Rolling with the changes

Ra Ra Riot brings their latest album’s electro-pop sounds to the Triple Rock.

Left to right, Kenny Bernard, Milo Bonacci, Rebecca Zeller, Wesly Miles and Mathieu Santos.

Photo courtesy of Shervin Lainez

Left to right, Kenny Bernard, Milo Bonacci, Rebecca Zeller, Wesly Miles and Mathieu Santos.

Austen Macalus

Recording in Seattle, Brooklyn, upstate New York, Los Angeles and Milwaukee, Ra Ra Riot is used to working on the go.
Although their latest album, “Need Your Light,” was written in fragmented moments, the on-the-road style contributes to its driving energy and constant spirit.
“I think, with this record, bouncing around a lot keeps it fresh,” Wesley Miles, the band’s vocalist and keyboardist, said. “It’s a product of a bunch of different places.”
Starting their U.S. tour last Sunday, Ra Ra Riot hopes to bring this vibrancy to their live performances. 
Rounded out by Milo Bonacci on guitar, Mathieu Santos on bass, Rebecca Zeller on violin and Kenny Bernard on drums, the group will stop by Minneapolis this Thursday, performing at the Triple Rock Social Club. 
Combining upbeat chamber pop, tightly crafted indie rock and a moving string section, the band started performing together while attending college in upstate New York in the mid-2000s.
Released this February, “Need Your Light” is the group’s fourth album. 
While their earlier records employed a series of different producers, the new album saw Ra Ra Riot work with previous collaborators and old friends.
“This time we really got to grow relationships we already had and give control to people we already trusted,” Miles said. “Basically everybody we worked with, we knew already.” 
In particular, Miles pointed to working with producer Ryan Hadlock, who helped out with the band’s first record. 
Miles also collaborated with Rostam Batmanglij, a former Vampire Weekend member, for the album’s two single tracks, “Water” and “Need Your Light.”
According to Miles, working with friends allowed the group to take more time with the album.
“It was kind of a long process by design. We didn’t want to rush through it,” Miles said. “We didn’t want it to feel like it was done because we ran out of time or money. We really wanted to make it feel like it was the best thing it could be.”
The extra studio time helped the band find a new sound for this album. On “Need Your Light,” Ra Ra 
Riot play with different synths and electronic drums, bringing their sound into the electronic pop sphere. 
“It comes partly from the era we grew up in. We are all from the ’80s, so we like all that pop music,” Miles said. “We were always interested in making pop music — that’s always what we thought we were.”
Although this style differs from Ra Ra Riot’s earlier works, it still fits with group’s overall philosophy.
“One of our mantras over the past few years is, ‘We never want to make the same record twice,’ ” Miles said. “Part of growing and changing for us is exploring who we are a little deeper.”
However, some fans have been skeptical of the band’s new direction. Miles highlighted mixed audience reaction to the band’s third album, “Beta Love.” 
“We probably changed more than people thought we would over our career,” Miles said. 
Miles also acknowledged the continuity between earlier work and “Need Your Light.”
Specifically, Ra Ra Riot still incorporates their unique string presence, cleverly composed lyrics and catchy melodic hooks. 
“I think there were some things in the first couple of records that people have yet to realize are like our latter records,” Miles said.
Miles also highlighted the similarities between the band’s beginning years playing college house shows and their current live performances.
“We were always interested in dance music,” Miles said. “Our shows now are just about energy and excitement. Every song is fun to play live; there are really no low-energy ones.”
In any sense, Ra Ra Riot tends not to be overly concerned with outside voices. 
“We are just a bunch of people who want to grow and become a better band, and part of that is exploring different ends of the spectrum,” Miles said. “It’s probably a bad idea to get too involved in micro-opinions — especially because we are happy with what we are doing.”