Syracuse, NY indie band Ra Ra Riot have released their new album ‘The Orchard’ today in the UK ahead of the start of their European tour this week. Taking in a three dates in the UK including headlining London’s The Garage on Tues 17th May, the full dates for the band’s energetic show are below.
‘The Orchard’ is the band’s sophomore record and as its title suggests, was recorded at a peach orchard farmhouse in upstate New York. On this album, Ra Ra Riot seem to have found an assurance and joie de vivre that came from the closure obtained by laying their debut, ‘The Rhumb Line’ to rest.
Ra Ra Riot are vocalist Wes Miles, bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, cellist Alexandra Lawn, violinist Rebecca Zeller, and drummer Gabriel Duquette.
To accompany the release of ‘The Orchard’, Mathieu Santos gives us a track by track guide to their ten track upbeat indie pop record:
“This title track is not actually named after the peach farm in upstate New York on which most of our album was written; rather, it’s based on the Anton Chekhov short story The Black Monk (which was originally the working title for this song). The Black Monk also takes place on an orchard, and was the inspiration behind Wes’s lyrics. For a while, we were having trouble coming up with both a title for the album and a good track sequence. After a friend of ours suggested we place this song first – an idea which hadn’t yet occurred to us – the album’s entire thematic arc seemed to suddenly emerge, along with the title and artwork as well. The song was arranged using a stencil-like technique – it began with a drum and synth loop that Milo had written, and then, after Rebecca and Allie had come up with their string arrangement, the drums and synth were muted, leaving behind a song that was unnervingly spacious.
[audio:http://www.box.net/shared/static/b4x3n3rdol.mp3|titles=The Orchard|artists=Ra Ra Riot]
“This song was nearly lost forever! Wes had recorded a rough version using Milo’s computer, and, not wanting anyone to listen to it, gave it the cryptic title “Top Secret Jam”. For nearly a year, it sat on Milo’s hard drive, forgotten until it was discovered around the time we began compiling material for the new album. Since Wes himself couldn’t even recall having made the demo in the first place, it was like having a song delivered to the band as a gift. The demo was recorded using an old Casio’s simple drum machine and glitchy arpeggiator, which became the model for the mechanical and jumpy drum and bass tracks in the final version.
“This was one of the first songs we began working on for this album, and it had already worked its way into our live set (in a few different iterations) as early as February 2009. In its very early stages, it started as an atmospheric, reverb-drenched piano riff before changing into an all-out punk song, with lots of floor toms and Van Halen-y synth parts. After much re-tooling, we ended up with the version that’s on the album, which features some elements of both.
“Like ‘Too Dramatic’, this song was also one of the first demos we started kicking around in early 2009, and, like ‘Boy’, Wes turned to his trusty, glitchy Casio keyboard to make it. It was arranged rather quickly and easily, at least by our standards, and features some great moments from Gabe, our drummer at the time.
“This was the first song that I had ever presented to the band, which, for me, was both scary and exciting. Prior to entering the studio, we worked on it sparingly, only sketching out a rough structure and combining it with another demo of Wes’s, which happened to be in the same key and became the bridge parts on which he sings lead. Hoping to enhance the song’s openness, we intentionally left most of the decision-making to be done in the studio, which was very unusual for us. We tracked the drum and bass live, with no edits, and then everyone else added their parts on top, with some collage-style editing happening towards the end of the song. It was a really fun exercise and allowed to take a bit of a different approach to the whole process, which was very valuable for us.
‘YOU AND I KNOW’
“Like ‘Massachusetts’, ‘You And I Know’ features another first-time songwriter and vocalist: Allie, our cellist. The song was a bit of a stylistic departure for us, allowing us to explore different feels and moods, and though it wasn’t 100% certain from the beginning who would be handling lead vocals on the track, it quickly became evident that Allie should and would be the one to sing it. It’s always fun and important to mix things up, and that’s one of the reasons that the song has become a live favorite.
“This is another song that went through several significant changes during the arranging and demoing process – we eventually recorded two and a half completely different versions of it, each with different feels, structures, instrumentation, and even completely different sections. We actually returned to the studio for an additional session to record what would become the final version, featuring elements from all of the other versions, and bolstered by Gabe’s favorite groove of the album. This is one of my favorite songs from ‘The Orchard’ to play live.
‘DO YOU REMEMBER’
“‘Do You Remember’ was originally an outtake from Wes and Rostam’s Discovery sessions. When there was no space left for it on what would become LP, Rostam suggested that Wes present it to Ra Ra Riot. The song came together very quickly and easily – we added the verses, which were made from a drum part of Milo’s and a synth riff of Wes’s, and then Gabe sat down and pounded out the rest of it. It felt like it came together almost in real-time! This is another really fun track to play live.
“‘Kansai’ – originally titled ‘Wandering Monsters’ – was brought to the band by Milo as a bouncy, synth- and drums- oriented song, and was worked on sporadically for nearly a year before we went into the studio to record it. ‘Kansai’ is the name of an airport built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, and Wes wrote the lyrics about flying home from there after having lived in Japan for half a year. The song’s swinging bounce makes it tons of fun to play live, and Milo moved to the synth and piano for this track, thus freeing up some space for Wes to take up the guitar.
‘KEEP IT QUIET’
“Our first attempts at recording this song featured Wes playing a pump organ, performing the song in one take in the outdoors. First, it was at the peach orchard where most of the album was written; then, by a bonfire outside the studio in upstate New York during a snowfall. Though the latter (and my favorite) version survived as a B-side, we returned to the studio later to re-record the song yet again, with additional instrumentation – some gorgeous strings, lonely guitar, chugging bass, and the beat-up Casio acting as drummer.”
May 17 – Garage, London with support from Airship + Spacefight – tickets
May 18 – Ruby Lounge, Manchester – tickets
May 19 – Audio, Brighton – tickets
May 20 – Maifield Derby Festival, Darmstadt
May 21 – London Calling, Amsterdam
May 23 – Trix, Antwerp
May 24 – Blue Shell, Cologne
May 25 – Molotow, Hamburg
May 26 – Beatpol, Dresden
May 27 – Immergut Festival, Neustrelitz
May 28 – Seewiesen Festival, Kleinreifling