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Rilo Kiley: A Small L.A. Band Makes It Big


Rilo Kiley--that sounded like a good name for a band, and Blake Sennet and Jenny Lewis needed a name when they started playing nine years ago. This week, they began touring as the opening act for what may be the hottest band in the country right now, Coldplay. But Rilo Kiley really came to life in places like the club Spaceland in the Silverlake section of Los Angeles.

Ms. JENNY LEWIS (Rilo Kiley): Here they spelled it correctly. We've played at other places where it's, you know, Rilo Keely, Relo Koley.

(Soundbite of song "Ripchord")

Mr. BLAKE SENNET (Rilo Kiley): (Singing) Pull the rip cord, the ship has lost its sail. Your mama's got a new man; your daddy always fails. And you're eating again at them 'cause nobody loves you.

Ms. LEWIS: I think it was our first dream, you know. `If only we could open up for Whiskey Biscuit at Spaceland, then everything would be perfect.'

Mr. SENNET: And the stage was over there on the opposite side of the room. And I remember walking in and it was packed. And I remember thinking, `Wow, you know, this is incredible. There's so many people here. This is amazing. Our first show we get to play in front of so many people.' And then after Whiskey Biscuit went off, there was like 10 people left.

Ms. LEWIS: We did a residency here for a month. We played every Monday, which was a free night. And that really gave us an opportunity to, A, get better as a band and tighter and just play consistently for people. And by the fourth Monday, it was packed in here. And, granted, a lot of the people were our friends and family members, but I think for us, you know, we really felt like we had made it.

CHADWICK: Actually, this would be making it for the second time in their young lives. Jenny and Blake are both in their late 20s and already both are has-beens, former child actors. But they wanted to grow up to make music and write songs. They left LA and went to Nebraska, which has a good independent music scene. They released a record on Saddle Creek, the hip label in Omaha. Critics noticed. And without the kinds of demands you get from major labels, Rilo Kiley developed its own eclectic style.

(Soundbite of song "I Never")

Ms. LEWIS: (Singing) I'm only a woman...

We allow ourselves to genre-hop a little bit, and I think we allow the songs to dictate where we're going with the arrangements. So I think it's really difficult to call us a--you know, an indie pop band or a country band or an alternative band. I think we kind of get into all of those areas. So it's difficult to, you know, peg us.

(Soundbite of song "I Never")

Ms. LEWIS: (Singing) But I had never, never, never, never, never ever, never, never, never ever, never, met you. So, baby, be good to me.

CHADWICK: Rilo Kiley's most successful album is "More Adventurous." It includes the band's two biggest singles. This one is called "Portions for Foxes."

Ms. LEWIS: This kind of slow progression and slow path and--has really suited us, you know. We've worked really hard and I think we've gotten a lot better at what we do. And I think we also haven't gotten to where we're going to be. We still have a long way to go and I think we see that in front of us and it inspires us to keep going.

(Soundbite of song "Portions For Foxes")

Ms. LEWIS: (Singing) And it's bad news. Baby, I'm bad news. I'm just bad news, bad news, bad news.

CHADWICK: Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennet are leaders of the band Rilo Kiley, on tour now, opening for Coldplay. That story was produced by DAY TO DAY's Rob Sacks.

(Soundbite of song "Portions For Foxes")

Ms. LEWIS: (Singing) I know I'm alone if I'm with or without you, but just being around you offers me another form of relief.

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Sachs
Rob Sachs is a director on the NPR news and talk show Tell Me More and hosts the podcast "What Would Rob Do?" (WWRD).