Music » Interviews

Ra Ra, really

One self-effacing band might be the Monolith Festival's best almost-secret


In Ra Ra Riots world, not everything is black and white - but it mostly tends to be.
  • In Ra Ra Riots world, not everything is black and white but it mostly tends to be.

Odds are, by the time you read this story, the members of Ra Ra Riot will have already finished it.

Cellist Allie Lawn explains: Ra Ra Riot's manager set the band up with a Google Alerts account that notifies band members of any Web mention they get, as it's posted. It helps cut down on the time the band spends doing its own Web searching,

Vain? Sure. But Ra Ra Riot's so goddamn endearing, it just doesn't matter.

"I mean, sometimes you're bored and you're sitting by a computer and you're like, "I wonder... I wonder what's going on,'" Lawn says between giggles at her own faux pomposity. She pauses for a brief moment before offering up some self-deprecation. "Usually it's nothing."

Actually, she's being modest. Usually it's a note of how great Ra Ra Riot's dance-tastic live show is. Or how infectious the act's self-titled debut EP is. (Ra Ra Riot will be recording a full length in November, with a tentative spring release date.) Or how fun the band's "Dying is Fine" is, with lyrics swiped from an e.e. cummings poem.

It's a lot to take in, especially considering that the average age of a Ra Ra Riot member is a mere 21 years old. Only four of Ra Ra Riot's original six members guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller, keyboardist/vocalist Wesley Miles and original drummer John Pike actually graduated from Syracuse University, where the band formed, in 2006. In a different world, bassist Mathieu Santos would have graduated last spring, and Lawn would have been heading into her senior year.

"I would be in class right now and not in a band," Lawn says, proudly.

And then there's the band's newest member, 18-year-old drummer Cameron Wisch, who just finished high school. Actually, why the band needed a new drummer in the first place is the one unfortunate story surrounding this otherwise happy-go-lucky crew.

On June 2, Pike was reported missing. Two days later, police found his body in the coastal waters near Fairhaven, Mass. His accidental death came at age 23.

In the aftermath, the band's buzz, already strong, grew stronger. At best, it was an awkward outpouring of support.

"It wasn't a good thing," Lawn says, "to be perfectly blunt."

With encouragement from Pike's family, the dance/chamber-pop act chose to continue making music. Given the props the band's fun-filled College Music Journal and South by Southwest performances received in national music magazines like NME and Spin, it looks like a good decision.

Too bad Ra Ra Riot's too humble to admit as much with a straight face.

"It's hard for us to grasp that we are a real band sometimes," Lawn says.

Ra Ra Riot

The Stage at the Monolith Festival

Friday, Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m.


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