Hello, River, thanks so much for speaking with me. I appreciate you taking time out of your day. I promise there aren't too many questions; shall we begin?
Cliché, I know, but can you tell our avid readers how River Lynch and The Spiritmakers came together and how you came up with the name of the band?
It started in 2015 when I decided to record a four-song EP of my originals. These songs were begging to be played with a band. Through a mutual friend, I met our bassist, Schuyler Skuse, and was re-introduced to our drummer, Tim Leverett. After a really successful set at the EP release show in 2016, we felt like we had something good and just started booking shows from there. The name Spiritmakers comes from my song of the same name. My definition of Spiritmaker is 'someone who lifts the human spirit through the power of rock ‘n’ roll music'.
River, you began your musical career as a solo artist before 'rallying the band' - a direct quote from your Facebook. Do you find being in a band more challenging or easier than performing on your own? How so?
‘Rallying the band’ is code for ‘Let's roll!’. I wouldn’t say there are more challenges being in a band compared to performing as a solo artist, just different challenges. With the band, it’s things like working around each person’s schedule and making time to accomplish everything we hope to. When performing solo, not having the band there to rely on can be tough at times. They’re different but I really enjoy both. My introverted self is a solo artist, and my extroverted self is the frontman of a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Do any of the band members have a musical background?
Schuyler began playing upright bass in 3rd grade, and electric bass in 5th. After performing throughout high school in an orchestra, jazz band, and the rock band The Absolutes, he went on to pursue a degree in Music Management at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. At Hartt, Schuyler studied the bass with world-renowned jazz bassist, Nat Reeves, and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Music.
Tim is a multi-instrumentalist, played piano since he was 5, picked up the drums at 13, and guitar at 18. Tim is also a composer and songwriter who has created full-length orchestral ballets and instrumental pieces for TV and film, as well as writing over 100 songs.
As for myself, my musical experience started with the trumpet in 4th grade playing in the school band. Around 12 years old I got my first electric guitar and was part of a rock ‘n’ roll band in high school. At 17, I wrote my first song.
You are releasing a new single in March called 'This World Now'. What can you tell me about it?
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It’s the heaviest song we have recorded so far. I hear it as a ‘psychedelic-western’.
What was the inspiration behind the new track?
The inspiration for 'This World Now' originated with an overwhelming feeling of personal injustice. Wanting to help someone who needed it, but not actually being able to help them. I see the song as sort of a thriller short film. There are three characters: the victim, the assailant, and the anti-hero. It’s dark and heavy, but speaks to the side of human nature that just wants things to be right. I’m really excited for people to hear this one. It’s a different side of us.
What was the recording process like for 'This World Now'? Did you experience any problems?
No serious problems while recording, fortunately. A while back, the guys and I laid down the foundation for the song; bass, drums and some rhythm guitar. More recently, I went back with our producer, Doug Zogby at GFI Studios, and began filling in the colours with vocals and lead guitar parts. We’ve been playing this song live since our first show, so it’s been a lot of fun to bring it into the studio and really explore its full potential. I am really pleased with the way this song turned out.
Could you briefly describe your song-writing process for us? Does each band member have a set role or is it a big ol' jam session?
I write the songs and then bring them to practice and show the band. I’ll play them through a few times so they can get a feel for the structure, and then they start playing along to see what feels right. In most cases, it only takes a few practices for a song to be stage ready. It’s all about the song with our band. Whatever we are playing, it’s to serve the original vision of the song.
When you mention rock 'n' roll to someone, the associations range from Elvis to Nirvana or Deep Purple and Guns 'N Roses. What is your definition of rock 'n' roll?
For me, rock ‘n’ roll should be dangerous, rebellious, loud, and dirty. It should have grit, passion and attitude. It should swing, boom and groove. It should make you move, make you feel, and make you think. It’s a mystical force that lives in your soul and is available to everyone.
Rock ‘n’ roll is a symbol of freedom. Any band or artist that creates a genuine display of that, I would call rock ‘n’ roll. Chuck Berry, Elvis, Little Richard, the Stones, Hendrix, they are all prime examples of just that.
How do you feel rock 'n' roll has changed over the years and has the change influenced your music?
The basic fundamentals of rock ‘n’ roll really haven’t changed much since its birth in the 1950s. I personally think in the past few decades it began to lose it’s ‘roll’, becoming stiff and uninspired. Of course, there has always been a handful of great artists keeping the flame burning in every generation.
Right now, I hear a lot of bands with similar influences as myself. I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age grew up listening to music from the 60s and 70s, and I think that is reflected in today’s rock ‘n’ roll. There are some really great bands right now that capture that genuine rock ‘n’ roll sound. It keeps me hopeful for the future. It’s not heard that often on terrestrial radio or in the mainstream. Fortunately, there are so many other ways to discover new music today.
Are there any bands or artists that inspire your sound?
We have a wide range of influences from all different times and all different artists. With that said, our sound has a 60s and 70s vibe for sure, so we are heavily influenced by a lot of bands from that time period. On a playlist, we are placed with bands like The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Alabama Shakes, Ryan Adams, and Gary Clark Jr. to name a few. We’re just trying to do our own thing in our own time.
Grassroots music receives more promotion now than in previous years with the help of the internet, so what is it like being an independent band in the 21st century?
Being an independent band in the 21st century is empowering but also very challenging. You have to do a lot of things you never thought you would have to do - one part musician, one part businessman. On the other hand, you have complete freedom with your creative path. There are also more resources for independent bands to use now, than ever before. That makes some stuff easier, but also brings along an entirely new set of challenges.
It’s good though, there are a lot of opportunities. I also think the general public is much more aware and supportive of independent artists nowadays. It’s all about building a fan base of your own.
What advice would you give new bands?
Remain true to your creative vision. It’s easy to forget why you’re doing all this in the first place.
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Other than the upcoming single, 'This World Now', what can we expect from River Lynch and The Spiritmakers in 2019?
We’re focusing on playing in new places. Over the past two years, we’ve done multiple 3-day tours in Canada and on the East coast. We would like to do more of that. We’re also working on booking more festival shows, and we will have even more new music as the year goes on. We have had some good fortune come our way since we started. We’re taking that with us as we head out through 2019.
Thanks so much for speaking with me, River. Wishing you the best for your new release and all your future endeavours!
Written by Nicole Mendes / Germany - Norden
My name is Nicole and I am a South African-born music writer currently based in Norden, Germany. For several years I have worked with award-winning indie music blogs conducting reviews, reported on breaking festival news, but my specialism is interviewing. I currently work as editor-in-chief for an indie music blog I founded where I specialise in interviews with independent artists.
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