The Fame Riot is a band like no other. The two brothers who form the pop/rock duo—Liz Scarlett and Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins—make a bold impression due to their colorful apparel, energetic stage presence, and retro sound. Recently, they wrapped up a national tour with Radkey and released the single “Heart Stray,” which can be heard in Hollister stores. Soon, they will release a new EP.
We caught up with Liz and Shazam to learn more about their music, tour experiences, and unique style. Read on to hear about the meaning behind their band name, their wildest concert memory, their favorite articles of clothing, and their love for panther chameleons and red-headed rock agamas.
The Young Folks: Let’s start off by introducing you to the readers who haven’t heard of you yet. If you had to describe your sound in three words, what would you say?
Liz Scarlett: “Magic.” I think “magic” would be the first. There’s something magical about music and what inspires us to create… “It’s so lit!” Another three words. (Laughs) Okay, well, “fabulous”… “magical”… “danceable.”
TYF: You call yourselves The Fame Riot. What would you say you’re rioting against?
Liz: Rioting against? I would say it’s less of a riot against and more of a riot for. [We’re rioting for] freedom. Freedom of internal expression and internal manifestation—hopefully, eventually with external manifestation. We’re rioting against preconceived notion and formulated ways of thinking. We’re rioting for the ability to express such freedom from persecution. I think so many people live in their own little fierce fear, and we’re here to burst that bubble.
TYF: Your latest single is “Heart Stray.” What was the inspiration behind that song?
Liz: Mmm. Well, one of the words—“danceable”—comes to mind. I think with everything that we start, with everything that we start to record or write or produce, really comes that form of energy. You know, I wanna see people move, and I wanna see people feel the rhythm and feel the dance. [The song] started with that in mind, but I think it took on a much deeper message over time. Lyrically, [it] kind of started to explain aspects of failed relationships or lost love as well as, you know, the effort of keeping it alive or keeping the flame lit. I think it’s just a real story of someone taking on heartbreak. And it’s a common tale, but I think it was told from a hopeful, uplifting perspective as well. Yeah, danceable heartbreak! (Laughs)
TYF: Judging by YouTube videos, you guys have great live shows. You’re always so full of energy. What would you say is the most memorable thing that has happened during a Fame Riot show?
Liz: Oooh… You know how sometimes the negative things just stick, they want to stick? (Laughs) It’s something I laugh about now, but there was a show where I was swinging upside down from the lighting rig that came over the stage, and one of the guys that was running the staging—the sound guy or the monitor man—he was very upset that I took the liberty of putting my physical body in the way. (Laughs) And he came up to the front of the stage and started… He tried to have a conversation with me in the middle of the song I was singing. (Laughs) So I started singing it directly at him. And then he said a big… I think it was the “s” word. I can kind of read lips. But he kept repeating this derogatory statement towards me. So I dedicated the performance wholeheartedly to him and his form of energy. (Laughs) That was a very memorable moment. I was singing upside down, and I could see this man yelling at me, and I dropped to the stage and then came up to him and cradled him in my arms and kissed his cheek. I ended up making everything all right again. I told him, “It’s just part of the performance.” But it’s memorable every time the people who are hosting you want to shut down your set. We’ve had a couple times where they pushed the sound off on us because… it can be a bit rambunctious. (Laughs)
Recently you went on a tour with Radkey. Any funny or interesting stories from that tour you’d like to share?
Liz: We met Dr. Who. We met a Dr. Who. I’m not sure which one. What do you think, Shazam? What really stood out to you?
Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins: On tour? Everything stood out. Philadelphia stood out so well. That was just a beautiful place.
Liz: There were so many little things. It was all the little things.
Shazam: That whole experience was just really, really wonderful, in all ways. It was mostly about those looks that we would get walking into BBQ places. I thought that was really satisfying. It was threatening, but at the same time, they don’t know anything about us. If they would’ve just talked to us for a couple of minutes, I think that they would’ve been a bit surprised. You know? We would’ve just told them, like, “We like to hunt sometimes, and we like to fish.” And then they would’ve been like, (trying a Southern accent) “What? I think we should take you out to the shooting range!” But yeah, I thought it was a really fun time. And I think Radkey was, like, in all honesty… Probably my favorite part about the tour was that they’re brothers, and we’re brothers, and it was just, like, this wonderful family dynamic the entire time. We were like the Fellowship of the Ring on the way to Mordor.
Liz: I would say I, Liz, was pleasantly surprised with how well the tour went in general. There was not a lot to rant about. Other than the daily grind, it was pretty, pretty seamless. And pretty… you know, without anything that went super bad. I’d say the funniest thing I remember, one of the awesomest things I remember from the tour, is how much weed that the Radkey boys consume. On a daily basis. That was impressive. I was thoroughly impressed. Really, really, they were devoted. (Laughs) But don’t get the wrong impression. We live in Washington, so…
TYF: You draw inspirations from a variety of decades, both music-wise and style-wise. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and what would you do?
Shazam: Oooh! Damn! I’ve thought about this so much. I think I would… I would go to an in-between era. There’s an in-between era in every decade, where music is transitioning into a whole different genre. Like, from the ‘60s to ‘70s to ‘80s to ‘90s… Ah, man, that’s such a difficult question, because I’ve thought about it, and I’d love to go back to the ‘90s and produce hip-hop records. But I think I would want to go to the ‘70s and start sci-fi electro-pop-rock.
Liz: I would’ve wanted to meet Michael Jackson, or Frank Sinatra. I’m very intrigued with the retro-sci-fi-Broadway 1940s, you know? Even leading into the ’50s. I love that era… and the Gatsby vibe. But I don’t know. If I was to go back in time, it would be for the sole purpose of bringing something back from the future. I would want to go back and create the kind of music I’m creating now in those eras.
TYF: What are your favorite articles of clothing that you own?
Shazam: Well, it’s always kind of shifting. Shoes are always mad difficult to buy because they get destroyed so easily. A difficult thing to achieve is the perfect shoe. But I’d say my favorite articles of clothing are this really fluffy orange sweater that I have and this pair of cheeseburger iguana socks and this scarf that my favorite musician in the world gave to me. It’s called “The Energy.” And it’s, like, the one article of clothing I’d grab in a fire, other than my stuffed animal.
Liz: I would say that, you know, there’s a difference between the stage and the home. I think [for] the stage… I have a sequined jacket that was previously owned by Peaches, and I have always been drawn to that. It’s boutique handmade. It’s got, like, a piano and musical notes and psychedelic rainbow colors, and it’s very intriguing, and very well-crafted. I think I’ll always keep it. But yeah, for the stage, I would say my sequined Peaches jacket. And then at home, I love the sort of post-apocalyptic style… I call it my Jedi clothes. I love my wrappings and my knittings and my sweaters, and the things that I would like to wear every day, the things that keep me warm. My Jedi robes. I really like being cozy. Cozy’s nice.
Shazam: Or entirely uncomfortable and half-naked.
Liz: There’s no mild. It’s all drastic extremes.
TYF: You refer to your fans as “Freekz.” In your opinion, what does it mean to be a Freek?
Liz: It means to be a freak. We are freaks, so it means to be like us. I think it’s kind of like being activated or being called out from the boring limitations of life [lived] according to others’ expectations. I think being a Freek is when your bubble of fear, your fierce fear, has been burst.
Shazam: It’s a mentality. It’s not a look. I mean, that’s part of it, in the sense that I think you get more free with you’re wearing… [and] you’re more likely to just do that because it’s fun to you. [But] I don’t think you have to do that to be a part of the Freekz or anything like that. I think it’s more of your mentality. And if you’re wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and you’re fine with hanging out with a bunch of glitter thong-wearing other Freekz, than you’re still a Freek. (Laughs) Absolutely. It’s more about your mindset and how you love our people. I would say a big part of it, too, in relation to what we do being a Freek, requires one band and to enjoy the music and not care what people think. I think dancing and physically expressing the love that you possess as a human in harmony with music… It’s very special. I think we’re, like, the ultimate references for what Freekz can be, ‘cause some days you’ll see us in our Jedi robes, and some days you’ll see us in glitter thongs, and other days we’ll be wearing onesies. You never know.
