Local Listens: Ra Ra Rasputin
Connected by chance, Ra Ra Rasputin’s members hope this is the summer its music will let them quit their day jobs.
Ra Ra Rasputin is all about random connections. The up-and-coming indie-rock scenesters—Brock Boss, Anna Rozzi, Ken Quam, and Patrick Kigongo—have the chemistry of old friends, but they were strangers before 2007.
Boss met Rozzi as she doled out PBRs and shots of Jim Beam from behind the bar at Wonderland Ballroom. She and Quam found each other at a show at Velvet Lounge. And Kigongo responded to a musician-wanted ad on Craigslist that was intended to be a prank on a former bandmate. Although the band shares its name with an early-20th century Russian mystic, Ra Ra Rasputin isn’t buying any divine explanation.
Instead, hard work has won them a local following and a debut album scheduled to drop this summer. Ra Ra Rasputin may not be a full-time job for its members yet, but they’ll be playing on May 22 at Baysox Stadium in Bowie for Chipapalooza and plan to announce more dates in following months.
We spoke with Ra Ra Rasputin on May 13.
Brock Boss, 27 (vocals, guitar, keyboard, programming, percussion)
Anna Rozzi, 27 (vocals, keyboard, percussion, guitar)
Ken Quam, 27 (drums, percussion)
Patrick Kigongo, 28 (guitar, bass, percussion)
Boss: Omaha, Nebraska
Rozzi: San Francisco
Kigongo: New City, New York
Local spot to seek inspiration or write music?
Quam: “I come up with most of my musical ideas while I’m in transit—walking, taking Metro, driving in my van, or riding my bike. Those are some of the only times that I’m alone with my thoughts. I’ll often find myself singing a drum part or a bassline or a melody in my head. I record the ideas on my phone and transcribe them when I get home. Some of the recordings of me singing drum parts are pretty amusing.”
Kigongo: “My house! I still spend a lot of time playing along to other people’s music. I enjoy dissecting other people’s approach to arrangement and instrumentation because it deepens the pool from which I gather ideas for guitar parts or basslines.”
Best local venue?
Quam: “There are a lot of great venues in Washington, but I love the 9:30 Club. I was 12 went I saw my first show there, Silverchair. I’ve probably been there 100 times since. When we played there for the first time last summer, it was literally a dream come true.”
Kigongo: “Black Cat when you want to meet the band. 9:30 Club when you want to be entertained. Velvet Lounge or DC9 when you want to brag that you ‘saw them with 20 other people.’ ”
Rozzi: “I really like Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. It’s so intimate.”
Club show or festival?
Kigongo: “As one of the co-organizers of the Done&Done Festival, I’m going to have to go with festival! Done&Done was a festival that I helped organize with Matty Taylor and Erin McAuliff this past April. It featured 12 bands from Washington and New York and was held over successive weekends at All Souls Church in DC and the Beer Garden in Astoria, New York.”
Favorite local band other than your own?
Boss: “I liked all the bands at Done&Done, and I enjoyed seeing Prom Concussion lately.”
Quam: “After much deliberation, I’m going to say that See-I is my favorite Washington band. Their deep reggae grooves always get me dancing!”
Best thing about Washington’s music scene?
Boss: “I feel people are very supportive and really get into the experience of a show. We meet new people at nearly every show. Not only that, but you’ll run into a lot of people who’re very knowledgeable about music and more than happy to share, and you can learn a lot. And there are some truly exceptional music people out there.”
Quam: “I think the best thing is how supportive everyone is. There are lot of people in this city who like to go to shows, and there are lots of great places to play. Pretty much without exception, all of the bands we play with are friendly and cool. We’re always sharing gear, carpooling to shows, and going to each others’ shows. I think everyone benefits from being cooperative instead of competitive. We’re trying to make music that we enjoy and hoping that other people enjoy it, too.”
Worst thing about Washington’s music scene?
Boss: “I see Washington as a kind of diamond in the rough. Yet, you’ll have people observe only the superficial. I was reading an interview with a longtime artist who lived in a city without much of a scene, and the interviewer asked why he chose to live there when he could be in an area thriving with artists. He answered by saying that people who move specifically for an art scene and believe some true answer for their hopes is going to be found isn’t how it often works out.”
Quam: “A lot of us are busy with other things. I feel like most people are here for a specific reason, and that reason usually isn’t music. People are working full-time jobs and going to school, and it isn’t cheap to live here. So time is limited. And it takes time to make good music and be a good band. We used to practice from 10 PM to 2 AM twice a week and then go to work the next morning. I was late for work way more times than I should’ve been. I’m lucky I didn’t lose damn my job.”
When introducing your music to someone for the first time, what song do you play?
Kigongo: “ ‘Fit Fixed.’ ”
About this famous Craigslist ad. Was it really that wacky?
Boss: “If you’ve ever looked at Craigslist for musicians, it’s a sad state of affairs and makes you doubt wanting to play music. Of the serious ads I put up, I typically got very odd people. I might as well have had a listing titled ‘Norwegian death metal musician seeking Norwegian death metal/hip hop hybrid to get laid.’ But the listing Patrick responded to—I was hoping to get a reply from a former bandmate. I listed some of his favorite bands along with some of the worst bands and an embarrassing description of me. I put up a description like: ‘Indie musician seeks serious indie musicians to become indie band.’ I then said I liked these musicians: Natalie Imbruglia, Beatles, Midlake (one of my former bandmate’s favorite bands that was terribly boring). The Kinks, Creed (yup), Limp Bizkit, Led Zeppelin (what you see as the primary influence for Craigslist musicians), Bette Midler, Green Day, Broken Social Scene (another of his favorites).’ I knew he scanned Craigslist daily and he used the word ‘indie’ a lot. And low and behold, I got a response from Patrick, who gave a very convincing list of bands and was not out to form a hybrid Led Zeppelin/Eagles cover band. I was a bit shocked at first. So I told him the ad was a joke and that we should try to meet up and work on some music. We met up with Anna that night.”
What goals do you have for the group in the next five years?
Quam: “We’re hoping to have our debut record out this summer. That’ll be exciting. Our success to this point has been primarily from our live performances. Now we’re really looking forward to reaching out to more people with our recorded music. We definitely want to continue writing better and better songs, and we’ve already got new material for our next record. We want to keep playing fun and awesome shows. We’re beginning to incorporate some interesting programmed lights and other theatrical stuff that should be really entertaining. It would be tremendously fun to travel to some farther cities and play shows. Going to California, where Anna is from, or the Midwest, where Brock is from, would be very cool. Anything international would be amazing.”
Rozzi: “There are so many things to come, and we have big plans. You’ll just have to wait and see… . ”