Spotlight On: Ra Ra Rasputin
Interviewed By: Stephanie Williams
Ra Ra Rasputin’s story is one that many bands in D.C. only wish to tell. From starting out performing in smaller establishments like the Wonderland Ballroom, to taking the grand stage of 9:30 club, the band has gained a steady following in The District. With being covered in nearly every major publication in Washington, their punchy synth-rock sound has not gone ignored in this city.
After debuting their most recent release, Forward (Nov ’11) and doing a slew of performances around the D.C. area, the group is currently taking a brief hiatus to head back to the studio. On the heels of their five year anniversary together as a group, D.C. Music Download had the opportunity to speak with the band (Brock Boss, Patrick Kigongo, Ken Quam, Joshua Shepard) about the D.C. music scene, memorable concert stories, and what they have up their sleeves for 2012.
More information about Ra Ra Rasputin can be found at their official website
Ra Ra Rasputin’s music can also be found at their Bandcamp site
D.C. Music Download: How did everyone in the band get connected with each other? Did you guys know each other prior to the band’s formation?
Ra Ra Rasputin: Brock (singer) and Anna (former singer/keyboardist) knew each other a bit socially, as Anna used to bartend at Wonderland Bar. Ken (drummer) and Brock had met once or twice at the same bat. Patrick (guitarist/bassist) met the three of them when he responded to a Craigslist ad that Brock posted in February 2007. Josh (current guitarist) came into the picture when Anna moved to Portland,Oregon. He was a friend of Ken’s from Boston and had recently moved to DC.
DMD: What are the origins of the name “Ra Ra Rasputin” and how difficult was it to come up with the final band name?
Ra Ra Rasputin: The name comes from the chorus of an old German disco song, “Rasputin” by Boney M. There were some other names that we were considering as well, so we decided to do a run-off style vote. Ultimately, the name Ra Ra Rasputin won. And in spite of the continuing existence of other groups with “Ra Ra” in their name, we’ve stuck with it.
DMD: What concert moment/performance you’ve had thus far stands out in your minds as being the most memorable and why?
Ra Ra Rasputin:Our first performance at the now defunct Gold Leaf Studios stands out in our mind. Up to that point, we’d played to, at most, fifty or sixty people. All of a sudden we were in the middle of a warehouse that was bursting with people. Even more interesting was the fact that so many people who’ve since made moves as musicians, artists and photographers were present that night. We’d like to think that it was the start of something, whatever that something is.
DMD: Right now, the group is taking a break to write new material, how will this new material compare and/or differ from past releases that the group has put out?
Ra Ra Rasputin: We haven’t drafted a specific plan for how the new material will sound, nor are we too worried about how it will sound. We wanted to take time off to write so that we could focus on writing new songs without worrying about how to arrange them for live performance. We will likely continue to develop the electronic elements that have been becoming more fundamental to our sound. But we will also continue to blend that with live guitars, percussion, keyboards and other instruments.
DMD: Where do you pull your inspiration from when writing new material?
Ra Ra Rasputin: In our experience, inspiration can come from a wide variety of places. It can come from something exciting – like a kiss from the most beautiful woman at the best party you’ve ever attended. Or from something mundane – like something you think of on your way to work. You might be inspired by something you hear in a part of someone else’s song. Sometimes inspiration comes only after hours of diligent and frustrating attempts. Other times it occurs when we’ve been able to clear our minds and relax. We think the most important thing is to use it when it hits you!
DMD: Going along with that, who are your musical influences and why?
Ra Ra Rasputin: We all listen to a tremendous variety of different music. Here’s a quick and haphazard list of some stuff we’ve been listening to recently: A.R. Kane, Studio, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The House of Love, Blur, Stephen Marley, Ornette Coleman, The Rolling Stones and Kraftwerk.
DMD: As a band, what stands out as being your greatest accomplishment thus far?
Ra Ra Rasputin:We’re all very proud of our first record, especially mastering it and putting it out on vinyl.
DMD:With all the success you’ve achieved as a band, what would you say are the key reasons that you can attribute to your success thus far?
Ra Ra Rasputin: We’ve always tried to work hard to create music – both recorded and live– that we enjoy, and also hope that others will enjoy too. We think we’ve been lucky in that aspect. We also try to make sure that people feel welcome at our shows and recognize that we’re all there to have a good time. And we’ve kept at it! We’re coming up on our fifth anniversary as a band. All that time, we’ve continued to work to write better songs, put on better live performances and become better musicians.
DMD: This question could also be interpreted as, if you were to give a band who’s just starting out words of wisdom, what would you say to them?
Ra Ra Rasputin: Practice, practice, practice – together and individually. So much of musical success is based on the amount of time and energy that you devote to it. Discuss your goals and be deliberate in your songwriting. What kind of music do you want to make and why? Be friendly and interested in what other people are doing. Go to lots of local shows! And remember that promoting your music is…for better or worse…a necessary part of the game.
DMD: How do you think the D.C. music scene has evolved since the band has been around? If there was one thing you could change about it, what would it be and why?
Ra Ra Rasputin: Compared to when we started in 2007, there are a lot more venues and a helluva lot more good bands. It’s much easier to book shows and make connections with likeminded folks. More people are going to shows, and a lot more bands have D.C. on their itinerary. If there was one thing we could change? We wish there was a bit more cross-disciplinary interaction between the art and music scenes in D.C. You see it a lot in New York and London, not so much in D.C.
DMD: Any additional projects that are on the horizon for the near future (In addition to your new songs)?
Ra Ra Rasputin: In addition to working on new tunes, we have a decent amount of video from the last few years. Performances, rehearsals, travel footage, etc. We’d love to do something with it all, but it’ll take some work.