Robotics, Uploading the Consciouness of the Dead: Ra Ra Riot's Beta Love Don't Play


Android love, humans vs. computers, artificial intelligence, uploading the subconscious: If Ra Ra Riot was reading up on these hyper-specific topics while writing the songs for their next record, and if these themes worked their way into the fabric of their lyrics, does that make the resulting effort a concept album? According to bassist Mathieu Santos, no: science fiction novels and Ray Kurzweil's theoretical writings have been on the band's reading list since they were touring behind 2010's The Orchard, and the subject matter comes up pretty frequently in practice these days.

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"Those ideas have been floating around in our collective mind," says Santos. While in the studio, Wes Miles, Ra Ra Riot's lead singer and lyricist, was fixated on the science fiction novels of William Gibson. Around the same time, Santos had been given a copy of Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, which proposes that advances will occur in nanotechnology, genetics and artificial intelligence to the point that the development of the human brain will be outpaced by the functionality of a computer.

"I kind of got obsessed technological singularity at the time," says Santos. "I was really into Kurzweil's ideas, and I was talking to the band about it whenever I had the chance. When it came time to start working on this album, those ideas had dominated a lot of our band discussion and thought over the past couple of years. It felt natural to incorporate some of those ideas into the music, so we just were like, 'Let's just go for it, let's write about these nerdy ideas that we've been obsessed with lately.'"

These "nerdy ideas" coalesce most clearly on Beta Love's title track, which explores a "hypothetical first love program that was written for androids," and "Binary Love," which Miles wrote from the fictionalized perspective of Kurzweil himself. After watching Transcendent Man together, the band was deeply moved by the documentary following Kurzweil's life and funneled their reaction to the film into their music.

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