HE has been a rather busy man…
over the past few weeks! Even though he has a newer song out there (Let It Die); I have been speaking with RIVVRS about his sizzler, Don’t Wanna Know. The U.S. songwriter is in hectic form and looking ahead to a new album – one I was keen to know more about.
Brandon (RIVVRS) discusses his influenced and the music scene in L.A.; what it feels like having his music picked up by T.V. and publications; whether we can see him in the U.K. during 2018 – he ends the interview with an artist I was not overly-familiar with…
Hi, RIVVRS. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! You can call me Brandon! (Smiles). I’ve had a really nice week after a few not so nice weeks, so I’m feeling really good! I just got back from Palm Springs, so I’m pretending I’m still there as I type this...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure! I’m Brandon - sometimes I go by the name ‘RIVVRS’. Sometimes, I play with a band; sometimes I play by myself. Sometimes, I just watch Netflix instead. In terms of the type of music I play, it’s always changing. Right now, I’m very much in this Americana/Rock ‘n’ Roll phase and having a lot of fun playing out with the band. I listen to a lot of different types of music - so it’s usually really hard for me to stay focused on one genre.
Can I ask about that name – and where ‘RIVVRS’ comes from?
One of my first bands after high-school was called ‘RIVER SHIVER’ and we were a duo (myself and a drummer) and played around San Francisco a lot. When I decided to move to L.A. and start a new project, I wanted to do something new but also keep the familiarity of the old band name. RIVERS was one that always played in my head, but it’s such a common word that it’s impossible to separate yourself online (legally) without changing the spelling. I never really had any pressure to change the name, so I just started making music without a name.
After I wrote my first song in L.A., it was placed in a T.V. show that talks about a band from San Francisco. When I found out they were using my song, they asked what my band name was and I had to give them something on the fly! It was ‘RIVVERS’ at first and then I dropped the ‘E’ to make it ‘RIVVRS’.
Don’t Wanna Know is your latest cut. What is the story behind the song?
I wrote that song with my buddy, Joshua James, after we toured together last year. He has a wife and two kids at home, so touring is definitely harder on him. I have a girlfriend and two cats at home, so it’s not exactly the same - but I definitely miss them when I’m gone. We had such a good time while traveling.
I remember thinking at one point: ‘What if we just don’t go home and never go back?!’. Mostly as a joke, but then actually played out the scenario in my head. It’s a little scary to think about leaving an entire life behind, but it happens every day. Husbands leave their wives and their kids all the time…
I experienced it as a child and I still wonder what it takes to do something like that. I think that’s, generally, what inspired the song. Along the way, we swapped out the words ‘If I do drugs on the weekend’ for a lighter version of ‘If I get high on the weekend’. Haha - it’s really just an angsty song about life on the road and what you leave behind when you’re gone - and the fear that it might not be waiting for you when you get back.
I know it has picked up traction from the likes of NYLON. Is it touching knowing people are responding so strongly to your music?
I’m just grateful to be able to do this for a living. It’s incredibly flattering to know people are listening and connecting to the songs! It’s truly what keeps the fire going.
Your latest L.P., Cosmic Dream, is due later this year. Are there particular stories and aspects that influence the music? How do you feel it develops from your earliest work?
This album feels like my first record; mostly because it was created in a three-year period with the intention of being a RECORD. For that reason, I feel like it’s very congruent from song to song. My first record was more of a compilation of songs I wrote at different period of my life and then put it out when the time felt right. This new album has been a long, slow process and I’ve taken a lot more care with it.
It’s definitely similar to previous work but stands on its own, for sure.
Your music has been used on network television shows – you have accrued massive numbers on Spotify. How have these television placements helped get your music to new audiences?
It’s been really helpful! Especially with Shazam. It’s easy for someone to get instantly connected to your catalog just by clicking the Shazam button when they hear a song they like. That’s been a huge advantage for sure. It’s always nice to connect with someone at a live show and they tell you: “Oh, yeah; I discovered you by watching this T.V. show!” It’s not really how I ever imagined people would discover my music and I think it’s really rad!
What music did you grow up on? Was Classic-Rock a big part of that education?
Absolutely. My dad came from that era, so anything he grew up listening to I listened to. Luckily, I also had the incredible music of the '90s to add to that, so overall I got a very eclectic mix of music at an early age. Tom Petty, The Red Hot Chili Peppers; AC/DC and Ben Harper. Those acts stand out in my head as big influences from an early age.
It seems like your early life was, at times, quite displaced. Was your childhood quite uprooted and unsettled? Did you travel about a lot?
We moved around a lot when I was younger but, by the time I was in middle-school, things mellowed out a little bit. There’s a lot of drug abuse and mental illness that runs on both sides of my family so, naturally, I’ve become a product of that environment - but I feel like I was raised well under those circumstances.
Now, I just write songs about it! Haha.
You are a native of Northern California, now based in L.A. What made you move away and embrace a new crowd? What are the main differences between Northern California and L.A.?
I moved to L.A. to be closer to the music scene, naturally. It’s been a transition, but I love L.A. The difference is the people. In Northern California, there’s a stronger sense of community and connection. In Los Angeles, I feel like most connections are surface level and motivated by self-interest. It’s a town that lives for money, not art. BUT on the flip side, there are communities within the city that embrace the Northern California vibe - and I’m slowly starting to find those and embrace them.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
We won’t be touring until later in 2018, into 2019. But this May, we’ll be playing the Main Stage at Bottle Rock in Napa Valley! Friday, May 25th to be exact…
Do you think your music comes alive when you have a full band on the stage? How important is it getting music out to the people?
The music is (at best) half-alive without the band. I’m realizing how vital the band is with this new record. The songs just don’t translate the same when it’s only me and a guitar. It translates: it just does it differently. I’m really excited to keep playing with the full group!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Total enlightenment…just kidding. I just wanna release my record and have a tour in place by the end of 2018 - and then hit the road hard in 2019.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Oh yeah! When I lived in Napa, I used to submit myself to the local theater as an opening act for the larger touring artists that came through. After two years of no response, one day the booker emailed me to let me know she’d confirmed me to open for Jewel for two nights. That was single-handedly the most memorable experience I have to date, simply because she was so nice and encouraging to me and it gave me this confidence boost I didn’t have at twenty-years-old. I think it just validated my dream and made me feel like it was realistic for the first time.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
…to listen to advice. Haha
I think it’s easy to let good advice slip by you. Just be open and willing to learn and to adapt to change. There’s always learning to do.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Now that the record is done and I’m not hitting the road, I have been chilling HARD. Now that the weather is heating up, I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors. Any escape from the concrete helps me unwind.
Otherwise, I’m definitely a homebody; lots of writing and listening to music and watching Shark Tank.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
YES! I’m sure you’ve heard it by now but listen to The Joke by Brandi Carlile; or a song called Sugartooth. The whole album she just released is SO GOOD