Dry the River Interview Clwb Ifor Bach – 18th April 2012
(Peter Liddle – Centre Front) and (Scott Miller – Back Left)
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to go and interview one of my favourite British bands, Dry the River at the second leg of their Spring Tour in Cardiff for my university paper. As an avid fan of the band, they certainly upheld their reputation in my mind delivering a tremendous live set and despite their understandably violent hangovers following the tours opening night, gave me a great and insightful interview into the life of Dry the River. Performing virtually all of their (then) recently released album ‘Shallow Bed’, the bands live energy was simply electric, gripping the attention of every member stood in the crowded upper room of one of Cardiff’s oldest clubs. Proudly displaying their rich blend of folk and rock, the bands paradoxically hauntingly and raucous live display presents an extraordinary spectrum of music that diversely ranges from the bands powerful rock melodies all the way through to the incredibly soft moments that delicately mediate their sound. The souring highs however are almost unrivalled in my mind with any other band as the chorus’ of songs such as No Rest, No Ceremony and Weights and Measures elevate their sound almost beyond epic.
Check out the interview I had below with lead vocalist and guitarist Peter Liddle and bassist and vocalist Scott Miller!
mydaybydaymusic – For those who haven’t heard of you before, how did the band start out?
Peter – We were all involved in different hardcore and punk bands beforehand, so when I started Dry the River, I recruited a bunch of guys I knew from other bands that lived nearby and we all just happened to move to London; I moved to London for med school, and we all just happened to get on.
mydaybydaymusic – Did you move to London for the band then?
Scott – No not really, we all just happened to be around. I got a job up there and started working in town, Jonny had moved up because we had a group of friends who had moved to London. I mean me and Jonny new each other before the band anyway and it all seemed to happen at a similar sort of time. We were however kicking around doing first recordings before we actually lived in London, but it mainly started kicking off once we moved into town.
mydaybydaymusic – I currently live in a student house with nine others so life can get a bit dirty and mental at times, how was it for you living together as a band in a cramped environment? Do you reckon it helped enhance the group to what you are now?
Peter – It was really good for us; I mean Scott always says it’s like a boot camp for being on tour which is true. We got to know each other really well, we got used to confined spaces and you get to learn everybody’s limits and habits and whatever else.
mydaybydaymusic – If you can live together it forms a real backbone for the band.
Scott – That’s it. All five of us were living in a two-bed house so there would be people sleeping on floors with my room being the living room so we kind of made it work. You get used to that whole feeling of having to be squashed in, like the back of a van say or on stages. Everything we had to do, we would all do it together; it was great training for touring.
mydaybydaymusic – A certain element of hype had formed around the band, culminating in your selection for the BBC Sound of 2012 list last Christmas; did this hype create a certain amount of pressure on the release of the album or did it leave you with a sense of excitement and anticipation?
Scott – I think it was more excitement, we were just happy to finally have an album coming out you know. None of us had ever released an album properly before so seeing it coming out in the shops was incredible. We were just super excited to finally get it out there. After having toured for around two years, we didn’t really think about recording up to that point, it was always about the live show and once we had actually tracked out the record, (we finished tracking it in August last year), it took a while to get the wheels in motion to get it released so we were just excited to finally get it out there. There was a bit of pressure I guess, people often say did you really feel that pressure, does it make you feel like you really have to make an impact this year but we kind of tried not to think about it too much, not get too caught up thinking about what the press are saying and things like that because if you do, you go crazy. So we just focused on the job at hand which is coming out, playing as many shows as we can do and having a good time, which is the best way to do it.
mydaybydaymusic – Was it difficult to choose tracks for the album or did everything just happen to fit?
Peter – It wasn’t really difficult; we did it in a whole bunch of little sessions because we had so many touring commitments at the time in Europe so we flew over for ten days then we would fly back for ten days in a busy cycle. The touring almost helped in a way as you would have ten days to do three songs, and you pick the first three and do them, listen to them and think right ok what are the next three.
Scott – We pretty much tracked every song we had up to that point, we jokingly said it’s the greatest hits even though it’s our first album.
mydaybydaymusic – You have recently got back from a short tour in the US; does their reaction to your music differ from that in the UK?
