Ra Ra Riot's California Dream

by Kaylie Felsberg

photo courtesy of Rowan Daly

When a band has been together for over a decade, fans and critics assume the music can’t go on forever—Ra Ra Riot has been proving them wrong since 2006. The New York-based band got its start playing college house parties which in turn developed the band’s sound of string-rock.

“Superbloom,” Ra Ra Riot’s fifth album, gets the band out of the box they’ve been confined to for the past decade. Combining themes of theatrical life or death scenarios, we chatted with singer Wes Miles about the group’s “California inspired” album and the difficult atmosphere of being a musician.

BUZZ: The band has been together since 2006; How has the group achieved such longevity?

WES MILES: I think we got lucky in the beginning that we didn't really know each other at all. Things started so quickly that we just had to figure it out and after almost 14 years it feels basically like we're a family. Obviously everyone has their quirks and bad days but we've learned to stay out of each other’s' ways when we need to. Also, we still all believe in the music and each other, so it's easy to get past all the obstacles (there are so many!) in order to keep doing what we love together.

BUZZ: With “Superbloom” being the band’s fifth album, how do you keep the music sounding fresh and new?

WM: We've been able to keep the process fresh for ourselves which I think really translates into the music. As long as the personnel are somewhat consistent (the 5 band members), I think there's a part of it that sounds like "us" so everything else we're free to experiment with.

BUZZ: Rostam Batmaglij is a frequent collaborator; Why did you decide to work with him again?

WM: We've never made anything I didn't like! That's basically all there is to it.

BUZZ: The title, “Superbloom,” obviously draws to botanicals, but why did the band decide on this name?

WM: The record has a lot of driving, desert-y psychedelic and floral themes, so we thought it was thematically fitting but also references something greater than the sum of its parts, which we feel like this record is.

BUZZ: One of my favorite tracks is "A Check for Daniel.” It sounds distorted and anxious but, in a sense, almost optimistic—it's an awesome contrast. Can you tell us about the creative process behind it?

WM: Mat, our bass player, wrote this song, so I'll do my best to summarize but since it's pretty straight forward, that shouldn't be too hard! It's basically about leaving a bad living situation and moving into a new one, with all the unknowns, and hoping that it will be better. Obviously there's an undercurrent of the difficulty of living in NY as a musician that the music lends itself to quite well: the oppressive kick drum, the angular guitar and, of course, the general chaos.

BUZZ: The band is currently on headlining tour for the new record. How has it been so far and what's your favorite part?

WM: This is the first headlining tour for this record, but we've been touring since the very beginning—more than 13 years now—so it's quite familiar. As I'm writing this interview we're driving through Oregon (the beginning of our long trek back to the East Coast) and I'm realizing that one of my favorite parts of touring has always been driving through the more remote parts of the country and seeing all the open space. Of course we enjoy the shows and meeting new fans and playing our music a lot too, but that's obvious to anyone who comes to our shows!