INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
These Wicked Rivers are a four-piece from Derby, comprising of vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Hartwell, lead guitarist Arran Day, bassist Jon Hallam and drummer Dan Southall.
The band have built up a firm following locally over the last three years with a mature blues rock sound, blending substantial guitar riffery with wholehearted melodies, and taken from a diverse range of both classic and contemporary influences.
Having been trying to get an interview with the quartet since I first saw them perform just over eighteen months ago, I finally got the chance to sit down and have an in-depth chat with them when they played at the Uttoxeter Rocks festival recently.
How did the band get together initially?
JOHN HARTWELL (vocals/rhythm guitar): I was writing songs, playing at open mic nights. I knew Dan from when I played in a previous band, so I texted him and asked if he wanted to join me. He brought Jon along, and then eventually Arran joined us after we met him at a festival, on what was a very drunken afternoon.
ARRAN DAY (lead guitar): Yeah, we were in a horrible state, weren’t we?
ARRAN: It was my first Y Not, so I felt like a kid who had been left out. The three of you had been doing things for a bit until I joined, it had been a couple of months?
JOHN: Me, Jon and Dan had started jamming in the February, and you must have got involved around August time.
DAN SOUTHALL (drums): We’d had a pretty formed set by that point.
ARRAN: It was really nice for me, actually being able to just drop into a band where the construct was sort of already there. I could then just come in and ruin it! I’ve done my best, but not quite! (laughs)
From where did the name These Wicked Rivers originate?
JOHN: We were just trying to think of something that we liked the sound of, really, that wasn’t already taken.
JON HALLAM (bass): We were having a break from practice and we were sort of discussing the band name, going through Spotify on our phones, looking at really old blues musicians.
We came across a song called, I think it was, ‘These Evil Children’, something like that, and John said he liked the idea of having a name made up of three short, punchy words, but for some reason, he wanted the word “rivers” involved. (laughs)
JOHN: It’s quite a bluesy word though, isn’t it?
ARRAN: I love the name actually, because it struck me straight away. It’s great to walk into something that already has such a solid name.
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
JON: Generally, me or Arran will have a riff, we’ll go to the practice room, play it, and then just jam it out until it turns into a song.
ARRAN: I record things on my phone a lot of the time. We’ll go through a phase where we write a lot. We tend to just send a lot of stuff to each other, and we’ll know within about fifteen minutes if it’s going to be any good.
We normally write full songs when one of us is missing, just to make them feel terrible! It gives you more of a drive when you’re one down.
JON: When we do write, we tend to kick it out pretty quickly. Then, once we’ve written it, either Hartwell or myself will just do a dodgy recording of it on our phones, and we’ll try and write a set of lyrics for it, just see where it goes.
What are the inspirations behind the band’s lyrics?
JOHN: Lots of stuff, really. There’s a lot of things that have happened with ex-girlfriends, stuff like that, people that we know.
JON: Usually when you listen to a song of ours, you can quite quickly identify that it is not a relationship or a woman, when it’s me that’s writing that set of lyrics.
JOHN: ‘War’, that’s about getting through depression and coming out the other side alright. ‘Lady Killer’, that’s about a guy who is a bit of a womaniser, a ladies man. ‘Stone Paved In Gold’, that’s about women. Basically, we write about loads of stuff that happens to us.
JON: Or that annoys us. Some of the new stuff that I’m writing for the band is basically stuff that does my head in. I feel it’s something I need to communicate lyrically rather than moaning about it all on social media.
JOHN: Nobody likes a moaner on social media.
JON: Not at all.
Your second EP, ‘II’, came out in April. How well do you think it has been received?
JON: Overwhelmingly positive, and that’s not being said from an arrogant standpoint either. It took us a long time to do, and all four of us were concerned that when we released it, because we had done so much talking about it, that it was going to fall flat on its arse, but we have yet to get any negative criticism, which is very flattering for us, but very humbling at the same time. Generally, positive reviews of stuff that you have done makes you want to carry on.
ARRAN: I think it was the best way of capturing our sound and where we are at currently as a band. When you’re finding your feet, you want everyone to react well to what you do, because it makes you more driven.
Will the band be heading back into the studio any time soon?
JON: Hopefully so. The problem with studio stuff is that it’s all about money. If you want it done right and sounding good, it doesn’t come cheap, so we have to go through a period of time of saving up and what not.
JOHN: I think what we’re hoping to do before we play Rockstock in December is to release a two track single.
JON: If we can get the money together, we could record it in around September.
ARRAN: We’re writing all the time, which is good, because it keeps us active and kind of excited.
JOHN: Keeps us out of trouble as well.
JON: Basically, we’ll do it if we can afford to.
DAN: Send us money! (All laugh)
What else do you have planned for the rest of this year?
JON: Just lots of gigging, basically.
JOHN: Rockstock at the end of the year, as well.
JON: We’re also going to be supporting Ferocious Dog as well at The Hairy Dog in Derby, and we’re playing a Christmas party, also in Derby, so we’re going to be quite busy.
ARRAN: It will be exciting to dive into it all.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
JON: I think I speak for all of us when I say we’d like to do this for a living.
JOHN: That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
JON: To be honest, I think a lot of bands have unrealistic expectations in achieving the ultimate rock n’ roll lifestyle, which just isn’t given to you, not any more. Now, you have to have an image, you have to have backing.
ARRAN: We have to balance this a lot with work and having lives and families and stuff like that. It would be lovely if we could just focus entirely on something we really enjoy doing.
JOHN: I think the long-term aim for us is to keep on having fun doing it. Being able to concentrate purely on that would be a huge bonus to us.
DAN: It gives us something to work towards.
‘II’, THE LATEST EP FROM THESE WICKED RIVERS, IS AVAILABLE TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD ON iTunes AND ALL OTHER STREAMING SERVICES.
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH THE BAND AT THESE SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.thesewickedrivers.com