There are few college bands that last beyond graduation. For Ra Ra Riot, playing college gigs in Syracruse, New York was only the beginning. Founded in 2006, indie rock band Ra Ra Riot is steadily rising to fame after meeting through guitarist Milo Bonacci. “Milo was the catalyst for all of us coming together,” said lead singer Wes Miles. And, only 10 months after playing their first show, they played in the CMJ Music Marathon and were featured by music magazine, Spin. The following year, they hit the road with the Editors and Tokyo Police Club.
Since this intial rush of attention, the band has continued to fill tents at festivals and sell out shows across the country, with concerts at South by Southwest and Coachella. On August 24, 2010 Ra Ra Riot released their second full-length album, The Orchard to much praise by critics. We spoke with lead singer Wes Miles in between rehearsals, and he dished on the band’s history and about the short documentary filled with unique behind the scenes footage (shot with a 16mm vintage camera) of how they made their new album.
Speaking of great shots, we asked Miles what it was like to play at such a notable music festival like CMJ, after the band’s inception. “I remember being surprised to be invited,” he said. “Once we played I thought it was hectic, but it was fun and the reactions from the audience were amazing.” He added, “We had a lot to learn and we needed to get serious after.” And they did. The more mature sounds of their sophomore album, The Orchard is filled with songs for every mood. From light, synth-infused pop tracks, to more melancholic melodies — each song takes on a life of its own in a refreshing blend of instruments and moving vocals that go beyond the average band.
This coop sound, akin to a blend between Vampire Weekend and a more edgy Arcade Fire, gives fans a sense that we aren’t listening to a recording, but hearing a live jam session among friends. “Even when we’re not on tour, we hang out a lot,” Miles said about his relationship with his bandmates, bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, cellist Alexandra Lawn, violinist Rebecca Zeller, and drummer Gabriel Duquette. This harmony among the group is evident in each track. The new album pays tribute to the band’s many talents, as fresh vocals emerge and the band opens up creatively. Miles said you can look out for new three-part harmonies in “Too Dramatic.” There’s nothing like a Ra Ra Riot of talent, friendship and classic chemistry. Listen to a few of their tracks below.
“Keep It Quiet”