Riovaz's music deftly captures the frenetic, unpredictable energy of growing up. Influenced by drum & bass, post-punk and dance composition, his genre-blurring, cutting-edge pop songs that have won him both critical and commercial success before he even graduated high school -- are both emotionally rich and dizzyingly varied. It's rare that two songs sound exactly the same. On his lovesick 2020 breakthrough "Prom Night," he sang of feeling like death over lilting bedroom pop arrangements. But he's equally likely to spill his heart over crystalline electronic arrangements ("you're a parasite") or bouncy house refractions ("Tell Me All Your Fears"). It's all different, but each track is united by honest, lived-in lyrics from a teenager who doesn't want to pretend to be anyone but himself.
"I'm a pretty normal person," Riovaz shares. "When people see me, especially when I was still in school, people used to relate to me as a kid that's making music in his house and posting it on the internet."
Riovaz grew up in Jersey City, NJ surrounded by music. His brother is an avid music fan, his sister is a talented singer, and their parents were always playing '80s Argentinian alt-rock and Michael Jackson at home. This consistent exposure to music from a young age initially transitioned into curious artistry through playing Guitar Hero, and by 13, he was making his own songs. But his natural talent didn't immunize him from self-doubt.
"I remember I wanted to quit when I was, like, 14," Riovaz says. "One of my earliest music friends was Trendy. I texted him I wanted to quit, and he called me for three hours and just kept telling me to be consistent. Now, I live by that every day. If you're consistent, one of these days something's gonna happen."
For Riovaz, that something was "Prom Night." Before uploading the track, which recently eclipsed 100 million streams, he had been regularly posting music to SoundCloud and Instagram. The formula for "Prom Night" wasn't any more calculated, but there is a spark to the track, which marries brokenhearted aphorisms with shimmering guitar lines. It resonated with listeners quickly. When Riovaz saw it organically going viral -- the audio for the song multiplying by 20, 40, or 50 each time he looked -- he posted his first-ever TikTok and told his family about his music for the first time.
"I made that song as a 15-year-old on my Notes app," he says. "Back in the day, you would need a whole studio and money to make a hit song. But if you just make it in your room after a long day of school, I was like, 'I could do this again and again.'"
Before the success of "Prom Night," Riovaz was too scared to show his face online. And while the song helped him gain confidence and attract new fans by the minute, his peers reinforced his past insecurities: "I went to school in a suburban town full of rich white kids, so any time a person wanted to do something creative, they just pushed them down. They wouldn't take it seriously."
Still, he stayed consistent, and now nobody has an excuse to overlook Riovaz. Over the summer he performed to a sold out crowd in New York and shortly after supported singer/songwriter glaive on seven US dates of his America Is a Place That Exists tour. Show after show he's continuing to expand his worldview beyond his hometown and using it as a potential rehearsal for his own headlining tour someday soon. "I want to build a rave experience and a place where people can come together and feel free," he says.
Growing more and more secure in his voice, Riovaz aims to build an immersive world around his evocative music, illustrated by "Tell Me All Your Fears." Its accompanying visual was inspired by Donnie Darko, the 2001 drama where the titular character sees frightening hallucinations, including a menacing giant rabbit figure. In the music video, Riovaz is surrounded by things that only exist in his mind. It's a potent metaphor for where Riovaz is at as an artist -- he has the potential to actualize every vision he sees for his platform. And for now, that means reaching as many people as possible
"Anybody can listen to my music," he says. "I want everybody to be connected -- I want to bridge the gaps."