Ra Ra Riot: Making Pop Music That Sticks With People

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You have read our review about Ra Ra Riot’s album Beta Love, and you have also heard that they will be playing for LoveGarage with Yeah Yeah Yeahs next February, so we want to show our excitement about them by asking some questions you probably want to know as well. Luckily we have Matt & Rebecca to answer all the questions about the band, daily life and off course, their latest album.

When you’re not writing music or having tour, what kind of things you guys like to do to occupy your time on earth?
There’s all kinds of stuff we like to get into – watching hockey games, managing our fantasy hockey teams, jogging, baking, painting, playing video games, spray-painting t-shirts, playing street hockey, playing Scrabble, listening to music, eating donuts, drinking coffee, going to museums, wearing slippers, seeing movies, going for walks, catching up on our favorite tv shows, cooking dinner – mostly pretending to have relatively normal, domestic lives. Fortunately, we’re all living in New York City now, and so there’s always something fun and interesting going on.

Can you named 3 bands that you think it will be great in the future, like the next big thing, but it has to be bands outside new york?
Sure! We’ve been lucky enough to meet and tour with some amazing bands over the years. A few of our favorites are Delicate Steve, who’s an amazing guitarist from New Jersey; Givers, an incredible band from Louisiana who absolutely tear it up live; and Maps and Atlases, a Chicago-based group who play some technical, orchestral math-rock-pop. All these guys and girls are amazing, inspiring musicians and people.

Ok lets talk about your music, you probably have this questions so many times but why “Massachusetts” sounds much like Vampire Weekend? Is it all because of your collaboration with Rostam?
Actually, I’ve always thought that Massachusetts sounded way too much like The Police! But maybe that’s only in my head, because no one’s seemed to have made that comparison before. We actually collaborated with Rostam on another song on The Orchard called Do You Remember – he and Wes had written it for Discovery but it didn’t end up making it onto that record.

Are you guys eating to much sugar when making Beta Love? What’s the process of making this album?
As a matter of fact, our sugar intake did spike dramatically while we were recording the album. I think Milo, Wes and I went through an entire package of chocolate Oreos almost every night. We recorded the whole thing down in Oxford, Mississippi, last spring, and worked with a producer named Dennis Herring.

Why you decide to change your music style? I mean I have to admit nowadays the synthpop is like happening, and your music does make the era more interesting, but did you guys change it because you follow the stream or because you want to try something new and see how people react or..?
All we wanted to do was make a record that, to us, was exciting and new and different. We’d gotten pretty comfortable with the format in which we wrote and recorded our first two albums, and that format served us well. But this time around, we were eager to try new things, explore new sounds, and we wanted to be open to every creative impulse we had without any self-consciousness or inhibitions. We also wanted to get back to making music that was more immediate and visceral, which is how we had approached our first record.

What happen to Alexandra, why she left the band?
When we first started the band, we agreed to stay with it as long as we were having fun. I think Allie, for whatever reason, wasn’t having as much fun as the rest of us, and decided that she needed to make a change in her life. I also think that the new directions we were keen on exploring on this record didn’t align with her own personal creative goals.

What makes you decide to put your album out for people to listen first before it’s release? Dont you know the consequences, people may or may not buy the album after listening to it..
It’s important for people to get excited about the release of a record, and a big part of that is giving people an idea of what it’s about. We’re not much worried about people buying the album or not.  We just hope that people like what they hear enough to come see us play live, which, for us, is the most fun part of the whole thing.

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What kind of impression you want people to have when they listen to your music? especially if they haven’t heard about RRR before?
We just hope people can relate to it on some level – hopefully they’ll want to sing along with the melodies, or read into the lyrics, or get excited about the grooves enough to move themselves. I think we want to make music that sticks with people, physically or emotionally, like only good pop music can.

And lastly, for Zeller, do you have any tips for other violinist if they wanted to make it to the pop scene industry? I mean I play violin but I’m too scare to play outside classic contemporary music :(
When Milo asked me to join the band it was the first time I had ever played in a non classical environment.  I knew I’d be able to do it, but it may take a little time to figure it out,  so I told him I’d give it a go, but to not expect much!  By the second or third practice I got the hang of it, the music itself is actually so much easier than the classical pieces I was playing when the band started.  It’s a completely different animal and I’m still figuring it all out.  But I’d say just have the confidence to do it and a supportive band to help steer you in the right direction.

-- Thanks to Josh for making this happen!