Rilo Kiley - Biography
In 2004, it seemed Rilo Kiley just came out of nowhere and took the indie world stage like a fish to water. As we all know, “overnight success” doesn't really occur and it certainly didn’t happen to Rilo Kiley, who spent six years recording and touring in order to achieve their success. Nonetheless, the Los Angeles quartet’s knack for spinning a hybrid of country, indie rock, and infectious pop ditties is second to none, so it’s no accident they are now known as one of the premiere indie rock acts in the world. Then there are the well noted side projects from guitarist Blake Sennet’s lo-fi The Elected, drummer Jason Boesel’s stint with Bright Eyes, and vocalist Jenny Lewis alt-country collaboration with the Watson Twins. They’re also one of the only non-Nebraska bands to release an album on indie tastemaker, Saddle Creek Records. Rilo Kiley simply has the right pedigree for success. Not bad for a couple of former child actors.
Depending on what mood he’s in, guitarist Blake Sennet has said the name “Rilo Kiley” either came to him in a dream or he got it from an obscure 19th century Scottish football player. Either way the name doesn’t really mean anything unless you’re referring to the Los Angeles quartet comprised Jenny Lewis, Sennet, Jason Boesel, and bassist Pierre de Reeder. The group officially began in 1998 after the romantic couple, Sennet (Boy Meets World) and Lewis (The Wizard, Troop Beverly Hills), put their acting careers aside to focus on music. Rilo Kiley began gigging around the Los Angeles area, soon landing a residency at the Silverlake hipster hot spot Spaceland. Although Lewis is now the primary vocalist for the band, in the beginning, both Lewis and Sennet shared the vocal duties equally. Rilo Kiley’s debut album, Take Offs and Landings (Barsuk) appeared in 2001 and showcased the band’s knack for genre hopping. While on a national supporting tour, the band was introduced to Cursive front man Tim Kasher who was integral in getting Rilo Kiley signed to the fledgling indie label Saddle Creek. Enticed by the offer of more creative freedom the band quickly hopped aboard the label’s roster. Although Lewis and Sennet had officially ended their romantic relationship, they carried on as a band and released their sophomore effort, The Execution of All Things (2002) the following year. A strong pop-based record, the album quickly drew good word of mouth and strong reviews. Rilo Kiley supported the album by touring with the likes of The Breeders and Pedro the Lion.
At this time both Lewis and Sennet began to focus on side projects with Sennet forming the alt-country folk act The Elected with guitarist Mike Bloom, while Lewis lent her pristine vocals to The Postal Service debut album Give Up (2003 Sub Pop). Rilo Kiley reconvened in late 2003 and traveled to Nebraska to record their next album with Saddle Creek in-house producer and Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis. Once completed, howeverm the band and Saddle Creek had a falling out and Rilo Kiley elected to release the album on their own imprint, Brute/Beaute Records. More Adventurous was released in 2004 and became the band’s most commercially successful album with the single “Portions for Foxes” receiving heavy radio play. The album also featured two songs, “Ripchord” and “It Just Is,” written in memory of their close friend Elliott Smith, who had passed away the year before. Rilo Kiley subsequently embarked on tours supporting Bright Eyes and Coldplay. The next three years saw the individual members once again focusing on their side projects with Sennet releasing a second Elected album and Lewis going solo with her alt-country driven album, Rabbit Fur Coat (2006). Recorded with a backup band that included The Watson Twins, the album was released on Bright Eyes front man Conor Obherst’s Team Love label, and was a huge critical and commercial success, eventually eclipsing the success of Rilo Kiley.
The quartet returned in 2007 with their fourth full-length album, Under the Blacklight, released on major label, Warner Brothers. Still keeping in step with their signature sound, the album was much darker in tone than previous Rilo Kiley releases. The sensual rock pop single, “The Moneymaker,” was another rock radio hit with a video that included real porn stars. The band embarked on another worldwide tour but has kept relatively quiet since with both Sennet and Lewis focusing yet again on their side project incarnations.