In support of their recent EP release Wild Rivers is currently burning up the highways and byways of the states. Most recently, they were sweeping throughout the south, and Atlanta was fortunate they made a stop at Eddie’s Attic last Thursday evening. Having played the venue before, they seemed relaxed prior to the show as they were spotted happily chatting to excited ticket holders of the sold out show.
A few weeks ago, I shared their tune “Howling” before realizing they might make the long trek to Atlanta. I simply knew it was a winner. When I heard they were making Atlanta a part of their tour, they were kind enough to answer a few questions to help us get to know them a little better.
Wild Rivers is a Toronto based band with seamless guitar, steady percussion and stunning vocal harmonies, all fused together with earnest songwriting. The group began with Devan Glover and Khalid Yassein, and they were voted Toronto’s best new artist in 2015. Since then, they added Ben Labenski (drums), and Andrew Oliver (bass, guitar). Although at their performance in Atlanta, the drummer was someone else (did not catch his name) filling in for Ben. He was talented, but not sure if he was a permanent change or filling in.
1. How did you all meet? What is the story behind the name, Wild Rivers?
“A few of us met in college, and through mutual friends. A music career was something we’d all dreamed of pursuing, so after graduation we started to take it more seriously, and that summer we got into the studio to record our first album. We all got together to work out arrangements for the songs, and have been playing together ever since. It all kind of developed from there.”
“As for the name, honestly it came from hours and hours of playing word association in the car. On long drives, we’d spitball combinations of words that we liked, writing down the ones that sounded cool and resonated in some way. “Wild Rivers” was in the running, and one day we stumbled upon a poem by Gregory Orr that we related to, titled The River (see it here). Thematically, The River resonated with us because it’s about taking a plunge into the unknown. At the time, this was exactly what we were doing, diving into a new career path and experiencing the uncertainty that comes with graduating college and having to figure your life out. The poem mentioned ‘Wild Rivers’ a lot, so that’s how we settled on the name.”
2. When I listen to your music, I feel like it has the roots of folk/rock/country music I have grown up with all my life living in the American south, but you breathe a freshness to it which makes it unique. Who are your musical influences and how does that impact your sound?
“We all grew up listening to lots of classic singer/songwriter, folk and rock music – James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, The Beatles. We draw a lot of inspiration from artists in that era – particularly when it comes to songs with a heavy lyrical focus and lots of vocal harmony. We also look to a lot of current folk/rock artists for inspiration – The Lumineers, Bahamas, Half Moon Run to name a few – but individually, our musical tastes span across many genres. I think this works to our advantage, because it allows us to incorporate certain aspects of different genres into our own music, and hopefully create something unique. When you think about it, the best bands have never been bound to a certain genre. Fleetwood Mac has songs ranging from country to pop to folk to rock. John Mayer started as a singer/songwriter, went on to put out a country blues album, and is now sampling hip hop beats in his newer music. We try to operate under the mentality that the best song always wins, no matter if it necessarily “fits” within a certain genre.”
3. This isn’t your first big tour, what do you look forward to the most this time around? What have you learned about being on the road and staying fresh for each show?
“We’ve never been to the West Coast, so that’s going to be a huge highlight. We’ve had a lot of people asking for us to come out so it’ll be cool to finally play some shows out there! We’re planning on doing lots of hiking and exploring on days off. We’ve gotten a lot better at managing our sleep and exercising when we’re on tour. We’re also always looking for healthy food and it’s fun to find new little spots. We’ve been at it long enough now that we know what works and what’s not sustainable. It’s all about balance.”
4. What is your songwriting style or music making process? Does the music follow the lyrics or the other way around? Is it collaborative writing or do one or two of you develop a song and then bring it to the band to complete?
“We go about it a lot of ways. On our first record, I wrote a lot of the songs, almost always with music first and then building lyrics and ideas on that. Devan and I co-wrote a few on that album, which is cool because Devan is mostly lyrics first. On our new EP we co-wrote a lot with each other, as well as with a few songwriters out of Nashville which was a pretty awesome experience. You get a new feel when you step out of your comfort zone with new writing situations, it’s fun! “
5. When y’all are on the road, what other bands are you listening to?
“We love all kinds of music. A lot of old classics, today we were going through the Beatles discography start to finish. Right now we’re into a rapper called Noname out of Chicago who’s incredible. And in the Americana world we’re really into new records from Rayland Baxter and Ruston Kelly. We like to mix it up for long drives.”
They gave me a few new sounds and if you know me, you know I have already tapped into them on Spotify.
Wild Rivers at Eddie’s Attic
As we were waiting for Wild Rivers to begin, Eddie’s Attic filled up quickly with a buzz of excitement. It was a sold out show, with very little standing room. I enjoyed chatting it up with people who were there. Two pretty girls were standing behind me, and I couldn’t help overhear their strategy to try and find two empty seats. I made every effort to help them, but it wasn’t possible that night. When I explained about my blog and why I was there, they asked if the band members were friendly and nice. I explained that they were incredibly open and made an effort to answer my questions as well as chat with me before the show. Some bands don’t do that! The girls were big fans trekking miles and miles to see Wild Rivers on a Thursday night, and they actually breathed a sigh of relief to hear the band was genuine.
Certainly talent, creativity, and presence helps, but sometimes it is the extra effort to chat with fans that can make all the difference. Wild Rivers seemed polished and practiced, with no stumbles or fumbles that I could tell. They were hitting all the right notes and truly fantastic.
I really tried to capture Khalid’s dreamy sincere eyes, but I didn’t bring my obnoxious lenses. Others were swooning along side me…It is a forceful combo of crazy smooth talent + good looks. He has something to say and expresses moods and emotions in a way that connects.
Wild Rivers had quiet solo moments with an acoustic guitar, as well as powerful full band, hand-clap inspiring tunes. They mixed up their songs nicely and at moments, I wished I could stand up and sway to the ever changing tempos, but didn’t want to block the view of others.
Andrew’s guitar added a depth to the songs and gave them an edge, which without, would have left them lacking. The drum and guitar complete their sound and help them to expand the possibilities.
Some bands chat between songs and some bands don’t. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case Khalid did most of the talking and it worked well. You could hear a pin drop. He gave some background to his songwriting and the premise for the lyrics. I felt the purpose behind the music, which only made me appreciate it more.
Devan has an incredible voice which puts this band on another level. I kind of expected sweet chirping blue birds to land on her outstretched hands at times. Yep, the range and control was enviable and jaw dropping. She made it seem so effortless. And yes, a woman from the audience yelled out at the end of one song, “You’ve got some pipes girl!” after she belted out a deeper tone.
I captured a snippet of Wild Rivers performing their latest hit, “I Won’t Be Back”, from their recent EP release titled, Eighty Eight.
I was able to nab the set list after the show, and the guy sitting next to me was reminded, and jumped up to get another one for his wife (who is also from Toronto!). She is holding it as her friends gather around. They were my pick for super fans (pictured at the foot of my blog homepage) and all went home smiling!
Here is my set list up close. Note-there is a new tune on the list, “Moving Target”. Listening, I could hear the continued growth of this band and recognize the influences of the multiple genres they described in the questions above.
They have a host of shows from here till the first of December. Don’t miss them while they are still playing intimate venues. Check out if they are coming near you by clicking here. Wild Rivers Shows
As summer begins to loosen up its grip on us all, it was nice to begin fall with a show which proved to be really tremendous.