New York sextet Ra Ra Riot has accomplished quite a lot since its inception five years ago. The chamber pop-infused indie rock band, which includes a full-time cellist and violinist, has released two full-length albums and four EPs, and has toured the country and globe extensively.
After meeting at Syracuse University, the members formed the band and began playing shows on a whim, without any kind of master plan. In less than a year, the band had earned a spot performing at New York’s annual CMJ Music Marathon and opened shows for national headliners such as the Horrors and Bow Wow Wow.
In 2007, tragedy struck the young band when drummer John Pike drowned in Buzzards Bay off the coast of Massachusetts. The decision was made by the remaining members to carry on, and they’ve been doing just that ever since.
Fresh off a successful Canadian tour, Ra Ra Riot’s national coast-to-coast swing finds the band performing Wednesday night at the Belly Up. But with six schedules to reconcile, and live dates running through Thanksgiving, it’s unknown when fans can expect a follow-up to “The Orchard,” the band’s 2010, critically acclaimed sophomore release.
“We’ve done a lot of touring in the last four years,” said guitarist Milo Bonacci from a recent tour stop in North Carolina. “And we’ve really been in cramped quarters. It’s been a pretty difficult thing to try and write on the road. I mean, we’ll work on ideas during sound check and in minor ways. But the songs have never been conceived or fleshed out while we’re traveling around. The logistics just haven’t been incredibly conducive to having productive time while we’re out doing shows.”
The group’s members had to force themselves to hole up in an upstate New York peach orchard for a couple of weeks to write and record demos for the previous album.
Nothing that extensive has been planned for the new record, but Bonacci said that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been on their minds.
“It’s been a topic of conversation since we finished the last record,” he said. “We’ve made plans to record and have decided on whom to work with as a producer. We have a bunch of demos and a lot of ideas for what perspectives we want to approach on this new album. But we haven’t recorded anything just yet. That’s coming soon.”
Although they don’t have anything set in stone, it’s likely Bonacci’s promise will come to fruition. Even with its rigorous touring schedule, the band has still been able to produce six releases in five years together.
That’s just the way things happen with this longtime group of friends.
Even hitting that half-decade mark wasn’t something the members initially expected. And it’s a milestone they’ve raced past without time to give it much thought.
“It’s actually a strange thing to think about,” Bonacci said. “It really depends on the day. Sometimes it seems like it’s been no time at all. On those days, it’s completely fresh and exciting. But sometimes, I’m surprised when I look back and think of all the things we’ve done, and all the places we’ve gone since we started. Overall, it’s a bit shocking to me that it’s already been five years. This is something that really started as a temporary project.”
While things haven’t exactly gone according to plan, no one is complaining. And at this point, it’s not even an option. They just have too much more to do.
“It’s true that no one expected we’d still be doing this now when we started,” Bonacci said. “But it’s never been a situation where we suddenly found ourselves doing something like touring the country, or even the world, either. The whole thing has been very progressive and steady. And we’re certainly still having fun with it, so we hope it keeps moving in the same direction. It’s all very exciting and satisfying.”
Originally published in The North County Times on November 03, 2011