Scott – Over there we’re still pretty much completely unknown so it’s almost like going back in time a year or two to what the shows we were doing here were like. No one knew who we were, but we were opening for the Bowerbirds who have a bit of a following so the venues were filled and you have that feeling of having to win over the crowd, win over new fans rather than playing to people who listen to your music. Back in the UK however, this is the first time we have done a tour when the albums actually out so last night was the first show and there was a crazily different reaction to anything we have played to before with people singing along which obviously in the States they weren’t ready to do. The reaction was however really positive, everyone seemed really stoked and happy to watch us and we had people commenting saying it was really great which is pretty cool. I mean we love touring America as well because the foods great and our accents win over fans easier somehow…
Peter – I think if they hear you have an English accent they are like (high pitched) ooooooh, so that’s pretty cool.
mydaybydaymusic – Not just sticking to the UK and US you have played a lot of European shows. Is there any country that is particularly mad for the band or on the flip side any European countries that the band loves playing?
Peter – The Netherlands is really into Dry the River because we started doing shows there really early; almost as soon as we were touring in the UK we started touring in the Netherlands. Our agent knows a lot of people in Europe and we did this thing called Eurosonic which is a bit like the Great Escape in the north of the Netherlands. We went there and had two really good shows in front of loads of European promoters and they have this exchange where all the promoters in Europe agree to book bands from other countries in their venues so they go to Eurosonic and each have to pick one band from another country to play. This worked really well for us so we ended up doing loads of European festivals last summer in pretty far afield places, going to Latvia, Finland and Poland and other places we wouldn’t normally have even thought about.
mydaybydaymusic – Have you thought about playing other countries a little further afield? Do you have an unusual fan base somewhere?
Peter – There is a lot in Latin America and there is some in Turkey…
Scott – In South-East Asia there seems to be some fans on facebook saying come to Malaysia!
Peter – A guy from Ulan Bator, Mongolia tweeted me the other day about Dry the River which is kind of cool. The Netherlands is the one though. We probably do bigger shows in the Netherlands than anywhere else except London really.
mydaybydaymusic – How do you set about writing songs? Has it always been the same method?
Scott – It’s slightly evolved now, Peter will write the structures of the songs on his own and then he will write down all the words and then bring us the rough chord patterns and we all get together these days and work on it together. But originally, when the band formed Peter was much more of a maestro, he would write all the songs and almost be writing the bass lines and the second guitar parts and telling us exactly what we need to be playing, even telling Jonny exactly what beats to play. Then I guess the more we gigged the songs we started sneaking in little changes and extra bits so he kind of realised that it would be more fun if he allowed us to do that, so now it’s become a bit more of a collaborative process when we write.
mydaybydaymusic – Despite the album being released just last month, a lot of those songs have been around for a few years, have you been writing new material that could potentially appear on a second album?
Peter – Yes, I mean to me this record is really old now, it was old before it came out and I’m really looking forward to sitting down and writing a record. I have got about half the next record, I say that, a third of the next record already…
Scott – I haven’t heard any of this yet; he sits in his bedroom and plays his acoustic guitar which is all that I know.
mydaybydaymusic – You have produced vinyl’s with a lot of your new releases, how important do you value the object form of a record in an age where digital sales are rapidly increasing and CD sails seemingly always declining?
Peter – Vinyl’s dam cool, it looks better, sounds better, it’s basically a no-brainer.
Scott – Just the artwork looks so much cooler having it huge on the cover.
mydaybydaymusic – How did you find the artist who has done the incredible artwork for all your recent releases?
Scott – It’s this guy David Lupton from London who does oil paintings then digitalises and manipulates them afterwards. We met him through the director of our first video, No Rest when this guy Colin Hardy who is a friend of David’s showed us a few different artists and David’s stuff really stood out. His work is almost horror, with really dark pictures and images of people being killed and really scary stuff so we sort of went with him and kept him on through all of our singles and the album artwork.
mydaybydaymusic – As a folk/rock band, has there been a particular rock n roll moment that stands out for you?
Peter – Everyday… (laughs)
Scott – Last night…
Peter – Last night we were up till 7am partying with Dog is Dead and some other people in a flat in Nottingham god knows where.
mydaybydaymusic – Are you expecting more of that tonight, and the night after etc. etc?
Scott – Yer of course, No Rest.
mydaybydaymusic – What’s the most unusual place you have ever played?
Peter – We’ve played in Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides in front of some fisherman and kids. (Aside suddenly to Scott) Do you remember Dog is Dead knew Ken Block! (Block is an American professional rally driver) Um sorry, then we played in Ullapool as well, we did a little Highland tour and it was literally in traditional Caley venues on bar stools in front of old people, it was just when we started touring.
