By Chris Parker
Syracuse's Ra Ra Riot -- set to play Du Hot Club De Bizarre Thursday night -- began playing college parties, and before long they'd found a strange, intoxicating sweet spot between spiky Pixies-inflected post-punk and chamber pop that earned them comparisons to fellow emerging New Yorkers Vampire Weekend. Elegant yet propulsive, they suffered a huge loss when drummer John Pike drowned after a gig just before the release of 2007's amazing eponymous debut.
They forged on, scored a label deal from V2 before the label collapsed. They escaped with the tapes and landed at Barsuk Records. Several songs from the debut were renovated for their fine 2008 full-length debut, The Rhumb Line, which was followed by 2010's even more ornate The Orchard. Prior to recording their latest, Beta Love, cellist Alexandra Lawn departed and wasn't replaced with a full-time member. In her absence, there are more synthesizers and fewer strings; the album bites a particularly dance-y, darkwave sound not so removed from the last couple of albums from The Rosebuds. There's also a thematically linked, futuristic song series about a robot that discovers love and self-awareness.
We caught up with lead singer Wes Miles at a tour stop in El Paso, Texas and talked to him about Blade Runner, being "in the moment" musically, and the Ra Ra Riot's musical direction.
Up on the Sun: I understand the new album, Beta Love, is informed by thoughts on the nature and evolution of technology and humanity.
Wes Miles: Yeah, a lot of it comes from a book that Matt [Santos, bassist] started reading first when we were recording The Orchard, Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near. At that point, we started talking more about it and thinking about what the singularity would mean for us.