Dry The River Gets No Rest While Bringing Their Music To North America
By Klaus Fredrik Nyman
April 23, 2012
One of the bands to cause considerable buzz at this year’s South By Southwest festival was British alternative/folk group Dry The River, whose debut full-length album Shallow Bed was released last week via RCA Records. Having gained a sizable following across the pond, helped immensely by inclusion on the BBC’s “Sound of 2012” list, as well as a few well-received EPs, the band has hit the American market hard this year, sharing the stage with Alabama Shakes and Bowerbirds.
Glide Magazine’s Klaus Nyman recently spoke with frontman Peter Liddle and bassist Scott Miller backstage before their gig at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, IL. While touching on the history of the band and its journey through to 2012, they also discuss how the band maintains momentum while on tour, the difference between audiences and fans in the States and the UK, Dry The River’s influences and a lot of other intriguing glimpses into what make this band such a compelling listen, both on record and on stage.
Each member from the group came from different backgrounds. Who came from the most extraordinary circumstances?
Scott: Not too sure. We are all just really ordinary (laughs).
Peter: I feel like we are all down to earth and pretty regular guys for the most part.
I read that Jon was homeless at one point.
Peter: Some early press agent decided it would be a good look to try and spin it to make it seem that way.
Scott: (laughs) He actually hates hearing that. It went out in an early press release. He wanted to clarify that he never actually lived on the streets or in a cardboard box or anything.
What happened was, he had just finished college and wasn’t working. He had an opportunity to tour with this punk band in the southwest UK. He chose to do so, and couldn’t afford to pay rent in any way. He ended up living on my sofa for a bit and couched-surfed for a while, but that was all. He had a home, but he’s very clear when that gets brought up, that he didn’t live on the streets (laughs). He was getting all of his tattoos at the time and heavily involved with the punk rock scene.
The band lived together for about 2 years in Stratford. Explain a little bit about the living situation. Was there any benefit or strain on the group because of this?
Peter: When we first signed a deal we had no money and we were touring all the time. It didn’t seem to make sense for all five of us to have our own places and all pay rent. Jon and Matt lived in this 2-bedroom house in Stratford and it had rehearsal space in the basement. On one side of the property there were no neighbors because the home was vacant. On the other side it was a halfway house for recovering drug addicts. It was a great neighborhood (laughs).
Either way people were very tolerant of use of us making quite a bit of noise, so we all ended up there. We just crashed on sofas or the floor or wherever. I slept in the dining room, but have recently moved out (laughs). This past December we had just come off tour and it made sense for a few of us to find our own places. Matt and I ended up moving out.
Scott: It was pretty cool though, because it was sort of a boot camp for touring. We used it as a time of learning about each other, like what pisses each other off. So it worked as a benefit to help prepare for touring.
So that helped out with preparation for this tour. You guys have over 200 shows in the books. How do you keep from burning out on tour?
Scott: Party every night (laughs)! Seriously though, it’s important to make sure and enjoy every minute to keep from burning out or get sick of the tour. We have it really good.
Would you share a little bit about your show preparation?
Peter: We try to sing together every day and right before we go on. Our harmonies play a large role in our sound and we need to make certain they are accurate so we are ready to go.
Scott: I like to have two beers before we go on. That gets me to just the right place. Then I pound a Red Bull about twenty minutes before we hit the stage.
Peter: Yeah, Scott sets an alarm on his phone before every show and he’s absolutely got to have his Red Bull (laughs).
Scott: Well, when I’m in the States I’ve been drinking Mountain Dew, because it does the same thing and it’s much more delicious (laughs).
On this leg of the tour what are some of the highlights that have stood out?
Peter: Well, we started the tour, in a 40-foot RV, after SXSW in Austin, TX. Then set out for the East Coast, loads of places. We ended up in Canada and drove down to Chicago today. We are looking forward to getting out to the West Coast for the last leg of the tour before heading back.
How does touring differ in the States from the UK?
Scott: It’s quite different. In terms of the mileage traveled each day, in the States it’s huge compared to the UK. However, we are doing it more comfortably this time in the RV. The food stop choices are much better as well. In the UK when you stop off the highway and try to get some lunch, there’s only some horrible little weird restaurant that has nothing you’ve ever heard of before. When we’re here you’ve got every restaurant you could ever think of, every food chain imaginable, and at every stop.
How would you compare the response to your new material here in the States, compared to back home?
Peter: It’s hard to gauge really. One of the differences I’ve noticed is that people are a lot more preoccupied in the UK whether or not you’re an authentic musician. They base this off of where you come from geographically. The Guardian, a newspaper in the UK, wrote something along the lines that they loved this record and it’s great, but if it was written by another band with more history they would be more convinced by it. Because they’re from London it’s not a very authentic record. Why should it matter, if they like the music? Especially now with the internet, rarely do you find musicians only influenced by the people around them. Even the Rolling Stones sounded like a southern rock band.
When UK fans are compared to the kids in the US, who are more culturally diverse, they’ve been much more accepting. They want to listen to the music and don’t give much thought to whether or not we’re an authentic British folk band.
Scott: The first band on the bill is typically the support band of the tour. In the UK, they don’t really listen to the support group. Either they aren’t there yet, or they’re at the bar waiting for the headliner. I found that in the States people are really open-minded, up for checking out the first band and discovering new music.
If you had to pick one song to describe the group as a whole, what song would that be?
Scott: Obviously I would think “No Rest.” That’s why we picked it as our first single. From start to finish it catalogs our sound and meaning we represent. It starts slow, then leads into a funky verse and finishes with an epic rock sound. It really does encapsulate the sound we hope.
What inspired the album artwork on the single, EP and Album?
Scott: We wanted to stay away from the typical lakes and forests cover art, and a friend of ours is an amazing artist. We were looking for something a bit more dark or scary, but also wanted to keep a lighter folk theme to it as well. We ended up going with an animal theme. We had a horse for the single, a few cows and birds for another release in the UK, and finally a shark on Shallow Bed because it’s sort of dark and our favorite animal.
What bands have influenced Dry The River?
Peter: Scandinavian bands for sure. There are rumors we all have very different musical opinions and we may, but we take our influences and put them in our own direction.
Scott: I think that all five of us would give you a list of completely different bands (laughs). I would say they vary from all over the US and the UK. I’m scared to name names, because I would hate to leave anyone out.
How does Dry The River differ from other alternative folk bands currently on the scene?
Scott: Our main difference is our background. We grew up surrounded by the hardcore metal and punk rock scene. We played in metal bands, post rock bands and alternative bands.
Peter: We came into folk later on. I was around 20 when I took the turn, and began pursuing more of a folk sound. Now our music is sort of halfway in between the two. There are moments of slightly heavier stuff tied in with the folk style as well.
Scott: Its kind of folk music played by a rock band I think. We’re a pitchfork band and the older influences get dragged out but keep more of a rock band style when joined with our newer direction.
People who play music are huge fans of music. What was the most memorable concert you’ve attended?
Scott: Embarrassingly, my first show that I went to was the Voodoo Glow Skulls. They played in London at The Garage, which was a great first show being big into the Ska-Pop scene. I’ve always liked Michael Jackson too. When I was much younger he was basically my idol that I grew up with. You know Dangerous and Thriller were some incredible albums.
Peter: Actually Leonard Cohen, still in his late 70’s. I saw him perform recently. If you can still hold it together and be a cultivating performer when you’re in your 70’s, that alone is amazing. He’s still incredible, and that’s something to aspire to be.
What’s one of the craziest things a fan has done for you during or after a show?
Scott: Ah ha (laughs)! Well, age appropriate, we had some guy that drew an amazing sketch of the group. Another time, this guy came running into the dressing room before a show and said some girl who couldn’t get into the show “ Wanted me to give you this. “ It was this hand drawn photo of me and it had this message written on the outside saying, “The show is sold out, but I really want to come and see you guys. I’m a huge fan. We met after a show once before.” I don’t know if she was feeding me a ‘line’, but it’s terrific being so appreciated.
Peter: This one gentleman had all of our album cover artwork made into these origami pieces with paper. That night we took them and set each one on our amps and microphones for the show.
What’s the primary message are you trying to communicate to fans?
Scott: That’s a tough one. Lyrically most of the songs seem to be about overcoming obstacles while staying positive.
Peter: Although it can sound slower and downhearted there are places it’s quite optimistic, really. We hope fans can listen to it and relate, giving it significance and meaning.
For more information about Dry The River, please visit their official website. The band is now on tour in the United Kingdom.