Combining indie rock with chamber pop flourishes (courtesy of a small string section), Ra Ra Riot formed while the band's six members were attending college in Syracuse, New York. Milo Bonacci (guitar), Alexandra Lawn (cello), Wesley Miles (keyboard/vocals), John Pike (drums), Mathieu Santos (bass), and Rebecca Zeller (violin) first came together in January 2006, creating an eclectic sound that allowed them to play alongside the Horrors, Bow Wow Wow, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin within a year of the band's formation. After pulling up stakes and relocating to New York City, the band recorded a self-titled EP and prepared to release it during the summer of 2007. That June, however, Pike died after disappearing one night from a party in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. His body was later found in nearby Buzzard's Bay. Several weeks later, the mourning bandmates issued a statement confirming their continuation as a band.
Ra Ra Riot joined the roster at V2 Records later that year before switching their American operations to Barsuk Records, who signed them in May 2008 and released their debut album, The Rhumb Line, in August. Reviews were positive, and Ra Ra Riot spent the better part of a year on the road, where they toured with bands like Death Cab for Cutie and headlined their own performances as well.
The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot's second album, which appeared in August 2010.
Lawn announced she had left the band. The band did not replace her and in 2013 delivered their third studio album, Beta Love. Influenced by sci-fi author William Gibson, as well as the work of writer/inventor Ray Kurzweil, the album found the band moving in a more synth pop-oriented direction.
Ra Ra Riot returned with their fourth album, Need Your Light, featuring production from former Vampire Weekend guitarist Rostam Batmanglij. Included on the album were the singles "Water" and "Absolutely." In the spring of the following year, Ra Ra Riot celebrated their tenth anniversary by re-releasing their debut EP for Record Store Day.