Back when Ra Ra Riot was playing at house parties around Syracuse University just for fun, some of the band members had post-grad plans that didn’t involve a drum set or microphone.
But after entrancing audiences with their compelling onstage energy, they realized near the end of their senior years that making music was too fun to give up and dropped everything give the band their full attention. And it certainly paid off.
After recording their first demo, Ra Ra Riot’s rank spun wildly toward the top. The band became known for its unique blend of baroque pop and indie rock and was invited to play at the CMJ Music Marathon less than six months after forming.
It wasn’t long before they were opening for Art Brut and Bow Wow Wow in the Big Apple. They even did two tours around the UK on their own. In 2007, Ra Ra Riot launched its first solo tour in the U.S. But the band was soon struck by tragedy on June 3, when the body of their drummer, John Ryan Pike, was discovered in Buzzards Bay, Mass. The band member went missing in the wee morning hours of the previous day after a show in Providence, R.I., and was believed to have drowned.
Weeks after his funeral, the band members revealed that they would continue their music career in his honor.
“He wouldn’t have wanted us to give it up,” says violinist Becca Zeller. “The experience of writing music with him and being friends with him is still an inspiration.”
Recovering from their loss, Ra Ra Riot went on to perform at South by Southwest and the Seaport Music Festival that year. They soon recorded their debut album, “The Rhumb Line,” which was released in 2008. Their second album, “The Orchard,” 2010, landed the band a nomination at the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards.
Their most recent work, however, has exhibited a switch from the band’s signature baroque style to a more synthetic sound. “Beta Love,” released earlier this year, is a bit more electronic than Ra Ra fans are accustomed to hearing.
“We do have some roots there,” Zeller says. “Our first show was just a drum set and synthesizers, so it’s sort of like the roots we already had.”
And while the band’s eccentric music video for the “Dance With Me” track has recently gotten loads of attention online, Zeller says the band’s proudest achievement has been just sticking together for so long, and enjoying making music still.
“Our goals are constantly evolving and changing,” she says. “As you grow, the benchmarks are always changing. I think the goal right now is just to still be doing this in five years.”
Catch Ra Ra Riot on the Forest Park stage at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. For the full LouFest lineup, visit LouFest.com.