How wonderful IS Ra Ra Riot? (adorable yet sophisticated music none withstanding)
On super short notice (barely hours) and faced with our (all-important) questions, they not only responded, but responded
b. in triples.
In preparation for their (bound to be more uplifiting than 5 cups of coffee in the am) show at RNR tonight here is all you ever wanted to learn about them, but were afraid to ask….(or simply did not get a chance to) including: life, love, death AND Milo’s spaghetti.
(All coherent questions are courtesy of Peter, anything at 4th grade level is courtesy of yours truly-Svetlana)
Allie: hmm…RaRaRiot is as good as…an ice cold ginger ale?
Rebecca:Thanksgiving Dinner, I guess that is if you’re not a vegetarian
Matt:This is a bold statement, but I’d like to think we’re as good as Milo’s spaghetti. (Ask him about it and he will probably make you some.)
BYT: You’ve played DC a few times now, give us your verdict on it?
Allie: Parking is force to be reckoned with. The crowds are awesome though, super friendly.
Rebecca:True. I love playing DC, the crowds are always great and unpretentious. However, we always get lost, we miss one turn and then get stuck in rush hour traffic and have to do a full loop around the city
Matt:The crowds here are really enthusiastic and responsive, so the shows are always a bit more fun.
BYT: Well done DC! Now… In a Syracuse/DC cat fight, who would win and why?
Allie: Definitely Syracuse. Not because I am trying to be loyal and therefore am biased, but it has so much of a scrappier vibe– really scrappy. DC is too collected, too tidy in comparison– way more put together than Syracuse.
Rebecca:hahaha good question. We (Syracuse) would of course, unless the cat fight involves a certain university football team that will remain nameless. 🙂
Matt: This is a question I often ask myself, and though I don’t know the answer, I’m sure it’d be a bloodbath.
BYT: Feisty girls and diplomatic mens. We’ll just stay out of that. Now…
How’s the recording going? Any big plans for the first full length? Are you loving it or about to gauge each other’s eyes out?
Allie: We are loving it. Why would we ever gauge each other’s eyes out? 🙂 The Studio (Bear Creek) is so perfect. There is a hot tub, XBOX 360, beautiful outdoors, a tee pee, a pool table, christmas lights, and all these awesome, crazy instruments (toys) to play with. We cook dinner for each other every night. We are super super excited for this album.
Rachel: Recording is going really well. We’re currently on break from it and go back Dec 2 to finish the album. We’re having a pretty great time. During our down time we’ve been playing pool, video games, hanging out in the hot tub, and using the time to relax. Recording is a pretty relaxed process for us, I’d say song writing is the
bigger evil of the two. I’m not sure what you mean by big plans. Our big plan is to put out an awesome album, or at least an album that we’re proud of.
Matt: It’s wonderful – it’s by far the most luxurious thing the band’s ever done. Recording an album has a lot more to do with playing pool and going in hot tubs than I ever imagined
BYT: You’re doing a concert in December to benefit a foundation named after John. How did that come about? What’s the origin of the foundation?
Rebecca:John’s family set up the memorial fund. John was very selfless and was all about giving to others. His family decided to create a musical library so that people who want to play, but can’t afford instruments have a place to rent one.
BYT: A lot of the songs on the EP (especially Dying Is Fine) evolved through a an almost year-long series of re-writes and additions. Are they still changing as you tour? How do you know when a song is done?
Rebecca: Haha, the album version of Dying is Fine is actually a different version than anything anyone’s heard. All our songs are constantly changing, I’m not sure if it’s because we’re making them “better” or that we’re getting a little tired of playing them. I don’t think a song will every be done, not to be cliche, but it’s true.
BYT: Nicholas Gurewitch (Perry Bible Fellowship) did some animation for your Dying is Fine Video. Did you seek him out specifically? It’s kind of a atypical choice since the song seems pretty melancholy…are people missing hidden jokes? (Alternatively: was the decision to make a lighthearted cartoonish video purposeful after a year full of tragic news?)
Rebecca:Nick worked on the video along with other Syracuse Alumni, Albert Birney, and Jon Moses. Milo, our guitarist, was friends with them at school, and we were all fans of their work. Albert and Nick both had cartoons in our daily newspaper. We asked them to come up with an idea for a music video for Dying is Fine, and what they submitted was
perfect in our eyes. It sounds like a very melancholy song, but they were able to put their finger on what it’s really about. Regardless of the tragedy we would have ended up with a video along the lines of what we have now. We’re not dark people and song isn’t meant to be dark, it’s actually taken from an EE Cummings poem.
Matt:I think this is the video we would have wanted to make regardless. Since the song has taken on a new meaning to a lot of people in the wake of everything that’s happened, we had to be careful not to let the circumstances influence the video
BYT: Anything you’ve been listening to lately? Some band we may not have heard of, but should?
Allie: White denim, and there was this one amazing band that played at an after party we went to at the end of the Editors tour. Of course, I’m the last person in the entire band to remember names and I CANT REMEMBER THEIR NAME. It was something like the Hetcham? Could we figure this out? Please?
Rebecca:I’ve been listening to a lot of silence, seriously. We’re surrounded by so much music all day, that it’s really nice to have some quiet and be able to give my ears a break. The last album I bought was Kurr, by Amiina. They’re an Icelandic band we saw while in Reyjavik and are really great. It’s pretty, mellow, and relaxing, which is what I’ve been needing. Besides that I’m pretty behind on the new music front.
BYT: Recording a Daytrotter session (just about live straight to tape) seems like a good match for you. Were you happy with the results? Is that similar to how you’ve recorded in the past and can we expect more studio trickery on the new album?
Allie: Definitely a little more trickery, or maybe its just us having time to actually think things out thoroughly. There was one night we were recording a particular song. The “vibe factor” had been turned up– meaning the lights were turned down and the candles were lit. Cameron was, unknowingly, drinking fermented grape juice out of a $200 Waterford crystal glass. During one of the verses he picked up the glass to make a “ting!” sound. Of course it broke. Oddly enough, the “ting”, combined with the initial hit of crystal onto the drum kit, and the shattering onto the floor were all in time. We’re thinking that could be fun…
Rebecca:Daytrotter was very fun, and we were thrilled with the results. We’ve never recorded straight to tape because it’s pretty expensive, but we do mix to tape. In the studio our producer likes to create the sound and then record it, as opposed to recording a sound and then putting effects on it. We don’t really use studio “trickery” but sometimes it’s nice to be able to add parts that can’t be played live. Soo.. maybe listen for some different orchestration than what we can do in our live show. Overall though, nothing too crazy
Matt:Personally, those are some of my favorite recordings the band has ever done, specifically because they’re unlike all our others – they’re very warm and there’s a lot of energy. On the new album, we’re trying for the same kind of vibe
BYT: Are audiences ever (or were they at the beginning) surprised when a band with cellos and violins played loud and danceable music?
Rebecca:Yes! People always come up to Allie and I and say “I’ve never heard strings used like that before!”
Allie: I’m sure a very small number of people may have been. But honestly, it’s not like there haven’t been bands with those instruments before. Each band has their own spin on utilizing those instruments– some are more textural or rhythmic while others have more significant melodic roles. Because it is more rare to see those instruments up on stage– I’d give it interesting, not surprising. Indie music is so liberal in its use of interesting instruments, I mean, Arcade Fire made a hurdy gurdy cool.
BYT: The band was initially just supposed to be a short-term, one semester deal. When did you realize it was a permanent thing, this collection of people?
Allie: It was too much fun.
BYT: BEST.ANSWER.EVER. You’ve been playing big festivals in the UK all fall. How is it playing outside to thousands given your blend of not usually amplified instruments? Any good rock star stories backstage from those concerts?
Allie: First of all, its amazing. The crowds that go to those festivals are not there to see one band or even two. They are there for all of the music. Its so cool to actually see people walking back and forth between stages to catch as many bands as possible, not camping out at just the main stage.
At Iceland Airwaves, we stayed in the same hotel as Deerhoof as well as many other awesome awesome bands. We saw them in the lobby the day we got there. We were speechless. Everyone is a huge fan of them and we couldn’t even muster up a hello. Pretty dorky.
