Alt-rock quartet make a splash on the indie scene -- Rilo Kiley are hoping their country-tinged pop sound crosses over to the mainstream

By Tom Sinclair
Updated September 03, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

The first thing you need to know about the L.A. quartet Rilo Kiley is that there?s no one named either Rilo or Kiley in the band. The second is that their just-released third CD, More Adventurous, is their best yet, a wholly successful and engrossing collection of country-tinged pop that?s as tuneful and evocative as any music currently being made.

Since their debut, 2001?s critically acclaimed ”Take Offs and Landings,” Rilo Kiley?s two songwriters, singer-guitarists Blake Sennett and Jenny Lewis (who say the band name was randomly chosen), have become something of a force in the emerging alt-rock mafia. Lewis is also a guest singer for electro-poppers the Postal Service (with Death Cab for Cutie?s Ben Gibbard), while Sennett has his own well-regarded side project, the Elected. But both balk at the notion that they?re part of any particular scene. ”I think the greater indie rock community is a scene unto itself,” says Sennett.

In truth, ”More Adventurous” often resembles high-quality mainstream pop more than indie rock. One song in particular, Lewis? ”I Never,” sounds like some magical, long-lost hit, one that could have come at any point in the past 50 years. Lewis says she wrote it with two of her favorite singers, Patsy Cline and Dusty Springfield, in mind; it?s a respectful pastiche. ”I was sort of afraid to bring it to the band at first, because it was so different,” she admits. Says Sennett of the freshly minted classic, ”When I heard it, it was very much like, wow, I can?t believe this is the first time this song?s ever been written.”

Both Lewis and Sennett believe it?s a good time for underground acts to cross over. ”I think that music really went in the shitter for a long time, where pop and boy bands dominated the charts,” says Sennett. ”And now to see Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand and the Walkmen flying off the shelves is incredible. It?s becoming normal for indie bands to sell hundreds of thousands of records, which is crazy to me.” Let?s hope that insanity rubs off on Rilo Kiley.