Interview: Dry the River

Dry the River played their first show in Toronto on March 27th at The Garrison and I had a chance to sit down with frontman Peter Liddle and bassist Scott Miller beforehand. When we got together, their time in Canada hadn’t gone so smoothly. They were supposed to play a show in Montreal supporting Bowerbirds the night before, but Bowerbirds had van troubles, so they were scrambling to find another venue that would have them. Then, when on their way to the venue for interviews and soundcheck, they ended up on Dundas St. East instead of Dundas St. West. And on top of all that, the band wasn’t able to sell their merch in Canada. But, in the end, it seems as though everything ended up alright.

With little exposure in Canada thus far, they’re still growing a Canadian fanbase. When describing their sound, Peter says, “We all came from rock bands and punk bands and hardcore bands originally, so that is kind of where our heritage is, but now we play sort of folky Americana music. We’re like a rock band playing folk songs, I guess.”

With that folk sound, the band has received many comparisons to Mumford & Sons, a comparison that Scott says they’ve certainly heard before. It doesn’t seem to offend the band and Scott says, “It’s kind of cool, you know, with those guys blowing up right now. They’re the most successful band doing the kind of music that they’re doing, I think, at the moment.”

But at the same time, the band doesn’t find it to be an accurate comparison. Peter indicates that people call out their harmonies and violin as means of comparison, but says, “I don’t think Mumford & Songs have 3-part harmonies or a violin. I don’t understand where they’re coming from.”

Scott then adds, “The only person who gets annoyed by the comparison, actually, is our drummer, because Mumford & Sons don’t have a drummer. He just stomps the kick drum, so Johnny’s like, ‘I’m doing all this work on the drum kit and people aren’t even saying I’m in the band.’”

Peter continues his train of thought, emphasizing Dry the River’s much heavier influences. “We play kind of half and half. There are heavier moments in our songs and also some folky moments, where we come from a completely different place musically. It’s not the most accurate comparison, but it’s still complimentary.”

As for those heavier influences finding their way into the music, Peter indicates that it wasn’t always that way. In fact, when the band first got together, Peter was aiming for more of a singer-songwriter sound, but Scott describes those early moments as the band “trying to be something we’re not.”

Peter explains, “It didn’t really make sense, so then we allowed ourselves to kind of bring back in those kind of heavier influences and play a bit harder and for everyone to kind of rock out more live and just have fun with it. And it just suddenly became this thing. We’d done a couple EPs that were quite lo-fi and then we did this one EP with an early demo of “No Rest” that suddenly labels and stuff were saying it sounds really different and we kind of realized…”

“That’s the direction we wanted to go,” Scott says, finishing Peter’s thought. “It was kind of a more epic sound with our old rock influences creeping back out and we’re more happy with the way it sounded.”

Peter adds, “There are some nice and light moments on the record, some strange time signatures hidden in there, some odd bits and pieces tucked away that people will notice if they look for them.”

While the band started out with Peter really acting as the creative machine, Scott indicates that the Dry the River sound is created “by using 5 minds,” making their writing process very collaborative.

And Peter finds that part of how this collaboration works has something to do with their varied tastes in music. “Our influences are so different that it really broadens the sound.” He then talks about drummer Jon Warren’s love of 70s prog and guitarist Matt Taylor’s “encyclopaedia-like music knowledge,” as he listens to pop charts (Robyn, Beyonce, Usher), as well as old obscure country records. Peter credits Matt with helping him think outside of the box. Apparently, some of the melodies and hooks may be guided by Matt’s diverse music selection.

Their varied tastes have influenced the band’s overall sound, but Dry the River make an effort to distinguish their recorded sound from their live show.

Scott describes the record as more restrained, while Peter says of the live show, “I think we want it to be rough around the edges.”

“We came from punk bands, so we’re used to playing these kind of punk rock shows in small, grimy little venues, with sweat dripping off the ceiling. That kind of mentality is always going to be there, even in the different venues we get to play and the more sort of folky places,” Scott adds.

Peter then describes a show that stands out in his mind. “There was this At the Drive-In show and there were matches on the walls and Cedric jumped to get one of these matches and bounced and wiped out Omar’s amp and they were lying on the stage.” He then says, “It doesn’t really matter if you’re playing your songs accurately if you’re giving it your all. If people wanted to hear perfect renditions of the songs, they can just listen to the album.”

After getting signed to a record label and touring quite a bit, the band has also had the privilege to play at many festivals. In fact, the band started their North American tour at SXSW. It was their second trip to the Austin, TX festival and the band simply raves about the experience.

Scott says, “I absolutely love it. Coming from the UK at this time of the year, it’s really cold, and we go to Austin where it’s cooking hot and we’re walking around in sunshine with amazing food and the whole city just goes completely crazy, with bands everywhere and in the streets. I’ve always loved South by.”

Peter describes the festival as a having a “really boisterous, carnival-like atmosphere.”

But Scott doesn’t forget to mention Glastonbury as a milestone in their career, which wasn’t necessarily as enjoyable but more an accomplishment. A festival that seems to stand out in his mind is Belgium’s Pukkelpop. Unfortunately, tragedy struck with a storm and the stage that collapsed was the very stage they were set to play on. Scott is hopeful for another chance to play the festival again, though.

For now, the band is looking at more and more touring. The band is finishing up their tour with Bowerbirds this week and then they head back to the UK to do a headline tour and some other European shows before coming back to North America. And then the band hopes to come back to Canada again, but that may not be until the fall.

But what is the band most looking forward to? Apparently, it’s writing and recording a new album.

Peter says, “Just as a band, we’ve grown so much through touring and as songwriters and stuff. I even listen to some of the songs on the record now and think if I were to write that now, it would be really different. I think in a completely different way to how I did when I was writing songs 3 or 4 years ago. I think now I’m really excited to be getting on with the next record. It seems like a funny thing to talk about whenever people ask us about the current record. The first thing I want to talk about is the next record.”

After an insightful chat and often hilarious chat, I manage to get a drinking story out of the guys.

Peter tells the story. “We toured in Germany with Foster the People and we were in Berlin and in the venue, they had given us a really ridiculous rider with loads of alcohol and loads of food. And they had this like box of Jager shots…”

“Mini Jager bottles,” Scott corrects.

“60 mini bottles of Jager,” Peter continues. “And they gave it to us, Foster the People, and said, ‘You guys can have this,’ so we spent our entire night working through like 60 mini bottles of Jager.”

Scott continues, “We found some cups ‘cause they’d shut the bar down at this point and we had our own private party going on downstairs. There were no tables and we laid out these glasses all on the floor, put about 30 of them out, and poured out Red Bull across every one and made jagerbombs.”

Peter then says, “It ended with us in a club somewhere in a circle doing a hip hop dance battle with like 30 people.”

“We basically sound like a quiet folk band, but we party like Mötley Crüe,” Peter jokes.

Scott laughs, “That’s the aim, anyway.”

Based on their jagerbomb story, it shouldn’t be a surprise that jagerbombs are the band’s shot of choice.

You can pick up Shallow Bed on April 17th and catch the band when they’re back in North America later this year. Don’t miss them because they’re just as funny and candid on stage as they are off stage.


Categories: Interviews


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