“Silver Lining” from the album Under the Blacklight
“Under the Blacklight” from the album Under the Blacklight
It’s Thursday afternoon, and superstar indie rock band Rilo Kiley is on a tour bus headed south after a big show in Toronto. Midway through the second leg of their North American tour, singer Jenny Lewis, singer/guitarist Blake Sennett, bassist Pierre de Reeder, and drummer Jason Boesel are looking forward to a well-deserved day off. What kind of crazy plans does the glamorous L.A.-based band have?
“We’ll be having a Lost party tonight. We’re pretty into that,” says Boesel, referring to the hit TV show. “We had nine shows in a row and kinda got burnt out at the end of that, but now we have a day off. So we’re sort of recuperating.”
Hopefully, the band will be well rested by the time it makes it to Charleston — and ready to give the sort of high-energy performance fans have come to expect. While Rilo Kiley’s audience can certainly bank on hearing classic folky/indie/quirky hits from previous albums like Takeoffs and Landings (Barsuk) and More Adventurous (Saddle Creek), they can also look forward to some fresh sounds from its decadent, sex-driven latest album, Under the Blacklight, released last August.
Written almost entirely by gorgeous redhead leading lady (and former child screen star) Jenny Lewis, Blacklight represents a bit of both departure and reunion for Rilo Kiley. Approaching their tenth year together, the bandmates recently went their separate ways for a bit to pursue solo projects. Lewis released the hugely-successful Rabbit Fur Coat with the Watson Twins. Sennett (also a former child actor) and Boesel released an album with their band The Elected, and Boesel toured with former Saddle Creek label-mate Bright Eyes. The relationship vacation of this open-marriage band was obviously beneficial — they rejoined with a collection of songs arguably “more adventurous” than the twangy melodies they’ve churned out in the past.
Drawing from a wide range of influences — from rollicking funk (“Moneymaker”) to vintage surf-pop (“Smoke Detector”) and pure disco (“Breakin’ Up”) — the songs explore the darker aspects of life in Los Angeles. “Close Call,” for instance, follows a young girl’s path to prostitution (“Funny thing about money for sex/You might get rich/But you die by it”). “Moneymaker” takes a look at the porn industry (actors in the music video were told that they were auditioning for a soft-core porno).
The new sound has lost the band some fans, while gaining many more.
“I think at first some of our older fans were kind of confused and some of them just didn’t like the record,” Boesel says. “But we also have a lot of new fans from this record, and they’re all at the shows … There’s a little bit of rotation. I think more new people have come than old have left, so that’s always a good thing.”
Boesel suggests that the change in tone might be a reaction to Lewis’ recent solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat.
“I can only speculate really, but I think coming off her solo album — one that was pretty introspective and had almost religious overtones to it — I think her reaction to that was an expiration of things,” Boesel says. “It had a lot to do with Los Angeles; there’s a dark side of L.A. that people don’t always think about. For example, young kids running around doing drugs and all that kind of stuff. I don’t know why she arrived at that. It was kinda the other side of the page from what she was singing about on her own.
“These days, for this record, Jenny had a lot of songs mostly done,” he adds. “Pretty much, she’d come in and we’d play them and kinda rearrange them here and there. In the past it was more collaborative.”
Considering the almost iconic status Lewis has achieved in the rock underground — and the fact that she composed most of the songs — some on the outside might see Blacklight as more of a Jenny Lewis album than a Rilo Kiley album. Within the group, however, it was simply another collective step ahead.
“In some ways [it’s like her personal record],” Boesel admits. “But making it was really a group thing, every day working together. I played on her two recent solo records, and there’s definitely a different feeling to it. Her solo record felt like a solo record. This record felt like a Rilo Kiley record, even though she did most of the writing.”
With the bandmates’ refreshingly drama-free relationship, their constantly evolving sound, and the recent support from Warner Bros., Blacklight is the band’s major-label debut, and it seems inevitable that Rilo Kiley are only going to keep getting bigger.
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