Dry The River is the culmination of a musical project begun alone by Norwegian-born front man Peter Liddle at university. Having secured a devoted and passionate live following and been longlisted on the BBC Sound Of 2012 poll, the band have just unleashed debut record Shallow Bed.
Ahead a headline April tour, impressively bearded bassist Scott Miller answered some questions about the album, the band and the people involved.
musicOMH: How was the band formed? Did Peter approach all of you in turn?
Scott Miller: It just fell in to place. Peter had played with a couple of guys that Jon (Warren, the band’s drummer) and I had grown up with. They’d met Peter and he’d written some chilled out songs. He made a few calls to people in his phone book and it fell in to place, and we began to record the early demos. Once we were up and running with that, we said ‘maybe we should play a gig’, and it worked out from there. We never knew we would make it as a band, because it was almost a case for us of being after a band where it hadn’t really worked out. This band was formed just to play some songs we really like, and this is the one that worked.
OMH: Is it fair to call your approach to music ‘hearty’ – as in, it comes from the heart?
Scott: Yeah, definitely. Peter’s quite a melancholy guy, and when I first met him I thought he was quite a weird character. He’s not a heart on sleeve lyricist, and when he writes lyrics he tries to leave it more open so people can identify with it. He creates some weird imagery, too. We’re lucky to have him, he’s a clever boy.
OMH: Is Peter solely responsible for the lyrics?
Scott: It’s been an unspoken agreement that we’ll leave it to him, because he’s got such a way with words. He would write for other instruments as well, but over time we’ve made our own input there, and he’s much more open to our suggestions now. The songs have become a more collaborative process because of that, but Peter will tend to have the final say.
OMH: The bass sounds are obviously important to you but they do seem full bodied, and a song like Animal Skins is as bassy as you could wish for!
Scott: Yeah, that was one of my favourites; it was one of the ones written much later on. It’s quite a different song, but we played around with it in the studio. It was much more chilled out to begin with, but then we dropped a beat in the bar to make it 7/8, and gave it a bigger set of bass lines.
OMH: Your sound gives the impression of being instinctive. Do a lot of your musical ideas come from the band jamming together?
Scott: Yeah, definitely – and sometimes they come from little arguments. Jon and I grew up with old ’70s prog rock, and he’s just been in to Dream Theater. He saw them recently and he’s in to all the technical music like that. Matt is much more post rock, so that sometimes leads to arguments, but that’s good and it doesn’t get too furious – it all happens in a natural way. Some of the things we try we wouldn’t put on a record – like a death metal section! – but we can rock out.
OMH: The start of Shield Your Eyes shows how you can be imaginative with the way you use instruments. Was that something you wanted to achieve?
Scott: Yeah – and some of the tracks add up to 80 different channels in the studio. Peter Katis, who we worked with on making the album, was very keen on the sound being very full when it needs to be, and he was great at picking out a range that’s missing and saying ‘we need something there’. We were in a huge studio with keyboards, vibraphones and various percussion instruments. There was also this thing called the Arp, which we used all over the record. With the violin we could layer up and add harmonies. Shield Your Eyes took about seven bits of backing vocal before it was finished! You wouldn’t want to be in the control room all the time because of that, but the house we were recording in allowed for us to get out the way. We did our bits and then were able to get out.
OMH: You seem to be able to switch easily between a full on rock sound and softer moments like History Book.
Scott: Yeah, and that’s the whole Dry The River thing, I suppose, going softly softly, and then bringing out the big epic bits. It’s a reflection of all our influences that we’ve grown up with. It started out as a folk band, but we’ve listened to rock and metal so there’s room for that as well.
OMH: Is it a great feeling to have the first album out?
Scott: Definitely, we’re really pumped about it. It’s been two years in the making, and we’ve wanted to let people to take a copy home after the live shows, but this is really a step up. It’s a way to catch the live performance as best we can in the studio.
OMH: And you’re looking forward to taking the songs on tour?
Scott: Yeah, definitely, we love being on tour and doing the gigs, that’s why we do it, that’s what it’s all about. We’ve already done about 200 live shows, and we get to change the songs slightly and rock out a bit. It’s just great fun, and we get to travel around, all over Europe, New York, the west coast of America down to Los Angeles. It’s a dream for me! I was in my first band when I was ten years old, and it was always the dream to play in front of a crowd. We’ve got a van, we’ve travelled around, and now we’re looking to where we can go next. It’s the feeling of taking the songs to the crowd, jumping around, drinking a few beers and having a party. At the end of the day when you can jump on the stage, run around and rock out, that’s brilliant.
Dry The River’s debut album Shallow Bed is out now through RCA. They tour the UK in April, calling starting at the Garage in London on 15th. More at drytheriver.net. Questions were posed by Ben Hogwood.