Rilo Kiley has a somewhat unusual sense of timing. The Los Angeles-based group made significant headway with its third album, 2004’s “More Adventurous.”
Released on its own label, it was picked up for distribution by the international giant Warner Bros. The quartet toured with Coldplay and Bright Eyes. Its songs popped into taste-making TV shows such as “The O.C.” and “Dawson’s Creek,” along with a variety of movies.
Conventional wisdom dictated a quick follow-up, but instead the members of Rilo Kiley took time away for their own projects, reuniting earlier this year for last month’s “Under the Blacklight.”
“It really didn’t feel like three years” between albums, notes guitarist Blake Sennett, 30, a child actor with credits in “Boy Meets World” and “Salute Your Shorts” before Rilo Kiley formed in late ’90s. “But we didn’t see each other for mostly a year, and when we finally did get back together, we had to write and work on songs before we could go in and make a record. Takes a bit, and then making the record took the longest we’ve ever taken.
“I guess the short answer is one thing leads to another ...”
The absence certainly made fans’ hearts grow fonder. “Under the Blacklight” debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 chart — 139 spots higher than “More Adventurous” peaked. And radio is embracing the singles “The Moneymaker” and “Silver Lining.”
Nevertheless, Sennett says things were “a little touch and go at first” after Rilo Kiley got back together again. The group dynamic had certainly changed thanks to singer-guitarist Jenny Lewis’ success with her solo album, “Rabbit Fur Coat,” which was far more visible than Sennett’s side turn with his band The elected.
Consequently, the onetime songwriting tandem of Lewis, who was also a child actor, and Sennett was altered; Lewis wrote or co-wrote all but one of “... Blacklight’s” 11 songs and clearly became a first among equals.
“The dynamic did kind of change a little bit,” Sennett confirms. “Jenny was coming off of her record, and she had a great time doing that, the first time ever experiencing autonomy that way. And she had a bunch of material; because we had not had proximity with each other, we weren’t able to write together so much.”
But Sennett says that a lot of Lewis’ material “were just beginnings of songs that we fleshed out more in the jam space.”
More importantly, he explains, the outside projects “raised the bar” for all four members of the band.
“I think all of us felt we had a) enjoy what we were doing and b) make a record we were proud of, ’cause we had just done things that we enjoyed and were proud of — without each other,” Sennett notes. “So we had better be able to do that with each other, or you would sort of have to question why you were doing it.”
But working with producers Jason Lader and Mike Elizondo — and guest such as Jackson Browne and members of Maroon5 and Phantom Planet — Rilo Kiley rose to the challenge in the guitarist’s estimation.
“I think Rilo Kiley is a band that operates best under duress,” Sennett says. “Every record’s been like that, and this was no different. I think that’s our lot; if we’re not making a record in 30-below, freezing temperatures with no friend around for two months, then we’re making a record after not having seen each other for a year.
“I think it helps us, in some warped way.”
Sennett isn’t ready to say what the future holds for Rilo Kiley, however — especially whether another long break and more outside projects await on the other side of “... Blacklight’s” cycle. For now, he contends, the group is just happy being together again.
“I think we found a nice, comfortable place with each other,” Sennett says.” It’s been alright. It’s been nice to see my old friends again. Right now, we just want to play these shows and after that ... I don’t know, man.”
Rilo Kiley and Johnathan Rice perform at 8 p.m. Monday (Sept. 17) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Tickets are $21.50 advance, $24 day of show. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com. The group will also play a short River Session acoustic set at 5 p.m. Monday at Goodnight Gracie’s, 222/224 S. Sherman Drive, Royal Oak. Admission is free. Call (248) 584-7400 or visit www.939theriverradio.com.
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