TYF: Shazam, here’s a question for you: why is your nickname “Tea Time”?
Shazam: (Laughs) Well, man. There’s a lot of things about it that I really like. And that nickname will switch [according to] however I feel about myself, you know. Sometimes it’s “Monkey Lotus.” Sometimes it’s “Solar Flower.” I think “Tea Time”…
Liz: It’s a clutch moment.
Shazam: Yeah, it’s a clutch moment. You know, that dainty kissing of the tea cup into your lips… Or, I mean, “Tea” doesn’t have to be “T-E-A.” It could be “T,” which could stand for a lot of things, like “Terror.” “Terror Time!” Or “Trippy Time.” Or “Thyme.” “T-H-Y-M-E.” “Thyme Time”… But, no. “Tea Time” kind of came from the first night we had alcohol. Yeah, me and Lizard—Lizard and I, to be grammatically correct—we were, like, really little boys, you know, and we got a hold of Corona or something. And Jack Daniels. And the first thing that the hostess said was, “Don’t spill anything on my floor.” And then Lizard…
Liz: I had been drinking for the first time ever.
Shazam: He had, like, a Corona, and then he spilled the Jack everywhere, and I was like, “Does anybody want some tea?” And that’s how it happened.
Liz: I spilled it all over the carpet after being told to not spill anything. She was probably mad not even five seconds. It was okay. And you know, the lady that was there was so sweet anyway. Everybody just laughed. And we kept repeating that phrase over and over.
Shazam: Every time something terribly embarrassing or bad or just clutch happened, that statement would come up. “It’s time for tea. It’s time for tea, love!”
TYF: Liz, if you were a lizard, what type of lizard would you be?
Liz: Ooh, baby. I would be an Argonian. Or I would be… I think a chameleon. I love chameleons, but chameleons, you know, blend in… Or, like, a frickin’ monitor lizard! Or a Chinese water dragon.
Shazam: The Komodo dragon!
Liz: Well, they’re very venomous, though. I don’t feel venomous… A one-eyed lizard? …No. I very much outwardly express the panther chameleon vibe, but I think I’m more of a Chinese water dragon.
TYF: You’re very well-versed on the different types of lizards.
Liz: I wish I was better. I know there’s bearded dragons as well, but sometimes they have two heads, and I couldn’t imagine having a second head.
TYF: Oh, true. That’d be pretty crazy.
Liz: Panther chameleons are, like, the most beautiful chameleons of all. And they’re rather docile.
Shazam: Or you could be an African Rainbow Lizard!
TYF: That sounds fun.
Shazam: Agama agama. A red-headed rock agama!
Liz: Sorry. Shazam’s more passionate about lizards than I am, I think. He believes in lizards.
Shazam: Well, there’s just so many cool…
TYF: Lizards are really cool.
Liz: Yeah. Really beautiful, too.
TYF: Your EP is set for release sometime this year. What can you tell us about it, if anything?
Liz: There’s some songs that we chose from before we were signed. [Back then,] we put out a small physical print of an EP. There were about nine songs that we were really vibing on at the time, and we released them. And a year later, we signed, and just released a single and took the other music down. [Now] we’re taking [the songs] from a few years ago, and we’ve revamped them and beefed them up, and they just sound better. We just recently approved the final mix, so it’ll be a handful of songs that we can play live. Actually, some of them we don’t play live, too, so it’ll be a little bit of new content. But yeah, it was just an aspect of the first album that we hadn’t released officially that we knew we needed to get out. So we decided to funnel it down again and choose our favorites and revamp.
TYF: Is there anything else that you guys want to say to our readers before we go?
Liz: Be sure to check out our social networks, like Instagram, and Snapchat, and Facebook. We’re on Twitter, too. Twitter is an interesting thing to me. But our network’s always rolling, and that’s how we communicate and show little previews, however calm or ridiculous they may be… Oh, yeah! …If [readers] wanna share [“Heart Stray”], they can go on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, or iTunes.