The Riverbreaks are a pop Americana outfit with Southern roots and big city energy. Seeded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and currently operating out of Washington DC, the band is set to release their second studio album, Wildfire, this coming Fall. We caught up with frontman Ryan Bailey (no relation) to discuss the band’s origins, the new record, and to unveil three brand new tracks.
Beats Per Minute (Andrew Bailey): First and foremost, what can you tell our audience about The Riverbreaks? How did you come to making music together?
The Riverbreaks (Ryan Bailey): We’re all from the South, so the lyrics and music have a Southern feel. We consider ourselves a pop Americana band, since our music tends to fall on that spectrum. As to how we started: When I returned from the Peace Corps in Costa Rica I moved to D.C. and started living with Andrew (keys) and Jesse (guitar), both of whom were in my college band at UNC Chapel Hill. I had been living for two years in a rural Costa Rican town between two volcanoes, and had written dozens of songs. We worked some of those up for a holiday party, and later added drums and bass. We recorded our first album within a couple months, right as Neela (violin) started playing with us. Drew (bass) joined last year when our first bassist left town.
You released your first album, Get You Right, in April 2011 and will release Wildfire this Fall, so the process of creating this new record has effectively been just over a year. Your lyrics reflect a lot of literal terrain — “journeys and geographies,” as your bio says — so can you describe some of the stories and inspirations of the past year or so that have gone into these new songs?
A lot of the songs on this album continue themes from the last album. I’m from Nashville and the rest of the band is from the South, so I wanted the lyrics to have a distinctly Southern feel, but at the same time also reflect other places and experiences I’ve had, especially my time in Latin America. I wrote “Lost Again” after being diagnosed with vocal nodes and realizing I couldn’t share my pain with someone I was really close with in the past. As on the last album, you can definitely tell I had a painful breakup or two, but this album is more about moving on and thinking about that time in a different light after the fact. There are other stories too: one song is about my friend Rolando who couldn’t see his family in Mexico for 12 years.
What kind of growth have you experienced as songwriters and performers from your first album to now?
In the early days we didn’t know how to use space and would all play at all times, but we learned something from every song on this album. For example, when we were rearranging “Corn Blue Night” we discovered the power of dynamic changes. Once we were all willing to sacrifice for the good of the song, we truly began to play together. I also started to write for the strengths of the band, and my lyrics and melodies started to reflect the moods and atmosphere I knew the band capable of creating. We also tried to find creative ways to feature Jesse’s guitar playing and Neela’s classical background. As a songwriter I think the lyrics to this album are more personal, but I also tried to weave in other topics that are current and important to me: the environment, immigration reform, violence due to the drug war, etc.
We have not one, not two, but three new singles to premiere: “Wild Fruit,” “Corn Blue Night,” and “Lost Again”. Each song shares in the same Southern DNA, but at the same time, they’re all very unique unto themselves. Did you set out to include a lot of different influences or did that happen organically?
It all happened organically. We don’t really spend any time as a band discussing our influences, but they are probably evident in our songs. We had a hard time choosing the first song to release, so we chose three songs that feature different elements of the album. As a band we want to make music that works in different places and moods, so a slower song like “Lost Again” is equally important to us as a faster song like “Wild Fruit.” We want to be equally comfortable in both a quiet, low key setting as a packed house party. Chris Stamey, our producer, who has worked with a lot of great Southern musicians/bands like Whiskeytown, Alex Chilton of Big Star, and Roman Candle, was really able to help us make sense of our songs. We’re also excited to have some great guests on the album including Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown), Mitch Easter, Logan Matheny (Roman Candle), Emma Nadeau from Lost in the Trees, Hamilton Berry, Whit Wright, and Brett Harris.
You’ll be playing DC’s Red Palace on Friday night to host a single release party for Wildfire, but what other shows do you have on the horizon? Any other big ambitions for the balance of 2012?
We’ve got shows in NYC (Pianos, 7/21), Boston (Middle East Club, 7/23), and Arlington, VA (Iota Club, 8/3) booked, and there are a lot of details to finalize for the release of our full length album this fall, including a potential tour this fall/winter. We’re also shooting a music video next week!
BPM is excited to debut three new songs from The Riverbreaks’ forthcoming sophomore effort, Wildfire, via the player below: