Ra Ra Riot is an American Indie Rock band from Syracuse, New York, consisting of vocalist Wes Miles, bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller, and drummer Kenny Bernard.
The band’s third album, Beta Love was released in 2013, and coincided with a live world-wide internet broadcast of the band’s concert that night at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. The video “Dance with Me” is making a statement on the web. The album is the band’s first studio album that marks a shift in their musical style away from their earlier baroque pop and more towards sythpop.
We got a chance to speak with Mathieu Santos of Ra Ra Riot about the band’s current tour, the new album and their dream gig! Check it out!
How’s the tour going?
So far so good. It’s been nice to be back on the road in the springtime – just enjoying the weather so far, and playing in some cities that we haven’t played in yet this year.
I wanted to start out talking about your new album. How is this album different from The Orchard?
The whole approach we took. I think being on our third album we knew going into it we wanted to change everything up and get outside of our comfort zone. We had a lineup change going into the record, a lot of it sort of to shake up our whole approach and rely less on really dense orchestration. We wanted to be careful to listen to the songs this time and let them develop more naturally. Also we worked with a producer this time named Dennis Herring who is absolutely amazing and someone who we all really looked up to. He helped us make a lot of big changes, whereas when we recorded The Orchard, we did that one by ourselves so we were sort of just in a little bubble. It was totally a new way of working for us, there was a lot more spontaneity in the studio, a lot more sparseness in the arrangements, the songs are a lot shorter. I think it really helped us grow a lot.
That’s awesome. So where did you guys draw your inspiration from for these songs on the new album?
Well it usually has a lot to do with just whatever things we’re into individually at the moment whether it’s musical or literary. All that stuff sort of goes into it, so I think when we were working on this album there was a lot of stuff floating around – there was some 80s synthpop – like I know there was Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer – there was a lot of Devo and Kraftwerk we were into, there was some jazz fusion, there was some bounce music and heavy R&B stuff that Dennis had introduced us to. Also we were reading a lot of futuristic and sci-fi literature at the time which I think found it’s way into the music as well.
So you guys are playing a lot of shows this summer – what are you looking forward to most?
It’s going to be an exciting summer. Festivals are always fun, you know, playing outside in beautiful locations, there’s lots of people…it’s always fun. I think we’re really excited to being doing The Shins and Postal Service gigs because they’re the two bands we look up to a lot – and we found out about both those tours within a week or two of each other so it sort of came together really fast and before we knew it we had these tours lined up with two of our favorite bands. We’re really excited just to meet those guys and play a lot of shows with them. We’re definitely excited for the first Postal Service show which is at Red Rocks – that’ll be amazing.
A lot of people that I interview say Red Rocks is where they’ve always dreamt of playing. Is there that one venue that you guys haven’t played yet that you’ve always wanted to play?
That’s a good question. We’ve been fortunate enough to have played Red Rocks a couple of times and that would be the first one that comes to mind. But I don’t know – I’ve seen a couple European festivals that seem to be really beautiful places like some old ruins, arenas or cathedrals – something like that would be pretty cool I think.
I’m sure you’ve encountered different types of audiences. How do you guys connect with the crowd?
Our approach is usually the same, we always try to have a really fun, not self conscious performance and I think that usually translates pretty well into the crowd. We got our start playing at house parties when we were a college band and I think those kinds of experiences really had a big impact on us – having that immediate connection with the audience. That’s something that we still try to do every night.
Have you guys had any bizarre fan encounters?
Nothing too crazy. Our fans are usually pretty well-behaved. Someone came up on stage and kissed me once in the middle of a song before jumping off the stage. I’m always surprised by the fans who travel great distances to see us – that’s always pretty surprising. There’s one superfan that we have from Japan who has come to see us all over Japan and in random places in the States too. She’s timed her trips to coincide with tour dates…we’ve seen her in Burlington, VT, New York…and a bunch of other cities. She’s always there and buying tons of merch and giving us hand-written letters. All our fans are pretty nice.
What artists are you currently listening to?
A lot of Dirty Projectors and Delicate Steve lately – two of our favorites. And I’ve been listening to the Cayucas record that just came out. We toured with those guys a couple of months ago and I really liked the record. I’m digging the new Phoenix record, I haven’t listened to it too much yet…and then I guess another personal pick would be this Willie Wright record I got, part of the Numero series, they rereleased one of his old records and it’s really, really good – Telling the Truth – I’ve been listening to it a lot lately.
Do you guys have any more plans other than touring? What are you going be doing the rest of the year?
Mostly this year’s gonna be lots and lots of touring. This leg will take us to the middle of the June…then we’ve got stuff here and there. Maybe a trip to Europe…I think we’re going back to Egypt at one point and coming back to the US. There has been some chatter about starting work on the next record at some point – I think we’re just more excited about it right now – the idea of making another record. We probably won’t start working on that until at least the winter.
Ra Ra Riot will be opening up for The Postal Service at their SOLD OUT show at The Fox Theatre Thursday, June 6th. Hopefully you scored your tickets!