Raavi and the Houseplants is the kind of band that feels like reconnecting with an old friend you haven’t seen in years: exciting and familiar all at once. While their music is on the rise with 93,000 plays on their 2019 single "Nora", songwriter Raavi Sita, guitarist Josef Kiefer and Justin Termotto, drummer Madden Klass, and bassist James Duncan are all approachable and kind people you'd know in your own social group.
Raavi chimes in on this - “So many people who fill in for other people that can't make it. So it feels like they're also a part of this. And we all build-off of each other, everyone just brings something else to the table. And we always try to incorporate that. If we have our friend Gui, drumming for us and we really like it, we can tell Madden about this thing he did at the last show.”
I first met the band in 2017 for their tour, playing And I Miss You Already, during an opening set for the band Hero Magnus. In a crowded, unfamiliar DC venue, I felt seen. Whether it was the gender neutral lyrics that spoke to anyone in the crowd (Raavi identifies as queer), or their lack of airs, they were grateful to be there and so was the crowd.
There's an air of nostalgia in Raavi and the Houseplants’ album Don't Hit Me Up. “The oldest two songs were written when I was 16, long before I even knew this band would exist.... it’s kinda hard to sum up this album because it was basically written over four years,” said Raavi in Vanyaland. “When I was writing the songs for the first EP and also just some of the songs that ended up on, Don't Hit Me Up- like Just To Live, and Lipstick, that was all from the same era of my life.
That sort of indescribable feeling of youth and discovery, rooted in a steady emotional core, permeates the album. In the title track off Don’t Hit Me Up, Raavi’s earnest vocals are backed by well-fitting guitar riffs and solos from Josef alongside a consistent drum from Madden. There’s the feeling of an ex you just can’t shake, the in-between moments of affection, shy puppy love. While some tracks like Nora are more upbeat rock, some (like "Shoulder") are more languorous, like "lie[ing] in bed with your friend who you're ambiguously affectionate with".
“Sometimes I lie in my songs, maybe not lie, but I'll make us out like a little bit of a story up. Kind of like that, and just separate myself from the narrator. And sometimes it's just... I like to work around one idea that I have. And I'm just telling a story around that,” says Raavi.
What also draws me to them is their commitment to community and community justice both in their art practice and outside of it. Amidst social upheaval and a pandemic, the band has stood strong with the Black Lives Matter movement and consistently championed ethics and accountability in the DIY arts community. While it may seem like the bare minimum to them, it unfortunately often isn’t to many.
Don't Hit Me Up (album cover)
Here’s what Raavi has to say- “I guess I just feel like, to be a musician, you have to be a little narcissistic. You have to be a little self centered to have the confidence to get up there every night. And to feel like you're worth what, all the people who are watching you, you know what I mean? That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it breeds a lot of fake performative activism right now.”
“Because I do know there are a lot of people in this scene who are upper middle class, upper class, white kids living in parts of the city, like Allston and Brighton- areas that are very much being gentrified currently. And there's just this air of like, it's the type of white privilege where you don't need to think about it. You don't have to... they've never had to really worry about their place in this world. And what it means to be like a part of this scene in a city that is being so gentrified."
It is a touchy time for the D.I.Y. scene, but that doesn’t scare away Raavi or their bandmates. “It is so easy to be on social media and say, ‘I'm here and I'm ready to listen’ “, says Raavi.
I know I am not alone when I say that I am incredibly excited to see their success take off and music evolve over the future.
Sneak Peek: "Chorus Girl"