In 2006, at Syracuse University, Milo Bonacci (guitar / architecture) had a craving to start a new band. He'd been in bands most of his life, and he knew that this time he wanted something different. Bonacci met Rebecca Zeller (violin / music business) in an electronic music class, and invited her to join his new project. Zeller knew Alexandra Lawn (cello / music business) from their shared major and brought her along. Mathieu Santos (bass / art) had played in one of Bonacci's earlier bands, so he was a natural choice; John Pike was a well known drummer on campus, and through mutual friends found himself, along with his good friend Wesley Miles (keyboard, vocals, physics) , at Ra Ra Riot's first practice.
What quickly developed in that winter of 2006 was exactly what Bonacci was craving - a healthy dose of dance-party-inspiring rock 'n' roll - but also containing more dramatic and unexpected elements that grew from Zeller and Lawn's duelling strings and the remarkable, Morrissey-meets-Tom Verlaine voice of [Dirty Projectors sax & percussion alumnus] Miles Bonacci.
From January-May 2006 the band played every attic, party, and venue in Syracuse, while also touring extensively with the likes of Tokyo Police Club, Editors, and Art Brut. The future of Ra Ra Riot looked bright. Then the band tragically lost their drummer and dear friend when Pike died in June 2007.
After that incredibly difficult summer, the remaining members of Ra Ra Riot pulled themselves back together and spent late 2007 in the studio with producer Ryan Hadlock (Gossip, Blonde Redhead, Islands) recording a full-length album, a process that was simultaneously a memorial to Pike, a grieving process, and also a re-engagement with the enjoyment of making music together. Early 2008 found the band continuing to build their focus and again taking to the road, opening for The Cribs and on a headlining tour of the US.
The Rhumb Line sees this unique musical collective truly deliver on their potential, successfully melding elements of new wave and classic indie with sweeping orchestral chamber pop, the strings bringing both elegance and grace, as well a sense of drama, to these already deliriously catchy melodies. Both epic and eloquent, Ra Ra Riot's debut is an inventive and ambitious record that consistently conveys the passions of its creators.
To observe the band on stage is to observe a joyful experience in progress, somehow both intensely fun and just plain intense; it's a joy that's always aware that darkness and despair may be just around the corner, that life is both beautiful and terrible, and its a joy that is in fact amplified by this awareness.