Rilo Kiley

Rilo Kiley is cool. Ask anyone.

Elvis Costello, for instance. The compilation CD he made for Starbucks is a “musical journey” of Costello’s life

18 artists that have influenced him, from Aretha Franklin to George Jones to Simon & Garfunkel.

“I’ve picked songs that illustrate how I’ve learned almost everything I know about music just from listening to records,” the liner notes read. “I’ve tried to tell the story behind every choice. I’ve also selected a few recent favorites with the suspicion that they will be songs that will stick around.”

And there it is, right alongside tunes by Dusty Springfield and The Band: Rilo Kiley’s “Does He Love You.”

Ask Coldplay. The second date of the current Rilo Kiley tour was in Las Vegas, opening for one of the biggest bands in the world. The two groups share a management company, but it was not until Coldplay saw Rilo Kiley that the latter was invited to tour with them on 21 dates this September.

Ask Harp magazine. With Wilco as runner-up, the mag chose Rilo Kiley as the best group of 2004.

If that’s not “cool” enough, there’s frontwoman Jenny Lewis. One writer described her as the person her fans wanted to either be like, or be with. She’s taken on a mantle of hipness, and it comes from a combination of her perfect ear for lyrics, her ability to play bass, guitar and keyboards, and her fashion sense.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that Rilo Kiley drew one of the biggest crowds at the Coachella music festival. Hey, it’s in the Los Angeles area, and L.A. crowds seem to be attracted to what’s “in.”

There’s no way to pinpoint exactly how things took off, but part of it has to do with Nic Harcourt and his influential radio show “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on Los Angeles’ KCRW-FM. After playing the song “Portions For Foxes” from Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous and its wickedly catchy chorus, that was all she wrote. Harcourt couldn’t keep it off the radio after that.

Then there’s the band’s associations with other hip artists, playing music with Conor Oberst, M Ward and The Postal Service, joining their friends individually or as a backup band. Due to a stint on Saddle Creek Records, based in Omaha, Neb., the West Coast band was sort of rebranded as a Midwest unit.

Rilo Kiley has been around a long time. Lewis and collaborator Blake Sennett have known each other for a decade. They share a background as child actors and used to date. More lasting, though, was Lewis’s amazing voice matched with Sennett’s guitar work, and their songwriting skills blended well.

Rilo Kiley

Believe it or not, the band was rarely approached by managers until the recording sessions for More Adventurous.

“I think we had a meeting with somebody maybe eight years ago and it was embarrassing at best,” Lewis told Pollstar. “My foot was fidgeting under the table, and I was like, ‘We’ll never have managers!’ It was terrible.”

Instead, Lewis handled the creative side, Sennett handled finance and bassist Pierre “Duke” de Reeder did the artwork.

But the time came when everything had to be handled by somebody else.

“We realized, being on the road so consistently, it was hard enough to pay our own electric bill, let alone balance the books for Rilo Kiley. I think part of our decision to turn it over was just the need to do so,” Lewis said. “And it’s been a positive thing. I think we’ve found two men that are incredibly easygoing and really, they kind of bring another perspective to things.”

That would be co-managers Darin Harmon and Dave Holmes of DC Music, who had been coming to the band’s shows for years.

“We knew these songs had the potential to expand their audience and it felt that it made sense to go for it on this record, Harmon told Pollstar. “They’re still quite involved in absolutely everything that comes out

anything on behalf of the band.”

More Adventurous wasn’t on Saddle Creek; for the latest record, Rilo Kiley formed its own label, Brute/Beaute, which gave Rilo total indie cred. The CD was eventually picked up by Warner Bros., but the Bunny stayed in the background for a long time. It was only in the past few weeks that WB announced Rilo Kiley as a signing.

It’s a tough decision for any indie band

not necessarily going to a major label, but compromise in general. Lewis was recently quoted as saying she admired Conor Oberst for his ideals, but Rilo Kiley and its internal democracy require a more pragmatic viewpoint.

“When you’re working ultimately for commerce there comes a point when you have to compromise,” Lewis said. “Luckily for Conor, he’s remained insular, so he’s been able to do what he does really well. I dunno. I just think that if you feel uncomfortable with something, you don’t necessarily have to do it. I think if you don’t agree with the way something operates, you don’t necessarily have to lend your music to it.”