Ra Ra Riot is a Syracuse, New York based indie rock band. They received high acclaim for their 2008 release The Rhumb Line and are preparing for a national tour that begins in February.

Epilogue: Your music has been described as a mix between Arcade Fire’s strings and Vampire Weekend’s pop sensibilities. How do you describe your music?
Alexandra Lawn: This is so tough. I definitely can see the pop sensibility aspect of it. The people that inspire us band wise are like; The Police and U2, or the Beatles. That was pop music, and that’s what we like of it. As far as the strings go, Rebecca and I were classically trained and brought up on classical music. That obviously plays a roll in the parts that we right, and definitely shows.

Is there a specific song writing process you go through, or does it depends from song to song?
It’s kind of all over the place to be honest. Sometimes it is a very small idea brought by one person and goes through the Ra Ra filter, because everything is very collaborative. And then at the same time, there could be an almost complete song brought in to the band. And then everyone writes their part supporting to it. Overall, it is a very collaborative, democratic kind of process.

What things outside of music inspire you?
Food. Definitely I’m really into fine food.

Any particular Chefs?
Mario Batali rocks my world.

Are you a Top Chef fan?
Oh yeah totally. I haven’t seen it in awhile, but I used to be around the TV more.

Was there a single show or moment that made it feel like the band had arrived?
When we got asked to play CMJ New York that’s when it hit us that this was something we could all do as a career. Because up until then it was just us having fun at school, and then all of a sudden getting approached by industry people to be in their show and they are like, ‘Oh I want to be your lawyer,”’ and we were just like, ‘Really?’ We weren’t really planning on that.

Your 2008 release The Rhumb Line was received very highly. How are you building off that and preparing for your next album?
I don’t know. We just set aside a lot of time to write the album. So we have been dabbling with a lot of new ideas. So I guess we are going to go about it the same way we did The Rhumb Line and as long as you turn out something that you are comfortable and proud of, their shouldn’t be a problem.

How long did it take to record The Rhumb Line?
About a month total. Obviously we could have used more time, but it was an amazing experience. Maybe the next album we will spend more time in the studio if we can find some time.

You are just about to start your big tour this month, right?
It starts February 11th, and right now we are doing random one-offs at school and stuff. We are using this time to write because we don’t know when the next opportunity will come up to do that.

You are playing with Death Cab For Cutie for a while on your tour, what’s the most exciting part of that?
We are playing with them for a month, and I think what is most exciting about that is their fan base may be a little different than ours, so it’ll be cool to play to people we wouldn’t normally play to. I don’t know, I’m just looking forward to it.

On previous tours you’ve toured with bands like Vampire Weekend and Tokyo Police Club. Any bands in particular that you have kept strong relationships with?
Tokyo Police Club, The Virgins, Vampire Weekend... we are all pretty close. There is a band called Princeton that we toured with and we really love them. I guess in some ways we keep a good relationship with the bands we toured with, but I’d say those are the major ones.

There are a few questions that we are keeping a running tally with on all of the people that we interview. The first one is, ‘What’s your favorite Bob Dylan album?’
Oh. I don’t know. I can’t think of one, but I do love Bob Dylan. I just can’t pick one.

And then the other one, you mentioned The Beatles as one of your big inspirations, so this is probably even harder, ‘What’s your favorite Beatles song?’
What’s my favorite Beatles song? That changes a lot. But right now my favorite Beatles song is “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

Lastly, what are the bands goals, or your goals for 2009?
Keep having fun, we really want to go to Japan. Yeah, I guess that’s about it.

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© 2009

Ra Ra Riot Interview

Marshall Rake

Photo by Doron Gild