In the rigid landscape of North Carolina lies an unwavering River that beats to the march of its own drum, pounding through the roots that make up the reverberations of life. However, this River is not a body of water, but rather an eccentric folk quartet that has been steadily producing melodically enticing compositions since 2012.

River Whyless have brought together elements of traditional folk music and baroque pop and have steadily increased their sphere of influence as of late. They have even made numerous festival appearances since their inception, including Newport Folk Festival and Floyd Festival. Most notably, the group will be performing at Bonnaroo for the first time this year.

“Last year [2016], we played Newport Folk Festival and that was a dream come true, and it came at a time when we needed something like that,” said Alex McWalters, drummer and percussionist for River Whyless.

These changes have simultaneously brought River Whyless into the spotlight and shifted the dynamic of the quartet as the group, with the addition of Daniel Shearin on bass after the departure of their former bassist, being the pinnacle change.

“That change altered the band dynamic quite a bit,” said McWalters. “[It] ultimately proved really beneficial and challenging but it took a little while for us to navigate that new dynamic.”

The center of their dynamism revolves around the aspect of songwriting, which has become a sort of introspective trophy for the group. With lyrics like “I will break you in/I’ve tried it before and I’ll try it again/But if this time you feel your shell has grown to thin/Then I will lend you my skin,” from “Life Crisis,” River Whyless has transcended the norms of songwriting and has built upon themes of the land and multicultural diversity.

“We all have an inherent drive to create and play music,” said McWalters. “It’s usually being inspired by each other and sometimes, that is what we depend on one person in the group having something that they are inspired by or doing something out of inspiration.”

As challenging as the craft may be, McWalters and the motley crew of folk heroes have pulled through and last year, they released the highly acclaimed record, “We All the Light,” as well as their “Hold Me To Ya” single, which was released this past January. The premise of the compositions found light through nature and growth, two motifs that have come to define the group.

Whether listening to the African-inspired rhythm of “Blood Moon” or the indie pop tinged “Kalangala,” River Whyless leaves an indelible mark on the realm of folk for a new wave of musicians, with their inspirations ranging from Wilco to Andrew Bird.

“The challenge is always to find the commonalities between what we are interested in,” said McWalters. “I think it’s really important for us at this point to realize that there is no reason to deliberately set a direction, I think it is a process we had learned in the last record.”

Beyond the music is the overarching theme of politics, which has permeated through the band’s actions, especially since the election of President Donald Trump last month. Due to Trump’s controversial policies, the band decided to donate all proceeds made through their Bandcamp site on Feb. 3 to the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as donate the proceeds of sales from their latest EP, “Hold Me To Ya,” to the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

“I feel as we get older, we just feel the need to do something positive,” said McWalters. “Being in a band is an amazing opportunity [since] you have a platform of some kind that you can express what you believe in and actually contribute to the conversation in a larger way.”

“Nobody is able to make change alone,” McWalters added pridefully.

River Whyless will be playing at downtown Fairfield’s FTC StageOne on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.