Vancouver cinematic indie rock musician, River of Kings, released Bleak Sounds EP May 27, 2014 - an EP that lays on the border between melancholy and apathy, with truthful lyrics that draw the listener in [Read our review: http://www.geysermusic.com/river-of-kings-bleak-sounds-ep]. We talked to River of Kings about how he got started musically, how his unique musical style came to be, and plans for future releases.
G: How did you get started musically?
R: I grew up in a pretty musical family so I was involved in music from a pretty young age, but it wasn't until I was 11 that I got really into alternative rock and punk music (basically all the bands they played on Much Music). So, I saved my allowance and babysitting money and bought myself a bass guitar when I was 12, taught myself how to play pretty much everything from all my favourite bands, then saved my money and traded in my bass for a guitar when I was 15. I taught myself to play, learning every song in a book of Led Zeppelin music (as I had delved into classic rock and blues at that age). Also, we had a great music program at my school, so I spent the majority of high-school in the music room and as a member of basically all the bands and the choirs.
G: What were your early musical inspirations, and how have these changed over time?
R: My musical inspirations and influences are constantly evolving, starting with classic 70s rock and 90s alt rock, though there are certain artists that have stuck with me more than others. Pixies, Radiohead, Interpol, The National, Muse, Ours and Jeff Buckley have probably been my biggest inspirations, but I’m always finding new music or old music that’s new to me that changes the way I write a little bit. Matthew Good is another artist I grew up listening to that I always seem to go back to every so often, and Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails is another, especially with his recent forays into film scoring. I think I’ve become more of a binge listener as I’ve gotten older, where I’ll only listen to one artist for weeks, which in turn influences the music I’m making at the time.
G: Talk a bit about your style, it's very cinematic and different, what was the creative process like coming up with your tracks?
R: I used to always write songs on guitar, mostly acoustic, write the melodies and lyrics and then flesh out the arrangements when it came time to record, but since I started recording at home the last couple years it has changed a lot for me. I’ve been working on these tracks since before I planned on putting out a River of Kings EP, when I was still playing in other bands, just writing and recording whatever I felt like at the time. Poltergeist for instance started from a few synth tracks that I was playing around with, built up the rest of the instrumentation around them, then wrote the vocal parts months later after I had decided to make it an RoK song. A lot of the style on this EP comes from me experimenting with what I could really do and where I could go, then putting together the songs that were the most cohesive. The next EP might be similar to this one, or it could be drastically different, most likely somewhere in between.
G: What do you usually write about lyrically? Is there a story behind a specific track that you would be willing to tell?
R: I always write lyrics last, and in the case of this EP the tracks were pretty well 100 % done when I started writing lyrics and melodies. A lot of times I’ll work on vocal melodies using random words, then I’ll find a lyric that I like with a certain melody and I’ll write the rest of the lyrics to fit around it. That was certainly the case with Animal and Poltergeist. Thieves in NYC basically chronicles the first date with my fiancé (who is also my stylist, photographer and album art designer). Blacklight is about my love for dark and moody music, but how it doesn’t feel dark to me. Most people when it’s sunny out want to listen to sunny happy sounding music (I think anyway), but I would be much happier putting on some Radiohead or Interpol, even Elliot Smith, music others might find depressive or depressing.
G: Have you played live in Vancouver, if so, where are your favourite venues to play?
R: I haven’t played live with this project yet (though I am planning to soon!) but I’ve been playing live around this city since I was 18 (11 years) and I’ve played almost every venue you can think of. My obvious favourite is the Commodore, which I’ve gotten the opportunity to play twice with two different bands, first opening for The Airborne Toxic Event, then opening for the legendary April Wine. I’ve seen so many amazing bands play there that it was such a surreal experience getting to do it myself, and is hands down the best venue in the city. I also got to play the legendary Richards on Richards a couple times in the two months before they tore it down, one of which was a packed house headlining show. That was always my other favourite venue in town, and is amazing to play in. As far as the smaller venues go I’ve always liked The Media Club and the redone Cobalt is pretty rad.
G: Plans for an LP? Or, what are your goals for the next year?
R: I’m planning on releasing a few more EPs before attempting a full LP. My plan is to release another EP in the fall and then one more early next year, likely putting a band together to play live around the second one. After that I may put together a ten or eleven song album that will likely feature some of the EP songs. Aside from that I’ve got a number of people working on Bleak Sounds remixes, which I’ll post for free download on my Bandcamp page, and I’m planning on releasing some videos in the near future.
G: Have you played any other genres of music before?
R: Yes, though all essentially rock-based music. The bands I’ve played in over the last ten years have run the gamut from Brit-pop to dirty bluesy rock and roll to alternative-punk to industrial pop. So yes, I’ve played a few genres.
G: Are there any local musicians you’d like to give a shout-out to?
R: I could seriously spend hours talking about all the different amazing local artists there are in this city, but there are two that really stand out for me right now. There’s a local musician named Jason Corbett who has been in the scene for a long time (his old band Speed To Kill was actually the first band I ever saw at the Commodore, opening for Matt Good). I’ve always been a big fan of all his bands and his newest project called Actors is amazing. Very David Bowie/New Wave in the best possible way. Another local guy that I’m a big fan of is Evan Konrad, who goes by Bed of Stars. He’s got one of the most incredible voices I’ve heard, like Jeff Buckley meets Rufus Wainwright. But really I can’t stress how many unbelievable musicians there are in this city, it’s crazy.
G: What is your musical guilty pleasure?
R: I have a soft spot for 90s R&B, namely Aaliyah. Also I don’t know how guilty it is, more surprising maybe, but I like a lot of hip hop/rap music, mostly Jay-Z and Drake. Drake’s producer Noah “40” Shebib makes some of the best hip hop beats out there. And terrible nineties pop music, it’s so bad it’s good.
G: What is the story behind the name "River of Kings"?
R: I’ve never really liked the sound of my name as an artist name and for whatever reason I tend to prefer solo musicians who go by some sort of pseudonym. My fiancé had the idea of making a name that played on mine, like how Dallas Green goes by City and Colour. My first name being the name of a river and my middle names being the names of two kings, it seemed to work and I liked the ring of it.