London quintet Dry The River made waves over the past few years touring in their home land, yet just held the release of their debut album, Shallow Bed, earlier this year. What started as Peter Liddle writing songs in a hall at college has become a rock band comprised of badass guitar riffs, questioning lyrics, layers of strings, and charming vocal harmonies.
Last Thursday Dry The River played their second Minnesota show to date supporting First Avenue sell-outs Alabama Shakes. They threw down some fire; the heavy percussive elements in “Demons” and the admirable crescendo in “Bible Belt” were especially awesome. In my opinion the greatest tune in the live act is the album closer, “Lion’s Den,” where they seem to forget about the audience and rock out as a group of crazy talented and super close friends. If you missed it, don’t worry— DTR will be back in Minneapolis on September 29 during their first U.S. headlining tour.
I sat down with Peter Liddle (guitar, vocals) and Scott Miller (bass, vocals) before their set at First Avenue. We talked about Peter Katis, American food, and the differences in U.S. and UK musicheads. You can read the interview below.
You’ve only been in the U.S. for a few days on this tour so far— what do you get most excited about when coming to the states?
Peter: When we come to the U.S. we get excited about food. We’re really into like, diner food. The U.S. just has a way of people being a lot less concerned about health, and the nutritional value of food. And I think that’s a good thing. We went to a diner today and I ate some kind of deep fried chicken sandwich, even the bread was deep fried, it was delicious. In England everyone is so hung up about these chains that make healthy food.
Scott: Proportions [in England] are always like, a quarter of the size that you would get over here. We love American food.
Peter: Well it’s not like any food is tricking you into eating additives. You know when you eat fruit loops that you’re eating food coloring and sugar; that’s what you want. We get very excited about food.
Scott: We love coming out to the states. We’ve toured the UK now for three years or something and the last two years we’ve done a lot of [European] cities quite a few times so it’s much more exciting to come out here; it’s still quite new. We did our first ever tour here in March of this year and we’ve been back for a couple of shows here and there. It’s huge open space, it’s a massive country.
What are the biggest cultural differences you notice in your audiences, UK versus U.S.?
Scott: First off, because we’re kind of from England, you get away with a bit more because Americans are like, “oh these are cool English guys,” you can say anything and they’ll be like “oh your accent is so hilarious.” You can kind of cheat your way through it; you don’t have to work so hard to win them over because they’re often impressed that you’ve even come this far to play for them. English audiences are a bit more…I’m not sure how to describe them.
Scott: Not as easily impressed.
Peter: Yeah they’re skeptical and cynical. They want to know where you’re from and what your musical heritage is and whether you’re authentic, and the music you’re playing and all that kind of stuff. Who plays the music they heard when they were growing up? Nobody. Otherwise everyone would be playing music that sounded like Neil Diamond thirty years ago. But in the UK everyone wants you to play music that’s from where you’re from. We read a couple reviews of our record saying “we would love this record if the band was from the Appalachian Mountains, but because they are from London it’s not authentic, and so we don’t like the record.” I think that’s kind of sad, why deprive yourself of music you like just because you don’t think it’s from the region where the people who are playing it are from? It doesn’t make any sense. Especially with the internet and modern music; people are just influenced by any music, it doesn’t necessarily have to be traditionally from where you’re from. The Rolling Stones sounded like a southern rock band and no one gave a shit.
Scott: They just didn’t care.
Scott: Maybe you should stop caring (laughs).
Peter: I do care. In the U.S. people don’t seem to have that hang up; they’re just into it. If they like music they like music.
That brings me to Shallow Bed-- great record. It is a bit calmer than the live show, but there is a lot of layers to it. You were playing the songs live before the album was recorded?
Scott: Yeah, we kicked those songs around, some of them for two or three years, some of them older than the band; Peter has had versions written for years as solo acoustic songs. We’ve been working on playing them live and touring with them for two years before we went into the studio. So we kind of knew what we wanted them to sound like; we knew they were ready before we went in. We didn’t want to make it exactly what you’re going to hear when you come to see it live; we wanted it to be different. So we kind of reined it in a bit; on the record we wanted it to sound a little more clean cut. That allowed us to sort of add and try more things out. On stage it’s just the five of us and we can hammer on our instruments but that’s pretty much all we can do. In the studio we have the freedom to sort of throw down more keys, parts, Will played more violin parts; layered up on the violin. We added brass; trumpet and trombone. It was definitely a conscious decision to make it sound something separate than you see live.
You recorded Shallow Bed with Peter Katis (The National, Frightened Rabbit, Interpol, etc.)— did he contribute any drastic changes to the songs that you brought to him?
Peter: I think his input came between the noises we were making in the room and then what ultimately went down on the record. That, a lot of people probably don’t really appreciate but I think we appreciate how big of a difference it makes. Some bands, you know, they’ll just stick a load of mics in a room and they’ll play the way they always do and just make a record that sounds like that. But then, for us, just the way he chose the equipment to record with and the attention to detail; he would spend like five hours getting a drum sound and Jon would just sit and play and he [Katis] would go “yeah I don’t like how that kick drum sounds.” [He’d] try a different mic, try a different preamp, try all this stuff and it would take him a really long time to get something he was happy with. In the past we had always just stuck a load of mics in the room and played and would hit record. I think that did make a big difference to the way the record sounds.
Scott: Yeah, it was much more [about] working to get it to sound the best. He didn’t want to jump in and start changing arrangements and changing our ideas of the song structure or anything like that. He was much more about how he could take the songs that we had already written and had ready to go and make them the best that they could be.
Peter: He would say “if these songs are all cymbals and all guitars, you’re filling up a load of space on the record that we could use for more interesting things and maybe if you played the cymbals a bit softer or roll back the distortion sound we can free up this space on the record and bring in strings and horns and synths and work out ways of making the record sound big.” It was interesting so that was really where his input came; between the songs and the recording.
If you could explain the band camaraderie as a TV show or film what would you choose?
Peter: Seinfeld. It’s basically like Seinfeld. Constant jokes, constant of the same jokes over and over again. We have our own weird coded language. We’re full of “in” jokes and strange humor. And we’re watching Seinfeld all the time. A lot of general, physical comedy, Kramer-style. Awkward humor. And some fashion disasters, like puffy shirt.
(I have to note here that Scott was simply laughing while Peter responded.)
Dry The River will return to Minneapolis on September 29, 2012 at the Triple Rock Social Club for their first U.S. headlining tour.
By Laura Yurich
Posted 9 months ago