River Rats Progress From Busking To Bigger Things – Brevard NC
Last updated 4/8/2013 at 8:58am
Many musicians start off playing on street corners, but few are able to translate that passion into steady stage gigs. Asheville’s River Rats are one of those success stories and will bring their former blues-busking ways to 185 King St. for a Saturday, April 13, show at 8 p.m. While preparing for that performance, vocalist and lead guitarist Andrew Scotchie recently spoke with Backstage Pass about the band’s origins and steady rise.
Question: What is the significance of the name River Rats?
Answer: I actually live right on Riverside Drive in Asheville, which runs parallel next to the French Broad River. As a kid I spent a lot of time at the river with family and friends, a very fun place that I still find inspiring. When this project started, it was one of those potential names that just seemed to fit and unite us; kind of make us think “yeah, that’s what we are!”
When I started busking out with the old harmonica player Andrew and Jordan Miller (bass/vocals), the name “River Rats” really started to catch on with the other local street players around Asheville, so before we could really even change it, that’s how people knew us and identified us. Also, with a name like that in Asheville, people remember you! I released the debut album under the name “Andrew Scotchie and The River Rats” for copyright protection from any sports teams or anything that carries the name too. I was really tempted to insert the “I live in a van down by the river” joke from SNL, just so you know.
Q: What was the tipping point in transitioning from busking to playing in venues?
A: Well, the whole band had venue experience before this band, but the Rats’ music and progress actually did start on the streets of Asheville. I was in a punk band before the River Rats and after that project was over, I really explored my music desires and tried to get back to basics: playing on the streets and even writing right there in front of people or improvising was a great, strengthening way to do that. After we got a full-time drummer (Eliza Hill) and Jordan on bass guitar and vocals, we started playing a few downtown local showcases, got Alex and Kyle on the horn section and the responses started getting better and better so I decided to book us more around Asheville.
Soon after playing a lot of Asheville venues, I thought we were ready to try our first out of town show and from there my network of dedicated venue owners, promoters and artists that keep us busy just got bigger. This is a common thing in a healthy music scene: “play your butt off and always say ‘thank you’ to those who you play with or help you get a show, play your hometown, get out of your hometown and keep building what you think could be a strong network of musically dedicated people.” Asheville has been a great springboard for us, no doubt about that.
Q: Was recording your debut album easier or more difficult than you expected?
A: We finished our 12-song debut album, “Soul and Sarcasm,” months back, and looking back on that process, it was extremely challenging and a learning experience all around. “Soul and Sarcasm” was the first record that any member, including myself, in the band has been on. The record took a lot of dedication and a lot of focus but the whole process was really exciting because as the record progressed, the band got a lot tighter as people and musicians.
The debut record was produced by one of my best friends, Daniel Earle (a.k.a. Story Daniels of WNC) at Soul Expression Studios and it shows the band really growing and evolving from a stripped down rock/blues band to the fuller, funky band with the brass section that it is now. You hear a lot about bands just hating the recording process; we had our ups and downs during recording and we still do of course, but with good energy and a mixer/producer like Daniel at the board, a lot of good moments were captured and I think that shines through on the CD. We are already talking about the next release and hopefully a music label to release it on.
Q: You list the Rolling Stones, Black Keys, and Tom Petty among the group’s influences, yet the first name that comes to mind when I hear your voice is Jack White. Is that similarity coincidental or has he impacted your music as well?
A: I have gotten that a few times. I think it just comes with the category of rock/blues music we play and how raw it can be live sometimes. Mr. White is amazing and I definitely jam to the White Stripes. Don’t get me wrong, but currently I am more influenced by writers/singers that I have seen live and of course a few of the legends. I also really enjoy good front men or front women that can put on a show and captivate an audience. A few vinyls that I currently have at home wearing out my record player are Reigning Sound’s “Time Bomb High School,” Alice Cooper’s “Love it Death,” Fats Domino’s “Ain’t that a Shame,” the Rolling Stones’ “Tattoo You” album and some old Lynyrd Skynyrd to remind me of how much I love southern rock. I am also a big fan and supporter of almost every Asheville band that we have played with and love to watch and learn from them. The Rats have given me a chance to play with some of my heroes in Asheville and for that I am totally grateful.