Vocal harmonies abound within the swirling folk 'n' roll music delivered by Toronto-based band, Wild Rivers. They’ve found some success in the digitasphere, amassing north of 35 million streams on Spotify – which has seen the band earn wider attention around the globe. Out in support of their latest EP, “Eighty-Eight,” Wild Rivers will make a stop at the Music Hall Loft on Saturday, Jan. 12 for a soldout show.
EDGE caught up with vocalist Devan Glover and vocalist and guitarist Khalid Yassein to discuss some of the history of the band, the importance of the interwebs, and what the future holds in store for this winding, rollicking band.
EDGE: Let’s talk about “Eighty-Eight.” What were your goals behind putting together this batch of tunes? Why an EP?
Glover: We had just come off a year of travelling to new places and playing new music. It was a milestone year for the band, and we wanted the EP to reflect everything we’d done that year both musically and personally. One theme of the project is the concept of time: not having enough; wanting to preserve a moment; and wanting to go back in time. This, along with the simple production and live feel tied the group of songs together. We decided to name the EP after a line in the first song of the album “If I could get the Chevy up to Eighty-Eight, I’d take it back in time." We wanted to capture the moment we were in and reflect on the year we had, and thought this fit.
EDGE: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it?
Glover: Each of us has been involved in music for our most of our lives whether it be through our friends and family. I think it’s also a way for us to express what we can’t with spoken words. There is no greater feeling than making music and surprising yourself by creating something that was not there a moment ago. We get to have that feeling all the time, whether it’s writing, recording, or even performing live. There’s a feeling of being totally present in a singular moment that you can’t get with anything else.
EDGE: Let’s trace some roots. How’d Wild Rivers come together? Why’d Wild Rivers come together? How’d you land on Wild Rivers as the name of the band?
Glover: A few of us met at the university we went to, and through mutual friends. When we graduated, we knew we wanted to give music a real shot as a career, so we got into the studio that summer and recorded our first album.
Honestly, the name Wild Rivers came about through countless hours of playing word association and eventually landing on a short list of potential band names. It got to a point where we couldn’t come to a decision, and one day we just looked at each other and said, “OK, wanna just roll with Wild Rivers?” We wish the story was more romantic! But I think at first it’s hard to find a name that “fits.” A band name takes on a life of its own when it’s informed by the artist and their music, but it takes some getting used to at first!
EDGE: How does the songwriting process work with the band? Is there a primary writer who sends around some demos for everyone to flesh out, or is it collaborative at the outset?
Yassein: It’s a bit of everything. I wrote a lot of the first record, starting with acoustic demos, and some of the others were co-written with Devan. Now, the whole band brings something to the table, so for "Eighty-Eight" we did a bit of everything. I remember for the single “Howling,” I came up with the melody and harmonies for the chorus just on an iPhone demo, and had sent it over to Devan. Devan worked on some lyrics and a concept, then the band all got together and finished writing it. We hadn’t really written a song like that before and I think it made the song different and better for it
EDGE: Vocal harmonies are abundantly present. They’re so fine. Swirling, moving, constantly pushing the songs every which way. What’s the importance of the human voice as an instrument? Who or what were some of the influences that inspired the way you use your voices to shape your songs?
Glover: I think we’d all have different answers for this, but I fell in love with harmonizing when I joined my school choir at a really young age; I was always fascinated by how you could create such different sounds and evoke different emotions with only voices. When I was younger, I would try and harmonize to every song I heard on the radio, trying out different notes and seeing what sounded good. I’ve always loved singing in a group, and am really drawn to music that incorporates lots of harmonies. Artists like The Band, Crosby Stills & Nash, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac incorporate it so well, and have been a great source of inspiration for us when we’re arranging our vocals.
EDGE: I love the descriptor in your press release that simply says, “folk and rollers.” It’s apt. What do you appreciate about marrying the folk and roots traditions with the rollicking sounds of rock music?
Glover: So much of our favorite music and greatest influences, such as Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Springsteen, The Lumineers, blend these genres among others. We like to marry the lyric-forward storytelling elements of folk with the energy (and attitude) of rock n roll.
EDGE: You guys seem to have some solid traction on Spotify showcasing tens of millions of streams. What are the benefits of this discovery tool? How does this kind of activity translate into “success” for a working band?
Glover: Spotify has been instrumental in giving our music international exposure. A lot of our initial exposure came when songs on our debut album were placed on some of the curated playlists, which really helped to kick start our career. Having access to the back-end data that they provide has allowed us to get to know our audience and route our tours to cities where we know people will come out to a show. It’s a wonderful tool for artists!
EDGE: You’re heading to New Hampshire for a gig at the Music Hall Loft on Jan. 12. What excites you about the show? What can folks expect?
Glover: We’ve never been to New Hampshire before, so it will be cool to visit a new state! We’ve got a new song coming out at the end of January, so the Music Hall Loft attendees can be some of the first people to hear it!
EDGE: Do you enjoy traveling around and taking your music from town to town? What’s the best part of “the job”? Worst part?
Glover: It’s always crazy to get to a new city where we know nobody, and see people singing along to our songs – that’s pretty special. Since music is primarily consumed online these days, touring is the most real way to connect with people through music. Feeling that authentic connection with our fans during a show is definitely one of the best parts. There isn’t really a “worst” part – touring can be tiring sometimes, but the reward of playing an awesome show makes it worth it 100 percent of the time.
EDGE: Have you ever done a tour traveling via river? OR, is there one coming down the pipeline?
Glover: Maybe we’ll start our own riverboat cruise music festival one day!