Ra Ra Riot Ride On

By: Bradley Turcotte

Ra Ra Riot Ride On
Photo: courtesy of the artist
Ra Ra Riot

August 23, 2010 – Syracuse, United States

Things got off to a pretty easy start for Ra Ra Riot. The during the winter break of 2005-2006, guitarist Milo Bonacci simply contacted each member and asked if they wanted to assemble as a band. Then before they had even had time to practice, the former Syracuse University classmates—violinist Rebecca Zeller, vocalist Wes Miles, cellist Alexandra Lawn and bassist Mathieu Santos (later to add current drummer Gabriel Duquette)—had their first gig booked.

"We sort of had two weeks to get ready for the show, which is odd because we didn't have songs at that point. From there it really dictated the semester," says Zeller. "We were just this band that came out of nowhere and all of a sudden we're playing all these house parties. We took advantage of the fact that we were so close and could play into all hours of the night."

Zeller's love for the violin dawned on her at an early age thanks to a meeting with her sister's violinist friend. Zeller pleaded with her mother to switch from the piano to the violin.

"She had already started me on piano but I wouldn't practice so she said ‘Rebecca if you don't practice [violin] you can't play.' So she made me really work for it." As rock bands rarely feature string arrangements Zeller has become a champion of sorts to other budding violin players.

"A lot of people that I meet at shows who are violinists really appreciate the fact that they can see there are other outlets besides joining an orchestra or a chamber music group. There are other options besides classical ones," says Zeller.

If "Boy", the first single off Ra Ra Riot's new album, The Orchard, is any indication, it's true that Zeller's work may one day be described as classic—yet far from classical.

The album, produced by Andrew Maury and the band themselves, was recorded on a peach orchard in upstate New York and Zeller says the setting without a doubt influenced the music.

"It was really inspiring and definitely affected the songs and how the album came out," says Zeller. "After recording all the songs it just made sense that we call it that, because of the affect the orchard had on us."

Another event that had a profound affect on the band was the death of original drummer John Ryan Pike. Pike went missing on the morning of June 2, 2007 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. His body was discovered in Buzzards Bay the following day; it is believed that Pike drowned.

"Dealing with the loss, like any other, it takes time. The decision to move forward was because we thought John wouldn't want us to stop making music," says Zeller.

Looking forward, Zeller encourages readers to catch Ra Ra Riot's live show as you just might be surprised.

"We've been practising a lot. We're working to make it a bit tighter. We're practising and getting the new songs in shape and improving the old ones to make it overall a better show. There may be some special effects and surprises too," says Zeller with a chuckle.

Video: "Ghost Under Rocks" by Ra Ra Riot

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