Next week sees Ra Ra Riots second album "The Orchard" finally released here in the UK, 9 months after being released in America. Plus, next week also sees a 3 date UK tour, their first shows in the UK for 2 years. So what better time to have a chat with bassist Mat Santos to find out what has been happening over those 2 years, including new drummers, post earthquake and Tsunami visit to Japan, Bin Laden and a possible new lead singer?

R13: What on earth have you guys been up to for the last two years?
MS:(Laughs) Well not going to England unfortunately. We've been touring tons in the US and released our second album. Yeah, just been working on the album and touring a lot Stateside and itching to get back abroad basically.

R13: It's taken nearly a year for "The Orchard" to be released here in the UK following its release in the US, how frustrating was it not getting a label here to pick it up?
MS:It was really frustrating for sure. Our first trip to England came about a year after we formed back in 2007, we went there a bunch for a couple of years including festivals, we did about three or four tours there and we thought we had gained a lot of momentum and had a lot of friends and fans. Then things happened with V2 being bought and the fall out from that and it took us a while get everything back together. But yeah, it was tough because we had a lot of fun playing there and we thought we had a bit of momentum and so to sit on that for a couple of years was difficult. Really time to get back, been way too long, for sure.
R13: We here were scratching our heads as to why it took so long, we first saw you at SXSW in 2007 and saw you grow (in London) from shows at Madame Jojo's to Kings College.
MS:I remember both of those shows well, Kings College was the last time we were in London (laughs with an edge of sadness).

R13: "The Orchard" is overall a bit gentler than "The Rhumb Line", was this a planned move or just naturally the way it happened?
MS:That's relatively accurate, when we recorded "The Rhumb Line" we had cut our teeth as a house party band when we were back at college, which is where we met, formed and played for the first half year of our existence. So I think a lot of the songs we wrote were sort of geared towards that environment, kind of like tightly packed rowdy shows and I think "The Rhumb Line" reflects that. This time around we had been touring so much and doing so much together, changing in a lot of ways. The next album was basically written entirely on a peach farm, which the album was eventually named after, "The Orchard". It was a very quiet, peaceful, serene setting and we were secluded up there for about a month and a half and I think that definitely came across in the music. Yeah, I think we were influenced by the farm and we wanted to explore some different tones and textures. It wasn't necessarily intentional but I think it definitely came out a bit more gentle, like you said.

R13: Are there any messages within the album that you are trying to send?
MS:Well, we felt that, I guess some of the scenes made themselves apparent to us after the fact we had figured out the sequencing of the album, the title of the album and stuff. I think we were talking about naming this album where as "The Rhumb Line" sort of more nautically influenced and some kind of journey, where as "The Orchard" was more landlocked, more of a feeling that way. It wasn't really intentional either but sort of just happened naturally. A lot of the songs have references to specific places and environments that are about being landlocked or in this sort of limbo.

R13: The album comes out over here a day before you start a whirlwind UK tour, what can we expect from the shows as it has been a while since we have seen you here?
MS:Well, we have been playing a lot of the new material, very new for the UK fans, we've been playing the new material for about half a year now. In the show we have about half and half of old and new material, half "Rhumb Line" half "Orchard" more laid back with the new songs, they have definitely developed live. We still like to play with a lot of energy live and we are particularly excited to be playing these songs to people who haven't heard them live before, it will be a lot of fun for us.

R13: We see that Alex takes the lead vocals on 'You and I Know' how did that come to happen or did (lead singer) Wes just fancy having a rest?
MS:That was a song that she wrote and brought to the band and she had never been a principle songwriter before, yeah so she brought the song to the band and we started to thrash it about and we never really discussed it, she just started singing it from the beginning and given the nature of the song, the feel of the song and the subject matter just seemed no sense for Wes to take over the vocals it sort of just developed like that, Wes did keyboards. We are excited to have a completely different voice on the album, just to shake it up a bit. I think it has gone well and is something we will explore on future albums, not just with Ali but with other people in the band as well.
R13: Will it be played live on the tour?
MS:We have been playing it live since basically the album came out, pretty much at every show. It has been getting a great reception, it really comes alive.

R13: How is it without Gabriel (drummer who left the band earlier in the year) with you these days?
MS:I miss Gabe a lot, really loved playing with him and is a great friend of mine, so sad to see him go but he had been our longest drummer, he'd been with us since "The Rhumb Line" came out, so about two and a half years. Sad to see him go but we got a new drummer, his name is Kenny Bernard and he has been absolutely fantastic for the band in his personality and playing style. You know it is sad to see a friend go but it's exciting to add a new voice and personality to the mix. So far it's been really great playing with Kenny at the shows. It's funny, we have had so many drummers over our relative short career, the drummer is such an important part of the band, two people playing the same exact drum part can feel completely different and covering the song in completely different ways. Always fun to take new life into the set. Yeah Kenny is a fantastic drummer, he is really fun to play with.

R13: We hear you popped over to play in Japan recently?
MS:Yes, we just got back last week, we played a couple of weekends ago.
R13: How was it over there? You got to experience first hand how the people are following the recent terrible tragedy?
MS:It was really important and special for us to be with them over there after, we had the shows scheduled for a long time and with everything that happened in March, it was horrible news, we have a lot of friends over there and we were nervous about the state of the show, we really wanted to go over there any way we could so we ultimately decided not to cancel the trip and we flew into Tokyo. It was pretty eerie, you know the flights from New York to Tokyo are usually completely full but the flights to and from this time were mostly empty, it was pretty strange. We got there and everything seemed totally fine, we were in Tokyo the whole time which was relatively unaffected I guess by everything that happened. You could tell that the Japanese people were very gracious to begin with but were more really happy that we were there to play and show support, which was very important to us. They told us that we were the first American band to play in Japan after the earthquake, which was really exciting for us to hear. A lot of the fans afterwards told us that they were really happy and it was really great for them. It was a particular special show in Tokyo, it had a lot of good vibes and we were happy to be there. Actually the night we got there, there was a pretty big after shock in Tokyo which we felt was a nice welcoming. It was a little scary but then drifted to nothing to be scared of, just sort of happened and nothing came of it. Yeah, it was a ton of fun and we are going back in July, something to really look forward to.
R13: Well done, it is good for doing that and very impressive.
MS:Why thank you. We are happy we were able to do it.

R13: And on the other end of the spectrum, we have the news released recently about Bin Laden
MS:Well yeah, it took everyone by surprise, there hadn't been any news for a long time. When it happened we were all surprised and I guess pleasantly so. You never really know what to say, of course it is a good thing.

R13: Final question, will we have to wait two more years to see you over here again?
MS: (Laughs) I hope not. Yeah, hopefully it won't be another two years. We are really looking forward to these three shows in England and hopefully if they go well and we will be over for more shows in the future. We love playing in England and definitely been too long.

R13: Mat, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you over here.
MS:My pleasure. Can't wait, we are looking forward to it. See you all there.

"The Orchard" is released on Monday 16th May, one day before their 3 date tour of the UK at the following venues, tickets available from the usual outlets:

17, Garage, London
18, Ruby Lounge, Manchester
19, Audio, Brighton