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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Ra Ra Riot to ro ro rock UW campus

The Daily Cardinal recently spoke with Ra Ra Riot bassist Mathieu Santos, as he waited in line at Coop’s Place in New Orleans for some jambalaya.

In 2006, Santos, along with Wes Miles, Milo Bonacci and Rebecca Zeller, started Ra Ra Riot at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. While the band is now a polished touring outfit, they started as just another college band.

“It was kind of almost like an accident,” Santos said. “When we formed in college, we just expected to be together for the semester and then after graduation, we figured everyone would go their separate ways.”

While the story could have ended there, the band was picking up on a groundswell. So they decided to ride out their building wave of momentum.

“We had so much fun that first semester and things were going relatively well,” Santos said. “That summer we decided to put together a small tour of the northeast and we did that, and that seemed to be going well… we just had a tiny bit of momentum and no one has any real jobs yet.”

Shortly after that, Ra Ra Riot went into the studio for the first time, still a freshly minted band.

“It was like a big decision to make,” Santos said. “We all had to pitch in like $40 each to cover the cost of the demo and we were like ‘I don’t know, this is a lot of money, is it worth it?’ But we went up to Buffalo [New York] one weekend and just recorded the demo just to have something to give to people because people kept asking us.”

The next year, Ra Ra Riot recorded their first EP and all of a sudden, they took off.

“Being in the studio was thrilling,” Santos said. “I had never been in a proper recording studio before or anything like that. Every step of the way, it was just a really exciting type of surprise.”

While their first two albums could be easily classified as “Baroque Pop” by the Pitchfork enthusiast, with their third album, the band decided to shift gears considerably.

“It was more of just like an attitude adjustment that we knew we needed to make,” Santos said. “With our second record, The Orchard, which we are proud of anyway, I think we had some issues with it, especially in terms of over-thinking things or just treating things as if they were too precious. We sort of just got locked into our methods of writing and arranging.”

On their latest album, Beta Love, the band opted to move into a more electronic sound, adding in synthesizers to change things up.

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“If something sounds good, or feels good immediately, we can’t be scared of it and think it is too goofy or too weird,” Santos said.

Though the band has produced some impressive studio outputs, they have also toured relentlessly, not only domestically, but also internationally.

“There [are] a lot of good places. Playing in college towns is always a lot of fun,” Santos said. “You know, the crowds are younger and more energetic. Every town has a different vibe, but it is always fun connecting with people all over the place.”

While the band has played around the world, there is still something special about Madison.

“I think Madison is one of those college kind of towns where people are going to come out,” Santos said. “You get a really young, kind of positive energy… I remember those shows getting pretty energetic and a little rowdy too.”

Ra Ra Riot will take the stage at Great Hall at Memorial Union for free at 9 p.m. March 2.

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