“The Blind Pig is actually one of my favorite places to play in the whole country. […] I feel like our shows there always are a little more energetic than usual.”
Ra Ra Riot bassist Mathieu Santos is just like you. Sure, he is a member of a hip indie band and gets to make a career out of traveling the world and sharing his music with fans who pay to hear him play it. But, if you put all that aside, we’ve got a lot in common.
If you ever had the privilege (or severe misfortune – it’s all in the eye of the beholder) of reading a gossip magazine, perhaps you’re familiar with segments like these: “Celebrities are Just Like You and Me.” If so, consider this the slightly cooler version of that and imagine Santos as just another one of your friends. In fact, his particular set of interests would fit in pretty well in Michigan.
When he’s not on stage or working on music, he’s likely doing something related to hockey. I watch a lot of hockey. I play a lot of fantasy hockey. I play a lot of street hockey,” he lists. “I do a lot of hockey-related activities.” And he’s not the only hockey fan in the group. Although his loyalty lies with the Boston Bruins (“They are my team because that’s where I grew up,” he says), singer Wes Miles, is also a hockey aficionado, although the New Jersey Devils are his team of choice (he grew up in New Jersey).
Another thing that Santos enjoys is a good beer – although he admits to Bud Light being his go-to “hanging out” beer, as he calls it. However, when he’s able, Santos likes to sample local microbrews. In fact, in the band’s rider, they request that a couple of cases of local beer be in the dressing room wherever they are playing.
“That’s one of my favorite parts about touring,” he says. “We sort of bounce around from time to time and sample all the local stuff. It was nice because we were just in California a couple of days ago. There are so many amazing breweries there.”
He’s also a fan of a bike ride and a spontaneous adventure or two while on the road. “We just had a couple days off, and we spent them in Marfa, TX, which is a really cool, funky, artsy town in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We were just there for a while and rode bikes around, explored and took a lot of photos,” he said.
And sometimes he just likes to pass the time at a book or record store. “I go there for an hour or something and sort of browse and have quiet time,” he says. “I like to read a lot.”
But then there are times when he does things like release a third full-length studio album called “Beta Love” with his band that gets reviewed by outlets like Spin and Filter. And then we realize that maybe we don’t have that much in common after all.
Met with mixed reviews, many critics remarked that “Beta Love” was a shift from the band’s previous work and that it showed a more electronic side of Ra Ra Riot.
“When we started making this album, we approached the whole thing a little bit differently. When we made the last record, I think we were over thinking things a lot and maybe feeling a little self-conscious and sort of treating everything like it was too precious or something,” he says. So this time around, I think we wanted to have more fun and get back to trusting our instincts more and not being afraid to be a little bolder,” Santos says.
“The electronic stuff – those kinds of elements have been floating around for a while, and we used them sparingly on previous albums, but it’s something that we’ve always all been interested in. I think we just felt a little more comfortable embracing those elements now.”
And now, with a new album in tow, Ra Ra Riot is about a month into their tour, and Santos says that the band is excited about what’s in store for the rest of the year.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for our record to come out. We’ve been on the road for the past month – all these shows have been great so far. We’ve been seeing the response from the fans,” he says. “We’re excited to keep playing a lot of shows – maybe go abroad, maybe go back to Asia at some point – just bring music to people and hopefully get some good radio support in there.”
But, in particular, Santos is excited to play at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor.
“The Blind Pig is actually one of my favorite places to play in the whole country,” he says. “It’s just one of those really tiny, grimy kind of places that always seems to have this great atmosphere. The stage is really tiny and low to the ground, and the crowds always get really enthusiastic. For some reason it sounds really good on stage – it’s really loud and kind of punky. I’ve just always loved playing there. I feel like our shows there always are a little more energetic than usual.”
Be sure to stop by the Blind Pig when Ra Ra Riot comes to town on Tuesday, March 5 – and maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot Santos at his favorite Ann Arbor hangout, Blimpy Burger, before the show.