In 2006, at Syracuse University, Milo Bonacci (guitar / architecture) had an itch to start a new band, something different from the bands he'd played in most of his life. Bonacci met Rebecca Zeller (violin / music business) in an electronic music class, and invited her to join his new project. Zeller recommended Alexandra Lawn (cello / music business) who she knew from various classical ensembles. Mathieu Santos (bass / painting) 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 contained more dramatic and unexpected elements that grew from Zeller and Lawn's dueling strings and the remarkable, Morrissey-meets-Tom Verlaine voice of Miles.
From January-May 2006 Ra Ra Riot played every attic, basement, party, and venue in Syracuse. Upon graduation that May (well, most of them graduated), they hopped in a van for what appeared to be an endless US tour, playing any and every show they could, both headlining and playing with Tokyo Police Club and Editors.
This rapidly building momentum ground to a sudden and tragic halt when drummer John Pike died unexpectedly in June 2007. After that incredibly difficult summer of mourning and coping with the loss of a dear friend, 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 their first full-length album, a process that was simultaneously a memorial to Pike, a grieving process, and a reaffirmation of the joy of making music together. Early 2008 found the band continuing to re-engage, continually focusing and again taking to the road, opening for The Cribs and on a headlining tour of the US.
As anyone who caught one of these many shows quickly learned, to observe Ra Ra Riot 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 it’s a joy that is in fact amplified by this awareness.
It's this bittersweet dynamic that makes The Rhumb Line a compelling debut album by a band with seemingly limitless potential. From the haunting slowburn crescendos of opener "Ghost Under Rocks" through the playful "Each Year," "Can You Tell" and "Too Too Too Fast," the more pensive "Oh, La" and "Dying Is Fine," and a curveball cover of Kate Bush's "Suspended in Gaffa," the album skillfully melds elements of new wave and classic indie with sweeping orchestral chamber pop to startling effect. Epic and eloquent, dramatic and graceful, Ra Ra Riot's debut is an inventive and ambitious record that consistently conveys the passions of its creators.