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An Interview with The River Band

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The River Band was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 2012 and it’s limbs have evolved and expanded dramatically since. Now, it has grown to be a greater force than the sum of it’s parts. It tells a personal, and yet universal story… and when provoked… provides a marvelous party for the animal.

More directly, The River Band‘s self-titled debut album deals with the highs and lows of the disease of our generation; depression. How you fall, get up, confront, get over and celebrate all the crests and valleys you might be faced with. The River Band have created a musical home for all, and it’s door is wide open.

The River Band
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I recently had a chat to Jandre’ Spanneberg (the lead vocalist from The River Band). This is what he had to say…

Tell us how The River Band came together?

The River Band consists of a group of professional musicians that came together over a period of 7 years. Jandré was looking for a couple of talented friends to gig with, and after producing many bands and artists over the years, he picked some of the best musicians from the best bands he has worked with, whom in turn suggested other bandmates, and so the band grew into what we have today.

We hear that you had a fantastic album launch in Cape Town. Tell us more about how you put all of this together?

It was quite a process, let me tell you. The River Band truly and utterly lives by the unwritten rule “go big or go home”. Hence, we had to bring the goods at the launch. We wanted to keep the setting intimate, while giving the audience the “Big Concert” experience. Venue hunting began in October 2018, and we eventually settled on the 100-year-old Centre for the Book (National Library).

This spectacular venue presented its own set of challenges… we had to build stages, design sound-system-setups and lighting designs, bring in catering, seating… a massive list of things. The detailed lighting and sound design for the launch took about 2 months to perfect (we filmed and recorded the event), and anyone who attended to concert can attest to it paying off…

What was the best feedback that you got after the launch?

I can probably sum that up in a quote from ‘Dirty Pink City’:

“This was one of the most beautiful album launches I have ever attended – from the venue and the audience to the stories Jandré told and each and every musician who joined him on stage. I look forward to following this band’s journey!”

The River Band Album Cover
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What are the band`s plans for the next few months?

We LOVE to play. In the upcoming months we are going to concentrate on acquiring and performing as many gigs as possible, wherever anyone will have us. Gigging with the River Band, however, presents its own set of challenges.

In short, it is a BIG band. Therefore, we can’t gig everywhere we would like, as a lot of venues cannot accommodate a band of this size on their stage. This is not going to stop from trying though! We will be filming and recording as many of the gigs as we can for the people who can’t attend!

How does the songwriting process work?

If only I could condense the whole thing into a nice process! Honestly, it varies greatly. I cannot make myself write, or suck something out of my thumb, I do not possess those skills. So, the ideas will pop up randomly; a sentence here, a title there, an image or a feeling, a chord, riff or memory…

And it will evolve from that. Some songs write themselves, others want you to sweat, ponder, wander and wonder… and rewrite… a lot. In the end, I want the song to remind me of something I already know, but from a different perspective. Half the time I have no idea what the song is about, but at least I know what inspired it.

You have your own studio. Tell us about the recording process of the album?

By the time the recording dates rolled up, we were all tired of the inside of a studio. We decided to pack and rack a bunch of equipment, and disappear into the desert for two weeks. There we set up a make-shift studio in a large living room, and recorded the entire albums backbone in two weeks.

We recorded the way they used to do it in the 70’s and 80’s. By playing. No trickery, no substitutes, no technological crutches, warts and all. We mixed it the same way too. We wanted to bring the listener into our rehearsal room. We did the final tracking of the strings and horns in the studio in Cape Town, where the mixing also took place. Saying it was fun is the understatement of the year!

What were your biggest challenges during recording and on the other hand, what nice surprises happened during the process?

As I mentioned, we wanted to transport the listener into our rehearsal room. We wanted to capture a moment, a space, a feeling. So we put mics up all over the place, to capture the sound of the room with almost every instrument. Hence, most of the reverb sounds you hear on the album is the actual room. The challenges; well, it was a living room.

One moment you’ll have someone sneezing or laughing, the next you’ll have a kettle boiling or one of the fur-babies running through the room with their bells ringing like Santa’s Reindeer. If you listen closely (sometimes not so closely), you’ll be able to hear some of it. We were surprised at how well the room lent itself to recording. The drums sounded magnificent! And our bassist had the comfiest couch to record on!

You sing with an interesting accent on some of the tracks, tell us more about that?

I had some strange influences. Long story short, my “first” English accent was cockney-ish, due to childhood friends in my formative years. Then, in High School, I had a teacher who was convinced that nothing less than the Queens own English will do.

Add to this, a Southern USA drawl that I tried to mimic from friends of our family, and you get what I have now. All of this gets thrown around sometimes too, as I try to develop a different character for different songs. So my voice also changes when the music or lyrics call for it. 

I’d like to thank Jandre and The River Band for this interview and I wish them all of the best with their future musical endeavours. For more info about the band, check out their Facebook page or click here to listen to their music.

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