Nineties rock giants Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World leave little room for failed expectations with their proclaimed “Summer Gods Tour 2019.” Joining the angsty action is aughts-born rock group Ra Ra Riot on the tour that kicked off June 14, hitting Denver on Saturday, June 22 at the Levitt Pavilion.
If there’s one thing certain about Ra Ra Riot, it’s that nothing’s certain. The group will release their fifth studio album Superbloom on August 9, and they’ve given us a preview with the release of singles “Bad To Worse” and “Flowers” — songs that are more “pop-ey” than previous work and decidedly different from anything else the band has done. Superbloom — which features collaborations with heavyweight producers such as Rostam Batmanglij, Dean Reid and Kieron Menzies— is named in part after the natural phenomenon in which desert flowers of all types and colors pop up in an unusually large amount. 303 Magazine had the chance to talk with Ra Ra Riot’s lead singer and songwriter Wes Miles before the group stops in Denver, and he elaborated on what, exactly, a superbloom in music entails.
303 Magazine: Your description of the album Superbloom — that it mimics an explosion of wildflowers — that’s one of the coolest descriptions of an album I’ve ever heard. Can you talk more about it?
Wes Miles: There’s just so many different things that are happening. We recorded in, like, eight different locations, we worked with an insane amount of producers. There’s just so much happening. It’s more than one specific thing, but it’s a feeling of all these different things happening at the same time, and they fit together because they’re like a snapshot of what we’re doing. As opposed to ‘we’re trying to do one thing,’ and that’s why it fits together. So it’s kind of fun that it worked out like this.
303: Besides the different producers and songwriters, what are other elements that make the album?
WM: Some of the songs we self-produced, and they’re kind of more stripped-down, minimalist in a way. “Endless Pain/Endless Joy is one of those songs.” We did it in my parents’ house in New Jersey.
We knew we liked the song so just whatever ended up being what we liked, we just kind of left it. Then there are songs at the other end of the spectrum that are layers of different drum samples or a big keyboard solo that took some crafting to finish. You know, more of a pop sensibility. It’s almost like spanning our whole career, all the holes and all the different ends of the spectrum and, obviously, lyrically. Especially for the songs we did with Rostam. He likes to push me towards writing a lyric that has a story.
303: In a lot of your music there’s this attempt to put a physical experience, whether it be a human experience or an experience in nature, into a song. Do you have a specific writing process for that?
WM: Maybe someone watching from the outside would be able to answer that better than I would. Because for me, it feels like I’m just trying to do whatever works. I think I like writing things that are more visual, if that makes sense. In “Bad to Worse” there’s a lyric: I left a note, “Happy New Year”/Under an empty bottle of beer. To me, that could mean so many things: What is the context? What’s the relationship? And so those are the things that I really want to sing about. Those are the things that I think people want to hear. They can relate to these little moments, these little vignettes — these little images from people’s lives. It’s a good way to connect.
303: How would you describe the ‘Ra Ra Riot sound?’ It was mentioned that the band doesn’t have the same “music vocabulary.”
WM: I would say the biggest thing is “dynamic.” Because it’s always changing. Changing from record to record. On our third record we changed everything, we made it more electronic, and then on our last record, we felt we accomplished what we wanted from that so we didn’t need to do it again. For this record it’s kind of like, there’s a moment that has every type of sound, almost.
We never wanted to make the same record twice. Occasionally, that has disappointed people, but for us, I think the most important thing is we can’t make the same song twice even, let alone the same record. A lot of bands can do that really well. They have an identity that is maybe a lot more consistent sonically. But for us, the excitement of making records is in those moments where there’s a left turn, or something unexpected happens.
303: I know it just kicked off, but how has it been touring with Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World?
WM: It’s been great. You know, we’re a little out of practice. We’re not quite settled in, it’s only day four or whatever and we’re starting on the West Coast, which for us is unusual because we almost always start in New York, because we live there. But it’s great. It’s fun to be playing outside, too. We’ve spent so many tours, just every day you’re in a club and it’s dark — and you have to spend a lot of time breathing air conditioning. Everyone’s been great to us so far. We’re psyched to be out doing stuff and promoting our lead-up to our record.
303: Have you worked with either band before?
WM: No, never. Never met any of them. Although, I guess Kenny our drummer had met or was already friends with the drummer in Jimmy Eat World. But pretty much, never met any of them before. The show’s great. Quite a lineup.
303: I understand you’ve played in Denver at least a couple of times?
WM: It must be at least five or six times, probably. I also ski a lot so I’ve been to Denver a bunch of times. It’s a great city.
303: We’re happy to have you again. What are you hoping to get out of this specific performance?
WM: Just like every show, you want to do something a little bit different. You want to try something — take a step in some direction. Not always forward, but do something different. And some of that you can’t plan, just get tighter. We’ll be in week two by then so we should be getting to the real peak of our abilities. Every show we do, it feels better and better. We should be working all the kinks out before then, hopefully, and striving for that elusive, perfect performance.
303: Is there anything you’d like the community to know before you come to town?
WM: We’re just psyched to be out again. We’re looking forward to getting out there, and we’ll be back probably. Really soon, I’m sure, once the record is out. And if you see us, say hi. Don’t be shy.