Name: Ra Ra Riot
Progress Report: Mixing their second album, recorded at Black Dog Recording Studio in Stillwater, NY.
“Sorry I was so ramble-y,” says Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles at the end of our interview. “I mean, we’re not even 100% done with [the album] so I haven’t had a chance to step back really, but in the next few weeks it’ll be done and then I won’t have to listen to it for a month or two and I’ll really start to feel all the things I’m rambling on about.” That’s the main trouble with talking to a band in the writing and recording stage, they’re often too mired in tiny details to see the forest. And in trying to describe Ra Ra Riot’s second album, Miles also had trouble describing the trees. Some of the changes this time around were obvious. Their drummer John Pike co-wrote most of the songs on their debut The Rhumb Line, so his death meant the band had to figure out how to go on without him, and how to write songs without his valuable input. Miles says that the band still wrote together, but there are many songs that are individual enough to be able to tell who brought them to the band. The rest of the band contributed more vocals too, allowing him to “sit in the back” and let them take over.
Last summer they band went upstate to a house on a peach orchard belonging to a friend of guitarist Milo Bonacci. His friends were moving out, which meant the band could live, write, and demo there for a few months. Miles says the isolation did them good — they spent their time bulding bonfires, checking on peaches, driving the farm equipment around, and making music. “We had ideas of what we wanted to pursue, like abandoning the disco beat and going for more meaty-sounding choruses. Being upstate at a peach farm by ourselves, you know when you’re in your own zone. You can really deviate from your expectations or others’ expectations,” he says. “That could totally end up being a bad thing, but it really worked out for us.”
Some of the new songs on the album were worked out live at the band’s February 5th show at BAM (“To be honest, I thought we were pretty sloppy”), “Too Dramatic” will definitely make the album, as will “Top Secret Jam,” a song with just that working title — it got its name because Miles didn’t want bassist Mathieu Santos to listen to the song before it was done, though he kept it on Santos’s laptop. There’s another song on the album that began as a Discovery track, but Rostam Batmanglij suggested that Miles save it for Ra Ra Riot. Otherwise Discovery’s influence isn’t sonic: “Doing Discovery helped me feel like you don’t really have to do what you think is good, you just do what you want. There’s a subtle difference,” he says. “We just wanted to make something that was uniquely ours. Even if less people will ultimately get it, that’s the plan.”
[Photos by Josh Goleman]
Here’s the band playing “Too Dramatic” last year at the Noise Pop Festival: