John Ryan Pike, the band’s original drummer, was also their lyricist, frequent musical collaborator and creative inspiration. Ra Ra Riot’s eponymous EP last year earned the band glowing press and plenty of “band to watch” notices, but just prior to its release Pike’s drowning death shook the group to its very core. Vowing to carry on just weeks after Pike’s funeral, first with friend Mike Ashley and later with Cameron Wisch, the band attacked stages with a raw intensity, making each performance a living memorial to their departed but never forgotten friend.
Just weeks after their show here last April, Ra Ra Riot announced they’d signed with Barsuk to release their debut full-length album. The Rhumb Line, a brilliant combination of New Wave melodicism and Emo passion, was released in August to ecstatic acclaim — including a rare four-star indie review from Rolling Stone — and natural comparisons to Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths. Pike remains a presence on The Rhumb Line; he’s credited on more than half of the band’s original material.
Just prior to the album’s release, the band announced the arrival of new drummer Gabriel Duquette (replacing Wisch, who planned to return to school in the fall), and by all accounts he’s fitting in well with Ra Ra Riot’s wildly dramatic live presentation. And while the incredibly talented sextet moves forward without the physical presence of its hypertalented friend, it continues to draw inspiration from his spirit, which runs indelibly through their fabric.
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