Ra Ra Riot is a kaleidoscope. Their upbeat melodies, catchy instrumentals and signature synths come together to form audible shapes and patterns that their listeners won’t soon forget.
“We formed basically to play house parties around campus,” said bassist Mathieu Santos. “That was our main reason for existing, and after one semester everyone was going to graduate and go our separate ways.”
For a band that’s now toured the world, including North America, Europe and Asia, they were shockingly close to not existing at all.
“It was sort of an accident,” said Santos, referring to the creation of the band outside its former college-party guise. “We had so much fun that first semester, that when it ended, we decided to book a small tour. … We started getting positive reviews and more people coming to our shows. Once that happened, we just decided to keep going. Here we are, seven years later, still touring.”
Santos, the only member of the band who wasn’t graduating at the time of its formation, left school to pursue music.
“I’m glad the music thing is working out,” he said with a laugh. “I always wonder what I’d be doing otherwise. I was studying painting. I’d probably be living in my parents’ house, painting in my bedroom, trying to be some kind of artist.”
Ra Ra Riot’s third album, Beta Love, has a distinct sound that remains true to the roots of its predecessors but simultaneously sprouts new branches of its own.
“The biggest change for us was our attitude going into it,” said Santos of this perceptible difference. “In the past, we started to overthink things. This time around we wanted to capture the attitude we had when we first started, which was about being open to whatever was feeling good at the time.”
That attitude is reflected in their live shows as much as it is in their recordings.
“This tour’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “We tried to up our production for the first time in a long time. Having new songs to play is amazing, and they were written with the live show in mind. The shows have been pretty energetic on the whole: a lot of singing along, a lot of dancing and just having fun.”
University students’ tastes are as diverse as the musical spectrum, so it’s not hard to believe that the preferences of each member of Ra Ra Riot influence their sound. From indie to new wave to pop, Santos describes their band as a “collage.”
“It’s fun being in a band with so many people, because there’s always a huge mix going on,” he said. “Just last night everyone was taking turns DJing and playing all kinds of different music for each other.”
A love for music, of course, is the force uniting the band. It’s also what sends them on tours worldwide, allowing them to discover aspects of the world they wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to.
“We get to do all this travelling for free, so we try to make the most of it,” said Santos. “That’s one of the best things about this job. If you’re not careful, it can turn into this monotonous grind; you don’t even know where you are some of the time. It’s good to go out and get the feel of wherever you are, even if it’s just going to a record store or a bookstore nearby.”
Between the shifting scenery flashing by their tour bus windows and their ever-evolving sound, there remains one constant: the band’s loyalty to each other.
“We’ve been together for seven years now, so it’s been a natural evolution,” said Santos. “It’s nice, because it’s the same core people making the music. We’ve changed a lot, but it still feels like us, you know?”
Ra Ra Riot play Il Motore on Thursday, March 7 at 8 p.m.