Another exceptional group signed to Transgressive Publishing in 2010 - and now Records - Dry The River are a band we've been waiting for for some time. Inclusive, inspirational and utterly thrilling.
Dry the River’s origins lie with frontman, Peter Liddle. Born in Norway to British parents, his early life was a shifting one thanks to his father’s work as an engineer in the oil industry. Ever-changing homes and schools gave Liddle a peculiar set of reference points: “I think I have a fixation with community and belonging, because that wasn’t something I had as a child.” And though his parents are only “quietly religious,” Liddle became fascinated by the iconography and language of the Roman Catholic Church at one of his many primary schools, where his voice was honed in the school choir.
Though he’s not overtly religious, religious symbolism creeps into Dry the River’s lyrics, whether on first album ballad’s Bible Belt and Shaker Hymns or the more anthemic Gethsemane or Hidden Hand on the more recent Alarms in the Heart.
By the time Liddle returned to Newbury as a teenager, he and the various members of Dry the River — guitarist Matthew Taylor, Scott Miller (bass) and Jon Warren (drums) — were crossing paths in various bands on the DIY scene centred around Southampton, Reading and Newbury’s Waterside Youth Centre. “It was this cool, grimy little venue,” says the singer. “You could rehearse there, and they always put on local bands alongside touring artists, which really helped cultivate the scene. It meant you could sell out a decent venue with your 16 year old punk band.”
At medical school, with ten years of band experience behind him, Liddle resolved to put music on the back burner and focus on his studies. But in spite of his best efforts, the acoustic guitar in the corner was calling. He started writing folky material in his hall of residence room and, on summer break, called on those old friends from the Reading scene – by now all living in London – to record them.
On signing to Transgressive publishing, the band were able to quit their jobs and studies. “We went on tour straight after and went absolutely wild for six months,” says Taylor. “We just partied the whole fucking time.” They clocked up some miles too, playing across Europe, the UK and even the Outer Hebrides.
In March 2011, the band traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut to record their debut album with producer Peter Katis (The National, Interpol), a man whose professional ethos was a perfect match. “We were looking for someone who could strike a balance between lo-fi and hi-fi,” says Liddle. “We wanted to record the bulk of it to tape, to use analogue stuff in favour of computer wizardry where possible, but without it sounding like an old folk record. I think we tried to preserve the fragility and honesty of the more stripped down tracks, but still get the intensity of the live show across too – to marry those two aspects of our music without it sounding incongruous.” In downtime, they played shows in New York, growing a grassroots following there with each passing week.
Back in Britain, the band’s progress remained rapid – videos of off-the-cuff acoustic performances became internet smashes, EPs sold out and festival bookings began to come in.
Having started the year as one of the 15 artists on the prestigious BBC Sound of 2012 shortlist, Dry the River released their debut album Shallow Bed in March 2012 to critical acclaim and promptly embarked on another gruelling bought of touring, storming practically every major festival in the UK and Europe in the process.
The band returned in 2014 with the second record, ‘Alarms in the Heart’, a record we loved so much we signed the band to our Records arm and released it ourselves. The release was supported by a huge UK, European and American touring, including an incredible homecoming show at London’s The Forum in October, and helping us celebrating our 10th anniversary at the Barbican. Produced by Charlie Hugall (Florence and The Machine, Ed Sheeran), Paul Savage (Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand) and Peter Miles (We Are The Ocean, Futures, The King Blues) and with arrangements and strings from Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Rós, Björk), the resulting 10-track album is bold, expansive, confident and cohesive.