Ra Ra Riot
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Ra Ra Riot

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Nov
04
Ra Ra Riot @ Club Midway

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Nov
04
Ra Ra Riot @ Sin-E

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

Nov
03
Ra Ra Riot @ Studio B

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


There's a house on Ostrom Avenue, and on a Sunday night in the basement, an indie-pop band called Ra Ra Riot writes songs and practices playing them, with the occasional break for chicken wings. The practice space exudes garage-band character. There are fussy details like Christmas light strings, thrift-store couches and an honest-to-goodness velvet Elvis portrait.

All the markings of a just-for-fun hobby band are there, but something isn't quite right. The instruments are played with a rare blend of insouciance and technical proficiency. There's a girl with a cello, and if all the members were present, there would be another girl with a violin. Textbook musical terms like "pizzicato" are kicked around like a hacky sack. Could it be? A college-formed band that acts like they actually went to college? It seems entirely too good to be true.

There are seven of them, all Syracuse University students or alumni, six with awesome rock-band names: Milo Bonacci, Allie Lawn, Mathieu Santos, Wes Miles, Rebecca Zeller and Shaw Flick. The seventh member, John Pike, could stand to tweak his name a bit, a task he could defer to the band's management duo, seniors Adam Gorode and Josh Roth, a marketing major and music industry major, respectively. The band sat in Adam and Josh's living room, in the same house as their practice space, and talked about the band. Rebecca was in Ithaca at the Death Cab show, but the other six were there.

Ra Ra Riot formed out of a loose collaboration between Milo and Shaw.

"Shaw and I had this idea that we wanted to do something this semester musically and that it should be some sort of indie-pop/dance band, and we didn't really know what would come out of it," Milo said

Milo did most of the legwork pulling other people into the fold, and between recruiting friends to recruit friends and benign Facebook stalking, the band was cobbled together. Milo plays guitar, Shaw sings and plays keyboards and synths, as does Wes. Mathieu's on bass, John drums, Allie cello and Rebecca violin.

When you ask them to describe their music, they all scatter in different directions like someone barged in on their make-out party. Everyone seems to agree that it's indie-ish and poppy; when asked specifically about the "dance band" label, they get nervous. John said the term "dance band" is too "prescriptive." Milo says the same, except he uses the word "restrictive." Shaw said he wouldn't want anyone to come to a show expecting Rinocerose-style guitar-tinged house, but he doesn't mind the "D-word."

"I think it's absolutely danceable, and I don't mind saying that it's dance music, but I do feel like it can be restricting in terms of people's expectations of it," Shaw said. "People might expect it to be more formulaic."

Their MySpace page, which has logged almost 10,000 plays of four songs in roughly two months, describes the band as a "good-natured dance band-machine." So maybe they don't quite have the categorization thing figured out, but their first show was in January, so we'll forgive them for that. In truth, the description on their MySpace page is pretty accurate.

After 20 minutes of chatting, they went into the basement and played.

They are smart to tip-toe around the dance-band label, but their music lands them squarely in that category, like it or not. The sound is heavier than most dance-rock bands. Milo's guitar sounds like it's doing the work of two. The two-girl string section adds an intriguing texture, and creates the illusion of the arrangements being both rudimentary and fleshed-out at once. The song structures are a bit angular, but not in an annoying way, and they are loose enough to allow for instrumental bursts. Imagine a louder, more sophisticated Out Hud song with five or so minutes of fat trimmed off. The lyrics are pretty silly, but the words might not even be important anyway. The words are temporary, according to Milo.

After playing a few of the twelve songs they've written already, Ra Ra Riot starts picking away at a new song. It's "Anthony (Part 2)," the second song of story suite about the experiences of a kid in a new school. Wes has put together some lyrics and a basic melody. The band is rapt as he lays out the structure. The writing process is truly collaborative, and everyone works together fleshing out the idea. At some point later, chicken wings arrive.

Now you're all caught up.

Last night, in Schine Underground, the band opened for Kid Koala. There was only a bit of nervous energy prior to the set. Rebecca, back from Ithaca, did a few ballet stretches. She looked terrific in a polka-dotted blouse and jeans, as did the rest of Ra Ra Riot, a band of savvy thrift-shoppers virtually begging for a Sassy Magazine "Cute Band Alert."

After taking the stage, they opened with the strident, swaggering "Not an Explanation." Shaw leapt into the audience, one of few moments when he and Wes were not fused at the hip like indie rock's answer to Abbott an - The Daily Orange - 4/13/2006


Syracuse and New York City might share the same state, but comparing the two is like trying to relate Cheez Whiz to brie purely because they are both in the dairy section. Syracuse would indeed play the role of the Cheez Whiz in this scenario. The infamous snow city of Upstate New York has never been as suave or cultured as its distant neighbor, but on one chilly Saturday in January, Sam Champion and The Octagon brought a jolt of NYC style to the Syracuse music scene.

Josh Roth, a Syracuse University senior, had been on Sam Champion’s case about playing a show in Syracuse all year, and all that harassment finally paid off. Roth put his demonic role as a Sony rep on hold for the night and sacrificed his basement for the good of independent music. Paper lanterns hung from the pipes and wood beams, and the stenciled words “Destroy Rock N Roll” were spray painted in green on the walls. Some learned the hard way that the paint was still wet when it left its impression on sweater sleeves and faces.

The basement grew more cramped, but the crowd was on its best behavior, patiently waiting in the keg line. Sean Sullivan of Sam Champion kindly assisted in keg pumping and beer pouring as Syracuse’s own Ra Ra Riot! took to the area of concrete floor dubbed “the stage.” This group got the booties shaking with a bizarre mix of keyboard, drum machine, bass, guitar, violin and cello. Ra Ra Riot!’s dance-friendly, crowd-pleasing set was short, slipping only once into ultimately predictable college band territory with a cover of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” But the group kept the crowd moving and snuck in the odd reference to Short Circuit 2 with an entire song based around Johnny Five’s “Los locos” chant, proving Syracuse bands can be just as quirky and fun as those city folk. - Loose Record - 1/28/2006


Discography

Ra Ra Riot Demo 2006
1. "Can You Tell?"
(written by Wesley Miles, arranged by Ra Ra Riot)
2. "Dying is Fine"
(written and arranged by Ra Ra Riot, lyrically inspired by E.E. Cummings)
3. "The New Flesh"
(written and arranged by Ra Ra Riot)

Photos

Bio

Ra Ra Riot is an amorphous blob (read as: band) that consists of six highly dedicated individuals, each bringing her/his own experiences as both people and musicians to the metaphorical table. We feel strongly about moving people physically and mentally as a means of affecting positive micro/macrocosmic change. Formed and currently based in Syracuse, NY, Ra Ra Riot spends its time shaking the hands of foreign dignitaries, practicing, playing shows, eating pizza, and going about the business of everyday life. We have only existed since January 2006 C.E., an infant in that sense, but already have developed significantly as people and musicians. We look forward to seeing how the sound morphs as we hit adolescence and the subsequent teen years. We invite you to come along on this journey of growth and self-discovery. Word up.