By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada-based electro indie-pop artist Riotron a.k.a. Jeff Fettes has enjoyed an abundance of success since the lyric video release of his September 2019 single “I’m Sorry,” which has racked up more than a million views on YouTube since its premiere.
Riotron looks to release his debut EP ‘Dark Highway’ later this year and has since released another lyric video for “There For You,” described by Riotron as a “kind of 1980’s sci-fi aesthetic” inspired by James R. Eads’ cosmic artwork. Lyrically, it connects people to the ones they can’t be with physically – with the power of a memory.
Hooked on classic pop artists like Madonna and Phil Collins, he wrote his own music while in his teens and while he worked in a local studio, wrote, produced and recorded for other artists. Fettes began a career as an inventor and entrepreneur that took up his time, until frustrations with current politics led him to write “I’m Sorry” and Riotron became his new musical outlet, where he experiments with electronic synth-pop, dance-rock and jazz.
The Music Bugle recently had the chance to catch up with Riotron about his latest singles, forthcoming EP and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Winnipeg to someone who has never been there before?
Riotron – It’s kind of iconic Canada. It has all the things Hollywood would put into a movie about our country. Trees everywhere. Four distinct seasons. Friendliest people. Socials. Hockey. Potholes. Mosquitos. Cute accents. We also have the Canadian National Human Rights Museum and the country’s best zoo. In the summer, the streets of my neighborhood are covered in a canopy of green trees that filters the light and creates a warm glow. It feels like home even if you’re not from there.
Music Bugle – What inspired you to release “There For You” as a single?
Riotron – For me, “There For You” is about how we can bring the people we love to us across time and space with just a thought. It sounds cosmic or religious, but it’s really just the power of our own memories. Memories are kind of where science meets the spiritual. The song was never really intended to be released, but was one of those songs that people kept asking about, so I put it out there.
Music Bugle – What was it like in terms of the creative process for the ‘Dark Highway’ EP? What sparked the name for you?
Riotron – I wrote a zillion songs. I was just getting back into music after a long absence and I was just letting anything that was on my brain come out. I started to realize that a lot of the new songs were about feeling out of control. One night, I found myself driving down a country road. It was dark, raining hard, I didn’t know exactly where I was and I was totally alone. I almost skidded off into the ditch before I pulled over. I realized pretty quickly that ‘Dark Highway’ was a metaphor for my life at that moment. I wrote the song the next day and it became the story of the EP.
Music Bugle – How do you feel about the success the “I’m Sorry” lyric video has generated on YouTube, with over a million views?
Riotron – It has been really unexpected, honestly. When I started releasing music, I was just expecting my friends and family to check it out. My friend called me about a week after I’d put out the lyric video and told me there were over 50,000 views already. Pretty soon, I started getting messages about it from cities and countries I’d never visited before. After it passed a million, it got the attention of some industry people, which has also led to some cool opportunities.
Music Bugle – Did you listen to any particular artists while making ‘Dark Highway’?
Riotron – Everyone! Sofi Tukker, A Great Big World, St. Lucia, Friendly Fires, The 1975 and some retro artists too like Madonna, Phil Collins, Dolly Parton, George Michael.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a musician to stand out these days?
Riotron – I think social media makes it easier to find your tribe. I never could have connected with so many people this quickly by touring clubs.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the music industry and fans alike?
Riotron – It’s introduced us to a lot of live-streaming event concepts that didn’t exist before and I’d expect many of those will be around for good now. I think COVID-19 has really reminded us all how much we love art and entertainment for escapism. Speaking for myself, I find myself hungry for new music and new content. Art is usually a reflection of society and so there’s a sense right now of wanting to check it out and see how everyone’s feeling.
Music Bugle – What are your future plans, as far as the rest of 2020?
Riotron – Next month, I have the official music video for “I’m Sorry,” plus I’ve been collaborating with some awesome DJ’s who are doing remixes too. After that, all new music starting in the summer including “Dark Highway,” the song and short-film.
Music Bugle – What’s something you feel people should know about you as a person?
Riotron – I’m a huge comic book nerd. I love learning new things and I obsess over something I’ve started learning. Hmmm. I like Lemon Cake.
Music Bugle – What do you feel is your most meaningful song or set of lyrics that you like to quote the most?
Riotron – I feel it doesn’t matter what I think are the most meaningful. I like hearing about how others feel them.