After three years of waiting, Ra Ra Riot fans are rejoicing around the band’s new record, Need Your Light. Fresh off the heels of SXSW, Ra Ra Riot is coming to SOhO on Friday, March 25, with a bagful of its new synth-pop jams. I recently spoke with Wes Miles, the band’s frontman, who told me about the tour and the creative process behind Need Your Light.
In 2013, Ra Ra Riot released Beta Love; the album was good but fell short for many critics. Some thought the record was rushed and disjointed; Need Your Light is the complete opposite. On this record, Miles and his bandmates took notes and gave themselves some breathing room. The result is a list of excellently composed songs that highlight the band’s true talents. The one thing that hasn’t changed is Miles’s boundless vocal range and impeccable falsetto.
For Miles and the rest of the band, it seemed that Need Your Light was a more authentic project. Miles elaborated: “We did a lot of things different for Need Your Light. At the end of 2013, we were wrapping up the tour cycle for Beta Love. It was a long year. We did 125 shows for 2013, all over North America and Asia. We were all super burned out … For Need Your Light, we had a lot more time to explore the songs, we were in a different mental space, and we weren’t worried about expectations or what a Ra Ra Riot record should sound like in 2016. We had some people that we trusted that wanted to write and produce with us, so we thought we should explore those relationships.”
The relationships to which Miles is referring includes Rostam Batmanglij, the keyboardist of Vampire Weekend; Ra Ra Riot (or RR Riot for short) and Batmanglij have been friends for a long time and have worked together on multiple occasions. Batmanglij’s production is known for its vibrancy, and RR Riot’s new single, “Water,” demonstrates Miles and Batmanglij’s compatibility wonderfully — the soaring and open arrangement is an incredibly catchy and enjoyable listen. Miles said it was also one of his favorites to play live at the moment: “My favorite songs are probably ‘Water’ and ‘I Need Your Light’: ‘Water’ because it’s the most popular of the new songs and it seems to resonate with people, which is exciting. ‘I Need Your Light’ has been surprisingly fun because so many people want to sing along to it. There have been a few shows where I can hold the mike out and let the crowd sing a part, and it feels like it’s connecting — it feels really good to play those songs.”
With the band’s mental space and relationships working at full capacity, RR Riot has been able to convert any troubles from Beta Love into pure growth, and Miles seems to have been able to keep his muse intact and fresh, as well. “In Beta Love, there was a really strong conceptual basis about singularity and technological future, etc., and that theme didn’t speak to some people, but for the people that it did connect with, it connected really strongly,” he said. “On this record, [we] took that idea and expanded it to cast a wider net — this record has more stories. There are specific concrete references in ‘Water’ that are about when Rostam and I were writing it, like the bus stop right outside his studio and the idea about hitchhiking in the desert, which is right near his house in L.A.”
Ra Ra Riot has an awesome live energy, as well, and Need Your Light is sure to light up the night on Friday. So grab your dancing shoes, and let’s have ourselves a ball!
Club Mercy presents Ra Ra Riot Friday, March 25, at 9 p.m. at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, 1221 State Street. Call (805) 962-7776 or see sohosb.com.