Time to head out of LA and back to the musical mecca to the North, Vancouver. This band is the epitome of kickass folk music. They are fun and light hearted, yet deep and insightful, plus you can’t go wrong with superb bass lines, and expert banjo playing. Badass Band 59 is The River and the Road.
The River and the Road brought themselves to my attention a while back via another band from Vancouver that I featured, Redgy Blackout. Both of these bands have been a part of The Peak Performance Project, which is an amazing program that helps foster and develop independent bands. As per usual, I took a listen to their self-titled album. The first song I pressed play for was ‘Too Much’. With its slow building introduction and rhythms, perfectly placed banjo picking and the hook, ‘I wanna die from too much of a good thing, if its love then hell I’m gonna sing.’ How can you not relate to it? Next, I went on to check out ‘The Patron’ this tune is a little more on the fun, quirky side with a faster paced, slightly heavier hitting rhythm section sound. It boasts lyrics like, “ I used to be a big shot back home, now I’m a little man, a little unknown. In the city you’ve got to take a hit or your head will never fit through the door.” The lighter melodies and lyrics still portray a serious message, which is what I like most about it. My final mention is a slower, beautiful tune titled, ‘Blueprint’. This is the kind of song you listen to (if you’re me anyway) when you want to be alone, maybe on a late night drive. It’s stunning. The clarity of the guitar and banjo, combined with the smooth, steady vocals spouting lyrics like, “10 months ago I told you I would come home, but I’m on the road, and you don’t deserve to be alone…” And “I thought you were stunning, you thought I was strange, is that the blueprint for love?” This song will tap right into the deepest part of your heart.
|The River and The Road is comprised of Andrew Phelan – Vocals and Guitar, Keenan Lawlor – Vocals, Banjo and Guitar, John Hayes – Bass Guitar and Cole George – Drums. These guys flow perfectly together, their music is smooth and pleasing to any ear.
Andrew and Keenan took some time to answer some questions for BBB, so take a read and get to know more about this kickass band! Find out why they think playing music is the best way to tell the truth, the interesting story behind the name, and why they want to give people not just a show, but an experience.
When and why did each of you start playing?
Andrew – I started playing drums when I was a little kid, and was teaching for a while after school. I only really started playing Guitar more while I was traveling around North America. I think I felt that writing a playing was a perfect way for me to get all of my ideas out of my own head. That, and drums are a lot harder to travel with when you are just moving around with a backpack.
I think both of us started playing because we could see that it was a great way to tell the truth, and get all of those things that we wanted to say off our chests. We don’t like to dance around subjects too much when we write or play, and I think people appreciate that.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
Keenan listened to a lot of folk music from his parent’s side. The Band, CSNY, Bob Dylan were the style he was introduced to from an early age. He definitely still errs to that area of music, a lot of singer songwriters and balladeers who write very honestly (Ray Lamontagne, Ryan Adams, Iron and Wine, Lisa Hannigan).
Andrew was raised with a slightly different angle of music in his young life. There was a lot more rock, funk and soul music (Queen, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and The Neville Brothers). That eclectic taste has carried through. Andrew tends to listen to almost anything that comes up. Playing in Hip Hop, Metal and Jazz/Funk bands in Australia, and now more Blues and Folk styles in Vancouver, it tends to vary from day to day. Main influences at the moment would be Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Shakey Graves.
Which musicians do you admire? Why?
Again, musicians like Ryan Adams and Gillian Welch who can write a song that sends a direct message is something that Andrew and Keenan both admire. Storytellers seem to be a dying breed in popular culture, and knowing that there are still musicians making very truthful music gives us optimism and hope that we can continue to work as musicians ourselves.
What is the significance of The River and The Road?
The short story behind the name is really that each work reflects Keenan and Andrew’s songwriting styles. While Andrew’s songs tend to have a bit more fluidity and a smoother feel instrumentally to them, Keenan tens to write with more of a traditional, raw direction. So if you had it described that way, Andrew could be the River and Keenan could be the Road, but we like to think we can mix it around a bit more than that.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
Now that we are playing with John Hayes on Bass Guitar and Cole George on Drums, we have definitely expanded our live show to more of the rock spectrum. We want our show to reflect our music, so we put a lot into performing our songs live for an audience. That being said, we still prefer the traditional approach of a rock show, and don’t like to rely on lights and lasers for impact. We like to get plenty rowdy, and have the crowd be as much a part of the performance as us. When you are out at a show, we feel you want to have been involved, rather than sitting on the sidelines. We want to give people an experience.
How does your creative process typically work?
Keenan and Andrew write the songs completely down the middle, 50/50. On the debut Album, there were 6 of Andrew’s and 6 of Keenan’s to create the full album. Recently, the two have begun to collaborate more on each other’s songwriting process, though it is still fundamentally the same idea where one will bring a song to the table and the other will help on finalizing the arrangements.
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
The band was in The Peak Performance Project top 20 this year. For a very young band (not even a year old with the newest band arrangements) this extra exposure was fantastic. Being able to have a large Western Canada radio station promoting the bands music, and being able to play with The Peak name behind them for last 6 months was a brilliant opportunity.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Making solid contacts in the music industry is always a hard process, and creating connections right across Canada is even harder. As a band that intends to tour quite extensively throughout next year, making sure that we are planning far enough ahead to make these plans fall into place can be a massive challenge. That and preparing to record the next album are both monumental tasks that we are currently working on.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
We have an Australian tour that we will be announcing properly over the next month, and will be down there from December, through to March. We are currently writing for the next album, and aim to be in the studio early next year when we are back from Australia. Along with that, we are planning plenty of cross Canada touring throughout next near.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
People should listen to what we play if they enjoy honest music. If you want to hear about fast cars and strippers, this might not be your show. But if you want to hear about a man overdosing on cocaine and getting hit by a train, along with the perils of plenty other vices, we might be able to work something out for you.
We are not Rockstars, though when we play, we play with as much passion as we can possibly muster. When you come to a show, it is folk music written by two people from very different places and played by four people who love what they do! We don’t mess around when we play a show.
Maybe that could be the slogan, “We are not rockstars, but you’ll have fun getting drunk at our show”.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Being able to contact people in the industry can be a tricky process. I feel like being able to speak face to face with industry professionals is an opportunity that can be few and far between. And just being given the opportunity to play shows. That first chance can be a nail pulling experience.
One song you never get tired of.
Business Lunch – Shakey Graves
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
Tough call. I would have to say Sigur Ros at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney around 2006.
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
Traveling. I love leaving a place for a while.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
There is a book series called the Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guins. The main character is a man called Sparrowhawk. I’ll leave that for you to discover.
What kind of jobs did you have before (or currently) you were in the music industry?
Honestly too many to mention, I was a subcontractor for a few years and had a few jobs a week on average, everything from construction to a chicken factory. I was a drum teacher for a while, worked as a bartender for a little while. When I was first in Vancouver, I was working in a butchers shop.
Keenan worked at three different music stores before we met, he had quit working at the last store in North Vancouver around to months before we met.
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, what is one band you would feature? (Exempting yourselves of course.)
I would check out Dogwood and Dahlia. Good Vancouver friends of ours, and we used to play basement shows with them to pay rent.
FIND THE RIVER AND THE ROAD HERE: