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Inside the Life, Mind & Happiness of R5’s Bassist

Ask anyone who’s ever spent time around Riker Lynch to describe him in one word and you’ll likely hear the same response over and over: that the 24-year-old is, well, happy. “I just like being happy so much more than being sad or down,” says R5’s bassist. “When I’m somewhere out with people, it’s very common for me not to think about anything else besides what’s happening right in front of me. Someone could start talking about the stars in the galaxy and I’m just like, ‘I’ve never thought anything that deep!’ But I love how I think. I love it because I like being happy and I like having an awesome time. But when I write lyrics, that’s where a deeper side of me comes out.”

That deeper side was revealed on the band’s sophomore album, Sometime Last Night. Released in July, with R5 crafting 7 of the album’s 11 tracks, it showcased a significant progression from 2013’s Louder. “I was 19 when we made that album,” he explains. “At the time, we couldn’t have done anything close to Sometime Last Night. We hadn’t lived!” 


From multiple world tours to Ross’ acting career to Riker’s trip to the finals on Dancing With The Stars, the past two years have been a wild ride for the five best friends. And while some perceive Austin & Ally to have been the catalyst for R5, they couldn’t be more wrong. The band’s wild ride began not under the bright lights of Hollywood but in a tiny basement in Colorado, with a different show – Rock Star: INXS, a reality competition series that aired back in the summer of 2005.  “I was 13 and we watched it as a family, and we just started falling in love with rock and roll,” says Riker. “Every week they’d release a song on iTunes, so we’d buy the song and then go into the basement and play over the track and sing and put on rock shows. We had this little piece of white paper and Rydel drew R5 on it. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we all just really, really loved it.” 

Shortly after that, their dad, Mark Lynch, took Rocky and Riker to see O.A.R. in concert at the famous Red Rocks amphitheater. “We went from being in our basement and watching a band on TV to seeing one of the best bands live in person,” says Riker. “Something sparked in our brains that took it to the next level and so that was really a turning point.”  Less than a year later, the Lynch family moved to Los Angeles. While Ross, Rydel and Riker continued dancing and auditioned for acting roles, Rocky fell more and more in love with rock music. “He started teaching himself guitar and one summer day, he bought Fall Out Boy’s Live in Phoenix concert DVD,” says Riker. “He sat me down and was like, ‘Watch this.’ I was like, ‘These are the coolest people I’ve ever seen in my life. I want to play.’ And he said bass is just like guitar, but easier. I said perfect.”

  A few months later, the boys invited an acquaintance from dance class, Los Angeles native Ellington Ratliff, to come play with them. The first song they ever jammed to was “I Don’t Care” by Fall Out Boy. “I remember that moment when Ellington did the first drum fill into the song and then we started playing,” smiles Riker. “I remember having the biggest smile on my face. It was the craziest, most excited I’ve ever felt in my life. And something just sparked right there, and subconsciously I knew that something special had just happened.” Soon enough, Ross and Rydel joined the jam sessions and the band was complete. R5 started gigging non-stop all over California and the fandom, now known as the R5 Family, was born. “We played the biggest stage at the Orange County Fair and had 50 people come to see us because we tweeted about it,” says Riker. “It was building.” 

Between gigs, the band continued auditioning for acting parts, and both Riker and Ross scored major television roles on Glee and Austin & Ally respectively. When they weren’t on set filming, they were performing as R5. And with every tour they completed, ticket sales grew exponentially. By 2013, they were playing for thousands of fans a night – all over the world. “You get on a 14-hour flight and you show up and there’s 100 people waiting for you at the airport,” says Riker. “It’s kind of crazy and it humbles you in a weird way and I think that’s because we aren’t big-headed people. We’re very proud of what we do and we believe in ourselves, but it’s crazy to think that people will mark their calendars, save up to buy tickets, and then get there so early to get good seats on the day of the show.”

But what if perpetually happy Riker is having a not-so-happy day? How does he still manage to put on a good show for all those fans? “Something happens 30 seconds before you walk onstage, where you lose all thought of the rest of the world,” he says. “So no matter who you were arguing with or how you were feeling, it all goes away, and it’s all about putting on the absolute best show we can for the people here tonight.”

The fact that R5 (all under the age of 25) have completed multiple world tours and sold hundreds of thousands of tickets without having a hit song at radio is a testament to the show Riker describes. But by the same token, they know there’s still much more to accomplish. “I think part of being an artist is not being satisfied and striving to be better, but at the same time, I have to remind myself to be content with what we have because we are so fortunate to be in the position we’re in,” says Riker. “I always tell myself to remember how great everything is and to really realize that it’s much more about the journey than it is about the destination.”


Photos: Joe Magnani

Story by: Colleen Broomall

Hair: Matilde Campos

Styling: Robiat Balogun (Suit: Anthony Franco, Shirt: Zara, Tie: H&M)

Grooming: Joseph Adivari

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