Local talent is hard to come by in Leicester. When By The Rivers took to the stage in 2010, something drastic happened. The chain of events following their first performance were predictable but at the same time thought-provoking. Pretentiousness aside, I already knew this band would have a strong future ahead of them. The group has musical skill and they continue to impress month after month. Lead singer and guitarist Nile Barrow tells us about The Specials, Leicesters music scene and By The Rivers upcoming debut album.
Music Review Database: I saw both Jordan and Nile perform with M48 at the OBS Showcase almost four years ago. You had a strong fan base and blended Ska with Indie Rock, what made you turn to Reggae?
By The Rivers: We’d always had a passion for Reggae, but never really had the chance to fully express it through M48. Over time, the band began to fizzle out, and with that coming to an end, it gave me and Jord a chance to work on our Reggae songs.
MRD: I'm guessing you supported The Buzzcocks through your fathers contacts with The Swinging Laurels, was it their help that secured strong support act slots?
BTR: No, not really. All the support slots we have been asked to do have been through venues and promoters getting in touch with us. Our dads have helped us in the way of giving us advice from their own experiences, but we have achieved the majority of our success off our own backs, which we’re proud of.
MRD: How did it feel packing The Musician Stage at last years Summer Sundae Weekender? People were queueing from every entrance.
BTR: It was incredible and really quite surreal! It really brought it home how much of a following we have in Leicester, and we loved every minute of it! Definitely one of the highlights of our Summer.
MRD: Who contacted you about supporting The Specials? How did that evolve?
BTR: It all came about when we played a gig supporting Neville Staple from The Specials in Derby. After the gig, he asked me if he could have a CD, so I gave him a copy of our EP, and a business card. The next day, Neville rang me saying he loved the EP, and that he would pass it on. A few weeks later, I received a phone call from Lynval of The Specials, saying that he really liked our sound, and would try and get us on a date of the Specials Tour. The next thing we knew, we were being asked to support them on their whole 15 Date UK Arena Tour! It all came about within such a short space of time, it was incredible!
MRD: You played some exquisite venues with The Specials. Brixton Academy, Manchester Apollo and Alexandra Palace to name a few. Which was your favourite?
BTR: Every venue was amazing, we’d never played anything on that level before, and so each venue had its own character. I don’t think I can honestly choose a favourite in terms of playing, but I loved the character of Brixton Academy.
MRD: Do you have any stories to share from this tour?
BTR: Loads! One of my highlights was when Lynval got on stage with us in soundcheck, and jammed along to our song ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’. That was pretty crazy! Also jamming acoustic songs on the Specials tour bus in the early hours of the morning is a fond memory.
MRD: Who are your favourite Reggae artists? Do you prefer Bob Marley's well known material over say, Bunny Wailer?
BTR: We have many different Reggae influences, new and old. Personally, I prefer a lot more of Bob Marley’s lesser known songs and albums. He’s not known as a legend just for the ‘Legend’ album. As a band, we’re big into our early Roots Reggae, such as Culture, Twinkle Brothers, Abyssinians, The Congo’s etc. But we have many different influences, not all Reggae.
MRD: Where are you getting inspiration from?
BTR: A lot of our inspiration for writing songs comes from our own experiences and our surroundings. There are a lot of issues that don’t seem to be addressed in modern music. I don’t think everything has to be political, but I think it’s important if you feel strongly enough about something, to have your say. It’s all about the feel at the end of the day, if you get that buzz from writing a song, then you know you’re on the right track.
MRD: Some of your songs are rather political. Will your debut reflect UB40's Signing Off?
BTR: I think the album will reflect the modern state of things through our eyes, although it hasn’t much changed since those times. It will be ours and the view point of the youth growing up with all of this happening. But not all of the album has a political message, there is a wide variety of songs.
MRD: People have compared you to UB40, because you're from the Midlands and you're all white.. How does this sit with the band?
BTR: I think that they are the only real comparisons between us, and it will always be something that we will be tagged under. But we have our own sound, albeit in a Reggae style, but I don’t think you can compare our sound to UB40.
MRD: Have you set goals? Would you like to spark a Reggae revival in the UK?
BTR: Yeah, we’d definitely like to spark a Reggae revival by bringing it back to the mainstream in a respectable way, and that’s what we aim to do. We’ve got a big year ahead of us, and a hell of a lot of planning has gone into making every release count.
MRD: Reggae brought new life to Leicester in 2011. We saw UB40 return to DeMontfort Hall on the 30th anniversary tour. Then the legendary Toot's & The Maytals played Summer Sundae Weekender. Do you think the local music scene in Leicester is growing?
BTR: I think Leicester has always had a strong music scene, it’s just always seemed to go unnoticed. There is such a wide variety of top quality bands in Leicester, playing all kinds of genres, and I think it’s about time Leicester was recognised for it.
MRD: Have you set a date for your debut album? What direction are you taking?
BTR: We haven't set a definite date just yet, but we’re looking at releasing it towards the end of the year. People can expect some revamped re-recorded tracks, some newly recorded songs, and some never before heard material. There will be a bit of everything in there, a bit of One Drop, Rocksteady, Ska and Dub! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for a Single release within the next few months!
MRD: You must have withdrawal symptoms from being on the road for so long. Do you look forward to getting back out there travelling the UK?
BTR: There’s no better feeling than being on the road. It’s only when you stop, that you truly realise how much you miss it. We’re really excited to get back out there and hit up as many places as possible throughout the year. We will have our first proper taste of touring again in April, when we will be supporting ‘The Slackers’ on a string of European dates including shows in Germany, Holland, and Denmark. Hopefully that will only be the start of what the year will bring for us!
This is how you can check them out.. By The Twitter, By The Facebook, By The Website and.. By The Bandcamp. For some lovely acoustic tracks and more, check out the band's YouTube page here.