Feature Interview: By The Rivers

by AdamTait
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on 05 June 2013 in Features

Up and down the country venues big and small are starting to see their bills filled by new reggae bands, some embrace a new wave of bass-influenced reggae music while others adopt a more traditional rootsy sound, but whatever the case bands are moving the genre forward in a great way.

Leicester-based By The Rivers take the sounds of first wave Jamaican reggae, but imbue it with the spirit of a myriad of influences, and in doing so have found wide-spread favour both here in the Uk and during their sojourns in Europe.

With the band having just released their self-titled debut album to wide spread critical acclaim we thought we’d better have a word with the band and see what they have to say for themselves, so we caught up wit drummer and vocalist Jordan Birtles for a quick chat.

Hello, Jordan! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. First off, you’re quite a new band so tell us a bit about your back story, how did you all get together? 
It’s coming up to about 3 years now I think. We started off in spring of 2010 and it was just me and Nile [Barrow], the lead singer, who got together and wrote a few tunes and yea, well we wanted to do a gig and get everyone together. The other guys who are in the band we’d both been playing with in other bands previously.

Me and Nile have known each other since birth, because both our parents have been friends for years, so we’ve always known each other. Nile went to college with Matt [Willars, bass], and I’ve known him since I was young anyway, and I was in a ska band with the brass section. Sam [Read, guitar, keys, vocals] used to be in a band called the Dandelions who were an amazing Leicester band so we knew him from that scene. Me and Nile were in a band together before By The Rivers and we’d gigged with Dandelions a couple of times.

There’s obviously a lot of roots reggae influences in your music, tell us a bit about where those influences come from.
It’s always been a part of what’s been playing in the house, my dad listens to everything so reggae was always popping in and out, and in both mine and Nile’s houses, and everyone in the band really, We’ve kind of grown up on that kind of style and it just felt natural to play that kind of music.

You’ve just released your self-titled debut, which is great. From seeing you on the scene it seems like it’s been quite a while coming, how does it feel to have it released?
Yea it feels great, it has been a while coming. We recorded it at the start of 2012 and we’ve been sitting on it for a year. We were actually supposed to release it at the end of last year, but things get pushed back and you know how it is. But it’s great to have it finally out and it’s to the standard that we wanted to to be. So it’s just a massive relief to have it out and it’s going down really well, we’ve had some really great feed back.

Tell us a bit about the sound on the album. Did you want it to be heard as a straight up roots reggae album or are you hoping people take some other things from it?
I mean, we’re influenced by a lot of different styles. Everyone in the band has their own things, some people are mostly into jazz or mostly into funk. So all of that influence has come in. I don’t know, we don’t want to make ourselves a purely roots reggae band because it would be silly, we’ve got so many influences. We wanted to kind of show a range of things, and that will just keep progressing - we’re writing more material now and some of that isn’t reggae, some of that’s much more afro-beat in the way ‘Run Home’ is.

For reggae fans it certainly seems like the scene’s a bit reinvigorated at the moment. Does it seem that way from your perspective as performers?
Definitely, you’re starting to hear reggae influences in the charts even - for instance Olly Murs, that has the obvious reggae chop in it, and Rihanna has some influences form that style. But as we’ve been travelling around a lot more we’ve come stumbled across so many reggae bands or ska bands, and there’s actually a lot of really good bands in the UK and I think it is starting to shine through a bit more. I think especially when The Specials reformed and how Madness are still gigging and releasing things, I think it’s definitely edging it’s way back. And people are enjoying it, you know, because it’s reggae - it’s very summery happy music kind of thing so people are loving it at festivals.

How’s the Leicester scene helped you? Have you found a lot of support from you hometown?
There’s always been a lot of reggae and ska musicians who have played with some really well known musicians. and there’s a few reggae bands in Leicester, there’s a band called the paradigms who are an amazing reggae band, and there’s a lot more coming through. I think you’ve just got to look for the scene really. In Leicester that’s plenty of venues, small venues, and there are some really, really great acts coming from Leicester. so it’s good and we’ve gone down well, especially at the album launch we were so surprised at how many people turned out to support us.

You mentioned Madness earlier, and you’re actually supporting them this summer. How does that feel?
It’s great because, the same as The Specials, we’ve been listening to Madness since we were so young so to be asked to support them is another great feeling, no doubt, and it’s going to be a pretty good gig by the looks of it. It’s a great feeling.

You’re playing Boomtown Fair this summer. Have you ever been before and do you know what you’ve let yourself in for?
We’ve never been. All I’ve heard are good things about the festival. I’ve always wanted to go, every year i look at the lineup and it’s amazing, but to be actually on the lineup for the festival this year is amazing. And I think we’re going to stay the weekend for that one as well.

Is there anyone you really want to make sure you catch at this year’s festival?
Yea, I want to see Richie spice, and Collie Buddz should be good. But also lots of the reggae bands from around the UK who haven’t quite hit it yet. The Resonators, and The Drop are really good, and The Skints are playing, so there’s a lot of bands we want to see at that festival.

You’ve got a lot of summer festivals lined up, are you going to do a full tour to support the album at any point?
Yea yea we’re in the process of setting that up and we’ve got quite a lot of dates booked already for sort of september october november time. We’re doing a UK tour and we’re setting up a European tour as well.

We’ve pretty much got a second album pretty much ready but we haven’t started recording yet and we’re not going to rush into that at all. We’ve only just released this album and we’ll be riding on that for the whole of this year at least. We’ll keep playing the new songs and will probably demo them but we’re in no rush.

What are you most looking forward to this year?
Just all the festivals. Last year it was amazing, just doing that again, we love playing festivals. We’ve got a a festival every weekend this summer so it’s going to be a fun summer.

Thanks for chatting to us, Jordan, looking forward to catching you this summer!

If you want to catch By The Rivers making their Boomtown Fair debut head over here: