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In 2002, Alex Grigg and Adrian Deutsch met at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert, discovered their musical tastes aligned, and decided to form a band. Both were guitarists, singers, and songwriters. Deutsch recommended his old friend Mathew Chapman, who was then living in New Zealand, as a bass player. Chapman coincidentally met drummer Tom Wallace while flying to Australia and the Red Riders were complete. After playing a string of backyard parties and pubs, then touring with the Sleepy Jackson and Jet, they scored the coup of supporting Franz Ferdinand on their Australian tour. The Scottish dance-rockers had just come from a tour of America where they had been disappointed with the quality of support acts chosen by their label and insisted on hand-picking their Australian openers; it was the Red Riders' demo that impressed them the most.
In 2005, Red Riders signed with the Ivy League label and released their debut album, Replica Replica, a year later. Their live shows were often ramshackle and the songs martial and anthemic to the point of drawing comparisons with the Clash, but on album they showed a stronger influence from the '80s miserablism of the Cure and the Smiths. Grigg and Deutsch split the songwriting down the middle, each singing whichever songs they had personally written. Deutsch wanted to head in a different direction, however, and announced via MySpace in 2008 that he was leaving the group. The band returned to the studio to record without him. When they heard that their labelmates and former touring partners the Vines had gone on hiatus, possibly for good, they roped in Vines' bass player Brad Heald to replace Deutsch on guitar for their second album, Drown in Colour, which was recorded in two weeks.