Hot off the heels of their third album release last month, this New York-based band recently took the stage at El Rey for their Beta Love tour with Cavucas and Pacific Air. Ra Ra Riot’s progressive (and very different) album has them on the road, but we caught up with bassist Mathieu Santos to find out a few of his favorite things in the City of Angels.
THE RADIO STATIONS
Every time I start to lose faith in radio, I find myself in a friend’s car, driving around Los Angeles, giddily scanning through all the stations, astonished at their quality and consistency. I mean, there are good radio stations everywhere, but for some reason I feel like Los Angeles has its own special thing going on. The funny thing is, I don’t even know what any of the stations are, but I guess that’s kind of the point—you just turn it on, and it’s hammer after hammer; a feast of incredible fringe ’90s jams, R&B burners, and pop classics. Maybe I’m imagining it, maybe I’m projecting a bit, but I just feel like L.A. has this incredible built-in FM soundtrack that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.
I suppose this is kind of related to the radio thing, but another aspect of L.A. that I love is the driving. Seriously! Obviously the freeway traffic is a joke of a joke, but I’m talking about the kind of late-night, windows-down, radio-up cruising that makes exploring L.A. so exciting. In most cities (particularly New York, where I now live), a big part of experiencing the city is scurrying around underground or packed into a taxi, sprinting and jerking around between red lights. But in L.A., there are these long, palm tree-lined roads, there are hills and valleys, there are amazing views of the city at night. Through both the radio and joy riding, I feel this real connection to the attitude and atmosphere of the city—something expansive and nostalgic, child-like and innocent, sun-kissed and down for whatever.
THE PALM TREES
I don’t care if they’re not natural; every time I get into L.A. and see those tall, skinny palms bursting above the skylines, I just feel good. They’re at once exotic and familiar, and are as much a part of the entire city’s identity as the herds of yellow cabs are to New York. I think when I first visited L.A. in my twenties, the trees were the link between all the associations and expectations I had in my head with the experience of actually being there.
Though the expansion of hockey into non-traditional southern markets remains a hot-button issue amongst die-hard fans, you can’t underscore how important a role Los Angeles has played in the Americanization of what I consider to be the greatest sport on Earth. When the Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988, Los Angeles turned into a strange hockey hotbed: the sport began mingling with pop culture at large, connecting an entire generation of American youth to a new sports hero and to the game as a whole. Even though Gretzky never brought Los Angeles a cup, he essentially brought hockey to the region, and that’s arguably just as great an accomplishment.
I feel like I’m picking a lot of obvious things here, but there you have it. I love eating in L.A., and even though the bars close ridiculously early, there’s always a host of pretty cool 24-hour joints around where you can score some good shitty coffee, some good crappy eggs, maybe some amazing matzo ball soup—but hopefully, if everything works out, a double-double, animal/protein style, with a strawberry milkshake. That’s a meal I can’t visit L.A. without eating.