Making tracks: Friends since high school, Charity Kiss is now eight years in—and climbing the ladder 

Per their Spotify biography, Reno’s Charity Kiss promises “scrappy desert rock with just an iddy biddy bit of twang.” Given the genre-defying state of modern music, it’s about as apt of a description as anyone could come up with. 

On their latest EP, Victor Riley’s a Coward, listeners will find the young musicians maturing in their sonic aspirations. With a new lineup, a more intentional songwriting process, and a few big shows under their belts, the members of the Reno rock group have set their eyes on bigger and better things—while continuing to celebrate their roots. 

Friends since high school, the bandmates have spent years developing a sound born of complementary musical tastes, and a brotherhood forged by days and nights spent in a cramped tour van chasing a shared dream. They got their start, however, navigating a scene that felt unfamiliar and, at times, unsupportive. 

“When we started the band in high school, we had no idea about anything with music—we didn’t really know how to play our instruments,” said vocalist and rhythm guitarist Patrick Hansen. “We got our first show at, like, a dive bar in Sparks, and it was terrifying. There was nobody there. I was 16 or 17, and some dudes were doing cocaine in the bathroom.” 

At the time, most of the members of Charity Kiss were performing as another band called Color T.V., which included Hansen, the aptly named Nate Drum on drums, and lead guitarist Cole Hendriks. Like many young musicians in the Reno scene, though, Charity Kiss eventually found a venue and a like-minded community in the Holland Project—as well as a future band member in Cooper Conway. 

“They called me, and I couldn’t refuse the offer,” Conway said. 

Victor Riley’s a Coward, released in October 2023, is Charity Kiss’ first recorded offering with Cooper as part of the group. The members agree that the new EP is emblematic of their growth as musicians over the eight years they’ve played together. 

“You can really feel the flavor that each individual person is bringing,” said Hendriks. “I think we all had a bit more of a taste for our instruments and what we wanted to do individually. And I think that’s why we’re so happy with the songs as opposed to others.” 

The EP came together in a marathon recording session between tour dates in the spring of 2023—a testament to the band’s chemistry, the members said. 

“I’m very surprised (at) the matter of time that we did that—three days. (In) the other bands that I’ve been in, it’s taken like a week to do five songs, if not more,” Conway said. “We went in there, and just one after the next one, after the next one, after the next—14-hour sessions—and to walk out with that product, it’s pretty sweet.” 

The result is a punchy, well-produced sonic adventure that mixes elements of surf-rock, frenetic punk energy, indie country twang and whatever else the boys felt like throwing in during those three days sleeping on the studio floor. 

“Destination Double Bridge” is a raucous, stripped-down groove that feels like riding along in the tour van with the band screaming “la la laaaa” out of the open windows. It’s impossible to listen to without smiling, and it’s a standout against moodier, more contemplative tracks that follow. 

“Mind of a Criminal” and “Roll Over Ben Stiller” traverse a more sober soundscape, artfully blending the shimmer and twang of indie rock with the complex, noodling riffs indicative of the Midwest emo sound. 

The metaphorical joyride takes the listener to even stranger country on the instrumental “Can I Just Put You on Hold Really Quick?” with its experimental riffs and guitar themes. Finally, “Cellars”—the last track on the EP—arrives at a country-adjacent ballad, prominently featuring Hansen’s acoustic guitar and a delightfully melancholic vibe. It feels like, at last, the engine has given out somewhere on the side of a desert highway, but at least we had some good times while it lasted. 

And who is Victor Riley, anyway? 

“We were messing around with names, and we liked the ring of ‘blank is a coward,’” Drum said. “It was like this idea of calling out a celebrity just randomly, this little band from Reno being like, ‘Hey, you’re a douche.’ The idea of them waking up and maybe they’d see it, it’d be funny.”  

They initially thought of Jack White, and then decided to invent a name. Later, the band learned that their made-up celebrity name also belonged to an ex-NFL player who was charged with ramming his car into another containing his wife and infant daughter in 2001. 

“We had no idea,” Conway said. “I (told) the band, and we were like, ‘Well, I guess it kind of works.’” 

In the months since Victor Riley’s release, the band has been busy. In their own words, they got back from a “brutal” tour and decided to take a break from their extensive performance schedule while they work on new music—but not before playing at Boise’s well-known Treefort Music Festival last March. 

Charity Kiss has always prioritized touring, but only recently have they started to find actual fans at some of their stops. It’s a surreal feeling, they said, but with more than 3,000 followers on Instagram and thousands of monthly listeners on Spotify, the digital metrics, at least, point to the band becoming a well-known representative of the Reno scene. 

“Right now, the cool thing to do is, like, shit on Reno, but I have a lot of pride in Reno and where we came from,” Hansen said. “We’re scrappy, you know; we try to incorporate that into our music and our ethos. I think the DIY spirit in Reno is actually really surprisingly strong and efficient—and so there’s a lot to be proud of.” 

Charity Kiss hopes to record their new album sometime soon. Meanwhile, listeners can find Victor Riley Is a Coward on the band’s Spotify.