “Up All Night,” co-written by Benny Sings and co-produced by Jonathan Rado (check out the tune below), and the band is working on a full-length album as a follow-up to 2022’s EP, Goodbye Sunshine. Pollstar caught up with guitarist/vocalist Chris Ronge to learn more.
Pollstar: Can you share how Rikas formed?
Chris Ronge: The four of us have known each other forever, basically. Sam and Ferdie, our bass player and the drummer, went to kindergarten together. And later on, we all played on the same local kids soccer team. Age 12 or 13, we started meeting weekly and making music together, covering what was cool at the time, pop-punk songs from bands like The All-American Rejects, Sum 41. We evolved from that pretty quickly and started to find our own sound. But in the beginning we were heavily influenced by punk rock.
How did you get your start playing gigs?
In the summer of 2014, we started traveling Europe by train. We took our guitars and a snare drum and traveled all around the continent, busking. This is where we started developing our sound.
We didn’t have a microphone amplifying our vocals in the street, so in order to be loud enough to entertain the whole street, all of us were singing and we were covering songs of bands that do this, like The Beatles and Beach Boys. Then we also started to write our own songs in this kind of approach; we never had one lead singer but we’re all a team … like a modern interpretation of the boy band maybe. (laughs)
What was your biggest takeaway from busking?
In the very beginning of being a band, it’s hard to find gigs. And so we thought, OK, if there’s no one out there who wants to book us, we’ll stand in the streets and just force people to listen to us. One thing led to another and all of a sudden people wanted to book us, if it was for an actual club gig or wedding or whatever, we played some pretty fun stuff because people saw us busking. If people like you, they stand there for a while and maybe even give you some money. And if they don’t, they just walk on by. So it was really honest and direct feedback and showed us how our songs connected with people.
What’s the plan for South By Southwest?
We’re prepared for rock ’n’ roll (laughs) – the time we have for setup, for changeover, for soundcheck and all those things. Being a band that tours a lot, we’re used to having lots of time for soundcheck and all the in-ear monitoring, etc. And now, going back to this rock ’n’ roll setup is going to be exciting. But we’re aware of it, so we won’t be surprised if things have to go quickly. We’re bringing our own sound guy. But we’re really excited. I mean, no one knows what’s going to happen. I think a realistic goal is just to make contact with new people and take the first step into the music scene over there. It’s like starting all over again, how we started in Germany and Europe … We just hope that some people are going to see us perform. But we don’t have any precise expectations.
Tell me about your team. Are you looking for representation?
We have an agent for Germany, Switzerland, Austria. We’re definitely looking for an agent overseas. We do have management in Europe. They’re located in Berlin and they’re also coming to South By with us to hopefully shake hands and talk to people there.
What’s your favorite thing about playing live?
Practicing, rehearsing, recording music – for me, it all leads to playing live, because this is where you get the emotional feedback from people. Of course, if someone buys your record or a T-shirt or whatever, it also shows you they like your music, but it’s pretty indirect feedback. If you have real people standing in front of your stage, smiling and dancing and having fun – this is a reward for all the work we do.
And why should someone come to your show?
They should all come to our shows at South By because we’re the best looking German band. (laughs) No, I don’t know. We just like to have fun on stage, interact with the crowd. I think everyone leaves our show happier. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with our music.