Ra Ra Riot, never the same way twice

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Ra Ra Riot is not a band content to repeat itself.

Some bands may be satisfied with working within a narrow band of its musical identity, said Ra Ra Riot’s lead singer and lead songwriter Wes Miles.

But, for Miles, sitting still creatively has not been a consideration for his band.

Ra Ra Riot, which also includes Mathieu Santos (bass), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Rebecca Zeller (violin), and Kenny Bernard (drums), comes to the Toyota Oakdale Theater in Wallingford on July 9 as the opener for Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with an artist exploring one single path, especially if you do it well, said Miles.

“For us, and for many people, you feel like if you’re doing too much of the same thing, you’re not growing and not risking enough,” said Miles. “We always want to take a bigger risk. We want to bite off more than we can chew. What can you gain if you don’t risk anything?”

Besides, Miles said the fans of Ra Ra Riot want, and expect, the band to try something different on each album.

On the group’s newest album “Superbloom,” which comes out Aug. 9, Ra Ra Riot first of all takes a risk by taking on what has been described as a more “poppy” sound than they have tried in the past. The group also brought in outside writers and tried out several different producers on the album.

But, said Miles, there is still a genetic strand of Ra Ra Riot that runs through it all.

Heading into the studio, said Miles, Ra Ra Riot had no set idea on what the resulting album would sound like. However, they knew they wanted to change the process of how they went about creating that album. They changed up the songwriting collaborations within the group, Miles said. They brought in outside songwriters. They brought in several different producers. And they self-produced some of the record.

This all reflected the band’s philosophy of taking risks, said Miles.

Then, said Miles, the mission became uncovering how the results derived from this new process reflected the identity of Ra Ra Riot, said Miles.

“If it feels like a record to me,” said Miles, “it is a record.”

There are artists out there who also will make sure they don’t repeat themselves. Miles cited U2 and Stevie Wonder as two artists he listens to who make that choice.

But Miles said other artists’ creative paths haven’t shaped Ra Ra Riot’s reasons for changing things up.

“I think it’s a more personal permission (to take this path),” said Miles.

Ra Ra Riot will be on tour with Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World, two artists who found their creative and commercial footing in the 1990s.

Touring with those bands, Miles said he was struck by how when they take the stage and it’s just five guys “making all this noise.” It’s just a bunch of guitars, drums, and vocals on stage, he said, “which is cool.”

For Ra Ra Riot, Miles said electronics are key to their aural palette on stage. “There’s a lot going on (musically),” said Miles.

But, electronics can fail. And Miles said there was one time on stage when they did just that.

When the electronics went wonky, Miles said the band was forced to figure out what to do. And the resulting approach, which prompted the group to emphasize the vocals without the benefit of the electronics, inspired the band to try something similar each night as the tour goes on.

Again, Miles said, it’s all about taking risks and improving one’s self.

The set list for this tour also is about taking risks and growing as a band. “Every show, you want to try something different, say something different.”

“So far, it feels very good,” said Miles of the tour while Ra Ra Riot was on its way to Utah for its next date on the tour.

Ra Ra Riot stops into the Toyota Oakdale Theater on Tuesday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. with Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World. For more information, go to Oakdale.com or RaRaRiot.com.

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.

Ra Ra Riot opens for Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World on July 9 at the Toyota Oakdale Theater in Wallingford.

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