Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:09

      When SYRACUSE SIX-piece Ra Ra Riot got together for its first rehearsal in January of 2006, some of the band members were actually meeting for the very first time. Having convened around a casual desire to make music while everyone in the band was approaching their last semester at Syracuse University, Ra Ra Riot’s career has since become the perfect example of things happening when you don’t try to force them. Even the death of drummer, founder and key songwriter John Pike hasn’t slowed the band’s steady, effortless progress.

    “That January we met up and had a lot of fun making music together,” recalls guitarist Milo Bonacci. “We had a show in a basement a week later and decided to continue throughout the semester.That eventually led to beyond graduation and to the following year.” And that pretty much sums up Ra Ra Riot’s story.

    “After a month or so,” says Bonacci, “we were all comfortable with each other writing music together.We recorded a demo that spring, got some shows outside of Syracuse and it all just grew from there.”

    Ra Ra Riot s in the city to support its new full-length debut, The Rhumb Line, which perfectly straddles the line between indie aesthetics and pop in terms of both the songwriting and production values. Crammed with catchy hooks, each song is crafted to sound different than the rest, a point that Bonacci stresses was important to the band. “One of the things we’d set out to do,” Bonacci explains, “was to allow each song to have its own sonic characteristic. Like different scenes in a movie might be shot a specific way to frame the storyline. So, from song to song, the drums might sound different, or you might hear more of the space that we recorded in. Each song had its own recording approach that complimented it.” The Rhumb Line’s sonic variation does indeed sound rather ambitious for a debut album, but the band achieves a great deal of continuity on the strength of its songwriting as well as the masterful touch of producer and mixer Ryan Hadlock.

    In a particularly striking move, studio drummer Cameron Wisch (who was only 19 at the time) sidesteps indie-disco cliches with inventive, energetic parts that recall the classic work of U2 drummer Larry Mullen without ripping him off. As Bonacci explains, that touch stemmed directly from the late Pike’s ideas, an example of not only the band’s resilience but also its commitment to Pike’s creative vision. In fact, after Pike passed away in 2007, Ra Ra Riot was back on track a month later.

    “We felt responsible in some way to keep these songs alive,” says Bonacci. “It’s the only thing that made sense to do, personally and psychologically.”

    “It’s interesting thinking back to the first couple of months,” he says. “I don’t think any of us ever expected that we’d be spending weeks in a van together.”

    And, for Bonacci, there’s always architecture, the career he’d intended on in the first place. “I still plan on pursuing it whenever the band ends,” he says. “I think about going to graduate school and getting a job after this at some point. But I figured I had to put that on hold and do this while I can.”

    > Ra Ra Riot

    Oct. 16 Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. (betw.

    Bowery & Chrystie St.), 212-533-2111; 8, $15. (Also Oct. 17 at Music Hall of Williamsburg.)