Scott –We often do acoustic performances for these youtube sessions, and they will get us out in the most random places. We have been on top of a building in London, out in parks, we did one under an aeroplane in Tempelhof Airport, the old Nazi airport in the centre of Berlin, on a boat around the canals of Amsterdam which are all pretty fun.
mydaybydaymusic – With a sold out gig tonight, how rewarding is it to feel so appreciated? As teenagers in separate bands was there any doubt that this would one day become a reality?
Peter – Never, I never expected anything, we have been routinely surprised along the way by everything that has happened, I don’t think we ever predicted any of it really.
Scott – We were just happy to carry on playing shows, I mean two years ago we were playing venues half this size, in tiny little places with half the crowd empty and were still loving the shows then, the fact that now we’re playing to sold out crowds is kind of crazy to get your head round, but it’s so much fun and it kind of makes it a little more special after all that hard graft.
Peter – It’s really cool to come back from the US and hear that the UK tour, or certainly England and Wales was sold out, which was really nice.
mydaybydaymusic – Is there a particular gig that stands out to you as being special?
Scott – The Norwegian Church (also in Cardiff) gig was also really special I found it such a cool, tiny space.
Peter – It was right at the start when we were all working day jobs, and we played with this Icelandic band called Hjaltalín who were flying over and needed someone to pick them up from the airport. We said we would share a van or something and we found this guy who had an old school bus or a milk float that he had DIY converted into a band van that had bunk beds in it and then went to the airport to pick up Hjaltalín and we were all there in this weird school bus…
Scott – They were like why did these guys hire such a strange bus!
Peter – It turned out to be really good, the show was great, then that night we parked up in one of the arena car parks and partied in the school bus all night, it was cool.
mydaybydaymusic – Two questions now about future aspirations. Firstly, do you have a dream to play a certain venue or festival stage?
Scott – The Pyramid Stage, that would be amazing.
mydaybydaymusic – Is Glastonbury the festival for you then?
Scott – I always feel like Glastonbury’s the biggest deal somehow, even though I don’t think it was my favourite festival last year, I really enjoyed it, we got to play the John Peel stage which is a crazily huge stage but I think it’s just because it is what it is, to play the Pyramid would be the biggest one you could do.
mydaybydaymusic – And secondly, who would you most like to collaborate with as a band?
Peter – I think we are hopefully going to do a collaboration with Arcane Roots who asked us the other day if we wanted to do something with them, they are like a sort of techy/rock band from London.
Scott – Lana Del Ray… only because I want to meet her. (laugh)
Peter – Or maybe Oh Land, she’s a label mate on our CA and she’s really good.
mydaybydaymusic – Have you done collaborations before?
Peter – No, a bunch of remixes have happened, nothing has been released yet but hopefully it will be something we get into. I’m looking at getting some other bands to be involved in the next record on the odd song hopefully.
mydaybydaymusic – As quite an energetic band on stage, who tends to go for it the most?
Peter – Scott.
Scott – I have the longest hair so…
mydaybydaymusic – While researching the band I remember hearing a fantastic story about Scott being mistaken for Caleb from Kings of Leon in Paris, can you retell it?
Scott – Well it’s quite amusing, it was after a show in Paris and we were chatting to these girls and they wanted us to go to this really exclusive club with them but they were like we will never get in, it’s really late and there will be a huge queue. They had being saying earlier to me that I look like Caleb, for one I don’t look anything like him but for some reason they were convinced I did…
Peter – You have got a beard, that is about it.
Scott – So they dragged me in a taxi and me and our guitar tech Matt came with them and they were like when we get there, say you are Caleb, I’m going to phone ahead because I know one of the security, tell them Caleb’s with me after he did a show in town and he wants to go to your club. So we got in and the bouncers all looked at me and I had to put on an American accent, kind of strutting in and somehow they opened the rope and let us through after she had chatted to security for a minute. Our guitar tech then pretended to be my manager and sat next to me all night sort of fobbing people away when they were coming up and we walked into this really posh bar with people dancing and as we were taken to our own table in the corner they played Use Somebody and we were there like oh my god, it was brilliant!
mydaybydaymusic – And finally, you do a huge amount of touring, so can you sum up in a few words why people should come and see you perform live.
Peter – Because we are better than on record.
Scott – It’s all about live for us, you get more than you get from the album and you get to see Peter take his shoes off, he always plays barefoot on stage.
Peter – Come see my feet. If nothing else, come and see my feet!