“Superbloom” isn’t just the name of Ra Ra Riot’s new album due on August 9; it’s also a good word to describe the band’s burgeoning success.
Recent singles “Bad to Worse” and “Flowers” are already gaining airplay at radio stations nationwide. Ra Ra Riot also kicked off the two-month-long Summer Gods Tour with Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World in Los Angeles on June 14, and they’re coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia on July 19.
We caught up with singer Wes Miles and bassist Mat Santos to get the scoop on “Superbloom” and the ongoing Summer Gods Tour.
The Voice: You aspire to evolve with every record. Whereas some bands might see that as a challenge, both artistically and in keeping fans happy, you have embraced it. Why is that approach important to you?
Wes Miles: I think one reason we’re attached to this idea of constant flux is because of our experience with our third record, “Beta Love.” At the time, it threw a lot of fans off and may have alienated some, too. This was a huge risk for us and we knew at the time everyone wouldn’t be on board right away, but the alternative was way worse. We could try and make another chamber-Indie-pop record or whatever and see how many fans we could retain, but the truth is we felt boxed in, like we’d be stuck trying to make a better version of “The Rhumb Line” forever, which, of course, could never happen. So we decided to destroy what it meant to be RRR and be able to move forward. It turned out to be the best decision possible. It got us new fans, allowed to us to grow and redefine who we are, and eventually win back many of the fans that we lost.
V: Do you feel like your songwriting process has been refined over time or has it always been to go with whatever feels right?
Wes Miles: The songwriting has definitely changed a lot over time in many ways — different writers/producers/locations as we’ve mentioned, whatever happens to be influencing us at the moment, but it’s also always still about what feels good or fun given those parameters. In some ways, we probably self-filter ideas differently depending on the vibe of the people we’re around, but that’s was so important to us: to make several songs on this record entirely ourselves to contrast the outside influences. Some of those influences we can quantify and some we can’t.
V: For “Superbloom,” you brought in a melting pot of producers and songwriters, ultimately emphasizing your poppier tendencies throughout most of the album. Were you aiming for that sound or was it just the organic result of the collaborative process?
Mat Santos: I think it was probably a little bit of both — we've always been big into pop, into big melodies and choruses, and I think with this record we allowed ourselves to work with people who we thought could help us emphasize those tendencies a little more. Help us to sort of “get there.” We know what it's like to make a record by ourselves, or with just one producer, but we'd never cast this wide a net before, worked with so many collaborators. So I think it freed us up a lot, and we were able to jump from session to session without feeling too precious about things, without being afraid of doing something wrong.
V: Do you have any favorite moments from the tour with Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World so far?
Mat Santos: Well, for me, this tour is particularly special, because Third Eye Blind really hit me at a time when I was really getting into music, wanting to get my first bass and everything. So to be here, in the future, not only opening for them every night and getting to hear those amazing songs every night (all of which hold up so well), but to be chatting with Stephan and Brad on a nearly-daily basis is still a surreal thrill for me. I guess specifically, one of the best bits was probably the first night everyone hung out together, after a show in Jacksonville, Oregon — a friend of someone's kept their bar open late for the bands and crew to hang at. Felt like we had the whole sleepy town to ourselves. Also, just watching their sets just about every night with Kenny, studying the ways they alter the setlist and arrangements. The Boston show a few nights ago was a definite standout, too. Everyone was cooking that night!
V: Is there anything else you want to add about the new album or the tour?
Mat Santos: Just that we're incredibly excited to get this album out, and that we're extremely proud of it. We took a lot of time after our last year of heavy touring (in 2016) to kind of reset and take care of some housekeeping. We took our time making it, first thinking we'd just eventually release a few singles or an EP, but the time off did us good, and the material kept coming. I think it's our best album to date — the strongest songs, the biggest dynamic range. And it's always fun playing at Merriweather! A legendary venue. So we'll be very excited to be playing some of these new songs there.