Ra Ra Riot
About Ra Ra Riot
Syracuse's Ra Ra Riot first gained attention in the mid-2000s combining indie rock with chamber pop flourishes courtesy of a small string section. Their first two albums, 2008's Rhumb Line and 2010's The Orchard, showcased this chamber rock sound and gained them critical acclaim. They have continued to evolve, embracing Giorgio Moroder-esque synth-pop on 2013's Beta Love, and further balancing their '80s new wave and classical influences on 2019's Superbloom.
Formed in January 2006, Ra Ra Riot came together while the band's six members were attending college in Syracuse, New York. Showcasing the talents of Wesley Miles (keyboard/vocals), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Alexandra Lawn (cello), John Pike (drums), Mathieu Santos (bass), and Rebecca Zeller (violin), the group developed an eclectic sound, informed by '60s and '70s Baroque pop, '80s new wave, folk, and classical chamber string music. Within a year of their formation, they had gained a local following and played shows alongside the Horrors, Bow Wow Wow, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.
After pulling up stakes and relocating to New York City, the band recorded a self-titled EP and prepared to release it during the summer of 2007. That June, however, Pike died after disappearing one night from a party in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. His body was later found in nearby Buzzard's Bay. Several weeks later, his mourning bandmates issued a statement confirming their continuation as a band. Ra Ra Riot joined the roster at V2 Records later that year before switching their American operations to Barsuk Records, which signed them in May 2008 and released their debut album, The Rhumb Line, in August. Reviews were positive, and Ra Ra Riot spent the better part of a year on the road touring with bands like Death Cab for Cutie and headlining their own performances as well.
During a lull in their schedule, the musicians decamped to a peach orchard in upstate New York, where they spent several weeks writing songs and recording demos. Those songs eventually made their way onto The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot's second album, which appeared in August 2010. It landed at number 36 on the Billboard 200 and earned the group an Independent Music Awards nomination.
In 2012, Lawn announced she had left the band. Her departure marked a creative shift for the band, who decided not to replace her and instead moved forward with Zeller handling all string duties. In 2013, Ra Ra Riot delivered their third studio album, Beta Love. Influenced by sci-fi author William Gibson, as well as the work of writer/inventor Ray Kurzweil, the album found the band moving in a more synth pop-oriented direction.
In 2016, Ra Ra Riot returned with their fourth album, Need Your Light, featuring production from former Vampire Weekend guitarist Rostam Batmanglij. Included on the album were the singles "Water" and "Absolutely." In the spring of the following year, Ra Ra Riot celebrated their tenth anniversary by re-releasing their debut EP for Record Store Day. Singles "This Time of Year" and "Bad to Worse" carried the band into 2019 and were included on the group's fifth album, the Batmanglij-produced Superbloom. ~ Andrew Leahey & Kenyon Hopkin