True to form, their newest album, Superbloom, is a less than humble reminder that change is a consistent element when it comes to this band. With retrospective consideration for key aspects of Ra Ra Riot’s abundant sonic history, the group has created something new, layered, collaborative, and not unlike the natural phenomenon the album takes its name after.
Byline Houston had the opportunity to chat with Ra Ra Riot vocalist and frontman, Wes Miles, to discuss their new record, collaborating with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam, and even a bit about his learnings in the finer side of cultural linguistics.
Byline Houston: Ra Ra Riot is a band that actively works to not make the same album twice and Superbloom just might be the most distinguished album yet. Two months into the release, how has the general reception been in your opinion?
Wes Miles: Its still early to tell- sometimes we don’t really know what things separate from the field until much later. But overall its really fun to hear how different everyone’s favorite tracks are so far. The usuals are obvious but hearing which deep cuts people pick out is also really cool. So far seems spread pretty consistently through the record.
Byline Houston: RRR has been a band for thirteen years now. Amidst all of the growth, evolution, and incarnations of the lineup, what’s the one thing that remains constant about this band that remains crucial to it’s identity?
Miles: Well, the people are really what make the band.
Byline Houston: This new record is very layered and has a lot of moving parts. No doubt many of them went through hours of restless tinkering; how do you decide when a song is finally finished?
Miles: It’s really more a feeling than anything. And it’s often not really clear until you have some space to listen with fresh ears. Usually if the last few steps were all really good then that means we’re close, and then we might just need a few days to listen to/work on other stuff before coming back to it.
Byline Houston: Returning to collaborate is Rostam, who is almost something of an unofficial member of Ra Ra Riot at this point. How different is the song writing process when he’s involved in comparison to the usual methods?
Miles: Rostam and I have been friends for a long time now and it’s been a very fruitful friendship as Discovery fans and anyone who listened to our Rhumb Line reissue last year already knows. Every producer/writer is different but I think Rostam is obviously a special producer and writer. That and the fact that we know each other so well separates what we do from what RRR does with other people in the studio.
Byline Houston: What obstacles if any are keeping Discovery (Rostam and Miles) from getting back together and putting out another album?
Miles: Scheduling is a primary one! But also every time we get together, something else comes out and it doesn’t always feel like Discovery. I’d never rule it out and we surely will collaborate again but maybe it’ll be something completely new next time instead of the things that exist now.
Byline Houston: Ra Ra Riot has built a pretty wide spectrum of sound over the years, especially with the increased use of electronic elements towards the latter half of the discography. Does this make putting together a setlist that representative of all of your work at all more difficult?
Miles: Yeah it’s pretty difficult to make a set list when you have five records to choose songs from. Each band member also has favorites and, lets say, *non-favorites*… but we only did one headline tour for our last record, Need Your Light, and that was over three years ago so it’s funny to hear newer fans saying they’re happy were still playing old stuff, and meaning our last record!
Byline Houston: Which songs do you feel are the most difficult to perform live?
Miles: Some of the newest songs we’ve only recently figured out but generally all the new songs are really challenging vocally.
Byline Houston: Read somewhere that good video games for the road are a must have on a Ra Ra Riot tour. What games are being played for the Superbloom tour?
Miles: So far we’ve only played Goldeneye (N64). It’s probably the game we’ve spent the most time playing throughout band history and its off to an early lead for this tour too. But I’m looking forward to downloading Frostpunk and a cyberpunk bartender game next time we have some good wifi.
Byline Houston: In your travels around the world, have any of you learned any curse words that you like to refer to every now and then?
Miles: We’re generally pretty clean and polite lol, but once our Japanese label was describing Pachinko to Becca, and when she repeated it back to them they all started cracking up because it sounds a lot like the word for “dick” if you miss a syllable, which she did.
Byline Houston: If you had to go the whole tour eating only one thing you’ve eaten since it started, what would it be?
Well considering it’s been only two days my options are limited, so it’s basically either veggie lo mein, pizza or yogurt. I don’t know if I’d last a month on any of those options tbh but the first few days would prob be better with the lo mein.