Tag Archives: New York

RA RA RIOT: There’s a Riot going on

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

Meyers Expands Far Beyond His Weekend Gig

Actor and comedian Seth Meyers has had one heck of a year.

2011 has seen the 37-year-old satirist hit the decade mark on NBC’s long-running “Saturday Night Live” (his fifth as the show’s head writer and Weekend Update anchor), he hosted ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards for the second year in a row, and was the keynote speaker at this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

Not bad for a one-time Northwestern University improv troupe member.

But despite the comedian’s busy schedule, he can’t help but make time for stand-up as well. An appearance at Pechanga Resort & Casino this weekend will be his last on a recent short run of dates before things at “Saturday Night Live” kick back into full gear.

And surprisingly, squeezing 10 dates of across-the-country comedy into his schedule this summer has little to do with keeping his wit sharp and at the ready.

“I just truly love it,” said Meyers recently from New York. “It’s a nice side effect that it keeps you on your toes, but that’s certainly not the only reason I do it. I mean, it’s a whole lot more fun than, say, getting up and going to the gym in the morning. But I do truly love doing stand-up and traveling around the country performing in front of different and unique crowds. It’s a blast.”

After this weekend’s show at Pechanga, Meyers will return to the East Coast and focus exclusively on the new season of “Saturday Night Live.” And it is not lost on him that this season is indeed significant.

“It’s a very cool milestone,” he said. “My very first show at ‘SNL’ was the first one they did after 9/11. So I’m constantly reminded that I’m hitting my decade point. But 10 years is crazy. And I’ve been in the same office the whole time. The only difference is that when I started, there were two other writers in it with me. The way they promote you at ‘SNL’ is that they take people out of your office. They don’t move you to a nicer one.”

Despite not getting new digs during his tenure with the show, the comedian notes the timing of his selection to the cast as a benefit itself.

“I’ve been really lucky in my time with the show,” Meyers said. “I feel like when I came in, I got to work under people who were excellent at the job like Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jimmy Fallon. And the people I came in with were people like Amy Poehler. I’ve also been able to be around for great new people like Bill Hader. I’ve been able to work with great people over the last 10 years.”

Meyers’ good fortune hasn’t ended there. His high-profile gig on late-night television has translated into a few prodigious hosting opportunities in the last few years.

A huge sports fan, he has helmed ESPN’s ESPY Awards for the past two years; and blurring the line between his political satire and its subjects, he had the honor of giving the keynote speech at the White House Correspondents dinner in April.

“It was crazy,” he said. “Of all the gigs I’ve had in my life, it was certainly the one I was most nervous about. But there’s almost no better comedy format than the roast. And there’s something so wonderful about getting to roast the most powerful people on Earth on a night where it’s understood you’re supposed to do that. Ninety-nine percent of that audience understands it’s a night where they could get teased, and that makes it really fun.”

Meyers took the business of being funny that night very seriously.

“I worked with about five other writers,” he said. “We got together, read everything we’d written, and then whittled down. Other comedians may take those jokes out to a club to see how they played, but because it’s such an inside room, I didn’t want to do a joke I didn’t have faith in and have it stiff. So the craziest part of it all was that it was the first time I told any of those jokes. ‘SNL’ has a dress rehearsal and the ESPYs bring in an audience so I can test my monologue. But that was the first time I ever did those jokes in public.”

It also marked the first time something Meyers had done went totally global.

“It was exciting for me,” he said. “Because ‘SNL’ doesn’t play abroad, it’s something that really resonated overseas. And it was great for the foreigners I know who live in New York, because to them, it’s an amazing thing that I was allowed to stand next to the president and tell jokes about him. There just aren’t a lot of countries where you get to do that.”

But Meyers says all of it really comes back to growing up in a funny household. He and his brother, Josh of “MADtv,” both took their cues from their joke-cracking father and the family’s penchant for comedy in general.

“My parents were big fans of ‘SNL,’ Monty Python, Woody Allen and Steve Martin,” he said. “And they exposed us to that stuff at a far earlier age than a lot of other kids are. The timing of all of those things was really helpful. Also, my mother has laughed at everything my father has said for the last 40 years. And my mother is a beautiful woman. So my brother and I have always thought that was how you got a beautiful woman. It’s the move we can all fall back on.”