A big sound from a blues rock band led by a singer with a strong, slow rasp that hooks you in; that’s Big River and its just what you want and expect to hear from a group such as this. When I heard their set at The Cambridge Rock Festival this last weekend, it was just what I knew it would be. Gritty, raw with a slightly dark flavour. It was music that harkens back to deep, southern American rock. You wouldn’t know this band didn’t grow up in the American South and that is a true compliment. With huge guitars, a bass anchored in a bit of funk, slamming drums and a vocalist with a stiff gravel to his voice made for the job at hand, this band has got the balance between blues and rock and are hitting the sweet spot. I sat down with them after their show to discuss their genesis, the new single, ‘Hometown Hustler’, and finding their sound.
Tell me how you guys came together as a band?
Damian (guitar)-I just left a touring band, very disheartened, and I just wanted to put a band together to make it fun. That was about two years ago. So, I just put the idea out on social media and Ant (bass) was the first one to respond because he and I had worked together on a touring band. We then threw some ideas around.
Adam (vocals)-I had just finished with a band I was in. I said to my missus, ‘Look, I am going to take a break from it all’ and three weeks in I put an ad on Facebook! And then I get this friend request. It was late at night, I was in bed, and I get this friend request, and I sent a message back saying, ‘Do I know you?’ and you went, yeah. You had seen a little video of me singing hadn’t ya, and then it just went from there. And, Luke was in the band with me from before and I said to him,’ Do you fancy doing something like a Vintage Trouble type thing?’
Luke (drummer)-I had just watched Vintage Trouble that afternoon at Glastonbury on TV when I get a text from Adam and I had taken a break from music as well. And my break had only lasted a week! And I then looked back at the TV and said straight away, ‘Yes!’ I was looking at a BOGOF deal wasn’t I? It’s the running joke.
Adam (vocals)-Yeah, so that was two years ago. It has just worked just straight away. Initially I wanted it to sound like a bit Stevie Ray Vaughn. I’m into my blues sound you see. But, it was nothing like that, and it sounds better than I ever thought it would.
Ant (bass)-I like a bit of groove, being the bass, if its groove or funk, it doesn’t matter. It’s all in there. Doesn’t hurt being in there!
Did you always know that you wanted to play blues or did you experiment a bit, maybe just falling into where you are now?
Adam-Yeah, we kinda did. You (Luke) initially wanted to move away from the one thing that made it more blues. But that went.
Luke- The sound just sort of happened. It’s all come full circle really. In a short space of time. We tried to find some rocky bits and then dabbled with blues.
Adam-Every time we tried a blues song we’d say, ‘Sounds really good, but it could be a bit heavier, a bit rockier’.
Luke-Even the covers we do we still make it our own.
Damian-We always change up the sound to make them ours. It’s still us doing it. Our original stuff the songs just come together so easily. I will have some ideas, I just send them to Adam on the phone, and play the guitar on its own, and Adam then puts some words to it. Send it to the rest the of the band and then we play it in rehearsal. It’s just so easy. That’s how the single came together.
Tell me the back story of ‘Hometown Hustler’, it’s such a great song….
Adam-We are all quite separated by distance, so we can’t get together all the time. So, Damo sent me over some riffs, I put lyrics to it, maybe just a small section, then we get together for rehearsals. Then they listen to what we’ve done, so in their head they have idea of what they want to do, and within an hour, we’ve got something.
Luke-That one came together really quickly actually.
Adam-The lyrics for that are based on someone I used to know from an estate where I used to live. And, he owned a corner shop/newsagent and he was quite a respected guy, but he used to dabble in underworld type things. Everyone used to go to him if they needed to borrow money, or had a problem they needed fixing. The shop was a bit of a cover. But, he always had a big Jag parked out front. The name of the song comes from a friend of mine. He and I were talking one day, and he called me, and don’t take offense to this, ‘A Small Town P***y’ so that’s where it came from so it’s a play on that.
Is there more due to be released soon? Tell me about the album?
Ant-We got work done on the album. We sort of have songs ready for that. It was started and getting stuff together for that. It’s just a collection of good songs. We wanted to put together a group of 10 songs that we really like.
Adam-We got the songs, it’s just getting them recorded, getting in the studio. Getting them done.
Luke-We are going into the studio at the end of the month. We have about 10 songs ready.
Adam-We have about 6 that are done and ready to go onto the album.
Ant-We are all getting stuff together so there is no shortage of material. Which is good!
Damian-We always have stuff flowing. We are always coming up with ideas, I’m always sitting at home with my guitar getting ideas on my phone. And, if something doesn’t work, we try something else. Or, we might have something that did work and we say, ‘Hey, that’s really good’ and carry on from there.
Ant-It should be out early next year.
Who do you listen to for inspiration for writing your music?
Luke-This is where you want all the hard luck stories, right?
Damian-For me, it’s more for the singer and the lyricist to have the back story. With me, I don’t know, I hear something in my head, like a guitar, it sounds really silly, but I hear these guitar riffs in my head, and have to sing them into my phone or pick the guitar up at home and play it into my phone.
What would you tell other blues bands just getting started about how it is to be working in this genre as it isn’t a very pop-centric type of music…
Ant-It’s kinda coming back again a bit now. A guy that’s on later, Laurence Jones, and other artists like that, it’s becoming popular again you know. I’d just say, do the best you can. Play as well as you can, and enjoy yourselves.
Luke-And don’t be afraid to be different.
Ant-You gotta look like you are enjoying what you are doing. Because if you look like you are enjoying yourselves, whatever kind of music you play…
Luke-Yeah, because a lot of the time people try to see what’s popular and try and copy it.
Adam-Try to be individual, just put your own spin on it really.
Damian-And wear hats!
Adam-We only wear hats because none of us have any hair!
Luke-We were at rehearsal, and we were like, ‘We can’t go out with four bald heads, because people will notice!’ We’d become known as the blues band with the bald blokes! Now we are known as the band with the hats!
Damian-I prefer the hats!
Anyone else you want to see while you are here?
Ant-Laurence Jones, Bad Touch looked good. They have more hair than us!!
More touring planned?
Adam-We have done the festivals now, the last festival was today, we have a few gigs the rest of the year but then working on the recordings. We have a little break now. We are all in separate places, so we need to set time aside for that. We need to sacrifice some of the gigs to do the album.
Damian-We are shooting a video too. (The video for Hometown Hustler will be released in mid September)
Ant-We have something else at the start of Sept and few other little things but the album is next.
This band is one to go far so be sure to catch these guys when you have the chance, they won’t disappoint!
The Pelton Arms in Greenwich on 28th Oct
The London Guitar Show on 29th October
Photos by ©PremiumPhotographic