Matt:Rebecca always breaks things backstage! At one show in Glasgow, she head-butted a full-length mirror while belching. (here, we wish this was a conference call so we could just scream:Rebecca!!!!!!!!!!!-ed)
Rebecca:The set up isn’t that bad because the cellist and I use electric instruments. I’d like to think the sound guys got it right, but I wasn’t in the crowd so I’m not really sure. On stage it sounded like they knew what they were doing
It was funny because when you play all these festival you play with a lot of the same bands. At one of the festivals we were on the small stage and this one band was almost headlining on the main stage, a few days later they were slotted before us on the same stage. That was fun. Oh, one funny story, well, sort of. We played London Lovebox Weekend on a Sunday
and had a set time of I believe 12pm, and then had a flight back to New York at 4pm. We played the set, packed up so quickly, had not enough people helping us, had to fit all our gear, and ourselves on to little golf carts and be rushed out of the festival so we’d make our flight. I think I was hanging off the side. Anyway, as we were making our big escape from the festival, the carnival ride next to the stage was blasting the Star Wars theme, it was sort of epic. It was pretty funny, or at least it was if you were there! Oh we also got to see Hot Chip as we were leaving
BYT: What is the song you wish you had written?
Allie: Toss up between “Diamonds on the souls of her shoes” or “Graceland”. Maybe the song that goes “i like to eat eat eat, apples and bananas…” Getting to change the vowel and making funny words, so clever! It was the best damn song to me when i was little, bar none.
Matt: See next question
BYT: Speaking of which…Your covers of Kate Bush (Hounds of Love and Suspended in Gaffa work as both cool cover songs and a sort of statement of what your influences are, where you are coming from as a band. Any covers in the live show now that express what direction you might be going in? (This question might be kinda cheesy but that cover is rather sick.)
Rebecca: Well, right now we’re playing Suspended in Gaffa in our set. We just learned a new cover today, but we’ll see if it ever sees the light of day. We like to have fun and learn different songs, it’s a nice break when you’re writing to play something you like to listen to. Playing them live is a different story though
Matt:I’ve been trying relentlessly to get the band to cover When I’m Sixty Four, but no one’s into it at all.
BYT:How did you end up playing on a Fuel TV pop-culture show? Who’s your driver?
Matt:That’s a great question! I don’t know. I woke up one morning in Los Angeles, and Josh, our manager, said “Today you are playing on Fuel TV” and then I said “Okay”.
Rebecca:Who drives our van? We all do, except Mat because he doesn’t have his license, but we all
share the driving. Milo was the champion drive of our last US tour.
BYT: Some of our readers will win passes to the show on Friday, due to a jazzy giveaway we’re doing. For those about to shell out their hard earned cash for this show….why should they do so? Why not just stay home and watch “Labyrinth” for the 17th time?
Rebecca: I do love Labyrinth! However, they should come to our show because we are debuting our new songs! DC is the first show of our two day tour. So by coming they will be the very first people outside the band to hear the new arrangements and our new songs. Our manager hasn’t even heard the songs yet, he’ll be at the show hearing everything for the first time with the rest of our fans
Matt:I mean…. If you’re saying that people should rather see us than watch Labyrinth, then I am very flattered.
BYT: You better be. And finally…What is next?
Allie: A cup of tea, Special K, and music time.
Rebecca:We finally get a break is what’s next, we’re off from mid Dec – mid Jan. We’ve been together non stop playing, touring and writing since the end of June. So this is our first break longer than four days in five and a half months. After that, we’ll be touring, and then touring, and then touring, and then touring some more. I think the general idea is to do a month in the states, a month abroad, a month in the states, and so on. Hopefully we’ll be playing some more great festivals this summer. Oh, I forgot the most important upcoming event, the release of our first album! We’re hoping to have an April
release, but don’t hold me to it. But look out for our album this coming spring
BYT: We will. Get some rest. But not before tonight
catch Ra Ra Riot
with Jukebox the Ghost
and These United States
at RNR HOTEL tonight