By the time their new album reaches listeners in early 2022, it will have been six years since Wild Rivers released a record into the universe. Thankfully, being sidelined only increased the magic of Sidelines, which is an expressive and thoughtful journey that comforts the soul like a blanket in the blizzard of life.
A number of songs have already been released from Sidelines, including their latest single, “Better When We’re Falling Apart.”
I recently sat down with the band to discuss going full circle with fans, weaving their tapestry of memories, and entering the Fleetwood Mac multiverse.
Americana Highways: The band has been back out on the road. Walk us through what it felt like to be in front of music-loving faces again after the clubs started to open up? Was it as memorable as the first time you took the stage?
Devan Glover: It felt incredible. Not performing in front of a crowd for so long was really hard, because so much of what we do is centered around the live performance aspect and face-to-face connection with our audience. We released an EP in May 2020 in the height of the pandemic, and not being able to go and play it live was strange – seeing streaming numbers on the internet often doesn’t feel as real or fulfilling as being able to share the songs with people in real-time. Seeing how they resonate and watching people singing along: that’s the best part of the whole process for us. We started the tour in Boulder, CO, and the crowd was great. A lot of the crowd told us that it was their first concert post-pandemic, so being able to share that excitement with them made it really special. Every night of the tour, the crowd brought such great energy.
AH: The band has a new album, Sidelines, due out in early 2022. How much of the album have you been sharing with people on this tour and what has been the reaction like?
DG: We’ve released four songs from the album so far: “Amsterdam,” “Weatherman,” “Long Time” and most recently, “Better When We’re Falling Apart.” It was really cool to see people singing along to the new ones, especially “Long Time” since it was released while we were on tour, but people already knew the words. On certain shows, we shared an unreleased one from the album called “Safe Flight” – it’s a more intimate, acoustic one, and we had never played it live before, so it was a good litmus test to see how people would respond to a moment like that on the album. I think people really liked it, and it got us really excited for the release.
AH: Releasing an album is a crazy experience as it is because so much is out of your hands once you call wrap on recording the music itself. But now, in a world with so many question marks, are there extra sets of jitters involved with putting yourselves out there given the ups and downs of promoting in the time of COVID?
DG: This is something we talked about a lot during the pandemic. When there’s so much communal pain and strife happening, the last thing you want to do is self-promote. We had toyed with the idea of moving our EP release, but ultimately decided that while people were sitting at home, some new music might provide a few moments of relief. There’s something scary yet exciting about letting the music fall out of your hands, because it’s really rewarding to see how people take the songs and run with them, re-contextualizing them based on their own experiences. No matter how much we speculate, we never know which songs are going to resonate the most until they’re out in the world, so that’s also interesting to see.
AH: What did Peter Katis bring to the table as a producer and springboard that enhanced the songs in a way that you couldn’t have achieved on your own?
Andrew Oliver: We had noticed over the years that Peter was a through-line of many of our favorite sounding records. All of his records, with bands like The National, Local Natives and The Paper Kites, sound warm and crisp, and are layered with beautiful sonic textures. It was a thrill to work with him. He brought us to his studio in Connecticut, which was packed with mics, synths, guitars, compressors and every bit of recording gear imaginable. He encouraged us to experiment and to use the studio as an instrument itself.
He would mix the sounds as we recorded them, and it was amazing that anything we played would instantly sound like a finished record. When COVID hit, we had to head home and work on the album remotely. We each have our own little recording set-up, where we would track our parts and send them to Peter. He had a fantastic way of working our DIY-recordings into high quality mixes. He led the charge and kept us organized through an unfamiliar and fragmented recording process.
AH: The album is done. You’ve been touring. How hard is it to sit on these songs during this period building up to Sidelines’ release? It must be difficult to have something, but have to wait to give it to people?
DG: We’re definitely eager to share these songs, especially since the recording process ended up being dragged out due to some hurdles and logistics related to the pandemic. However, I think if there’s one positive thing that the past few years have taught us, it’s that patience always pays off. The album ended up being better because of the extra time we had to make important decisions, and I think the release will benefit in a similar way. We’ve had extra time to really refine the world surrounding Sidelines – all the content, visuals, videos, etc. It feels like one cohesive message thanks to our team and the time we’ve had to develop it.
AH: What are you most proud of with the album and why?
DG: It’ll have been six years since our first album by the time Sidelines comes out, and it feels like we’re completely different people compared to back then. It was our first time in a studio, we were totally green in the music industry, we had never toured, and we were really winging it. There was a magic to that, and I look back on that time fondly but for this album, I’m most proud when I consider the growth we’ve had as a group. Taking the six years between albums allowed us to tour and test songs in a live setting, try out different studios and recording techniques, collaborate with and learn from our peers and people who inspire us made us stronger musicians, and gave us the ability to be much more intentional when approaching this project. It also gave us a huge range of experiences to draw from when writing these songs.
AH: What do you get out of writing and performing with this band that you can’t achieve on your own? What makes Wild Rivers work the way that it does?
Khalid Yassein: A lot of these songs start with an acoustic guitar alone in my bedroom. It’s an idea, and even as a singer, I often feel like I am singing solely to get the song out – rather than performing it. The band is a vehicle to take the idea, and then have everybody inject something into it. It becomes greater than the sum of its parts, it becomes bigger and enhances the initial feeling of the song. It’s a really cool and rewarding process for us to serve something bigger than ourselves. It feels important and is really satisfying when it finally clicks. And then when we get to play these songs for people who really connect with them, it’s a full circle experience that can’t be beat.
AH: When you look back on this period of your lives, what do you think you’ll remember most about this process of seeing Sidelines come into fruition?
AO: I think we will look back on making Sidelines and remember it as an enormous silver lining during a challenging time for everyone. We began writing it in a house we rented in LA, which felt like a dream. We started recording it in Connecticut when the pandemic hit. We took some time to regroup, and continued recording at our apartments and houses, at cottages and cabins, and finally at a cozy studio in Kingston, Ontario during the winter. It was a sprawling process, working in many different places over different seasons. We were extremely fortunate to have this project as something to work towards, and a way to keep momentum in a year that would have been stagnant otherwise. It is fun to listen back now and be reminded of the myriad of locations, situations, and people that contributed to each part of every song. The album is a tapestry of memories for us, and I believe that created some magic in the album which will hopefully be evident to the listener too.
AH: If Wild Rivers had the opportunity to swap places with any one band for 24 hours – Freaky Friday style – who would you choose and why?
KY: I gotta say Fleetwood Mac, just to see for our own eyes how much of the drama and antics were real, and how much was romanticized in rock and roll history. I think it would be incredible to see how the talents in that band worked in the studio, as well as in the live setting. If it was more than 24 hours, I think we’d have to pass, because there’s a significant chance it would be absolutely awful. But a good story nonetheless.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
AO: Love a time machine question. Tempting as it would be, I would say no. I believe one of the reasons we were so attracted to this line of work is the unknown nature of what will happen next. This job rarely provides any sense of routine or security, but very often provides immense excitement. Walking up to a venue in a new city, expecting no one to be there, and seeing a line of people waiting for the show, is mind-blowing to us. Not knowing what’s next is what inspires us to keep writing and to keep playing, in attempts to manifest something new and great. I think if we knew where we were going to end up, it would be hard to stay motivated. I’d rather try to stay in the present, and make sense of it all when it’s done. This reminds me of a quote by my favorite degenerate guitarist, Joe Walsh: “As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation … And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel.”
For more information on Wild Rivers and to keep tabs on the impending release of Sidelines, visit http://www.wildriversmusic.com.