River Whyless isn’t your typical “folk” band

In 2019, the four members of River without why isolated themselves in the North Carolina wilderness to record the critically acclaimed 2018 follow-up album Kindness, a rebel. Envisioning a spring 2020 release date, the album took shape without the help of an outside producer, something the band hadn’t done since their 2012 debut. A stone, a leaf, an untraceable door. While River Whyless prefers alone time to focus on music together, the pandemic delay has given the Asheville quartet unexpected free time to polish Monoflorawhich was finally released in April 2022.

“We had the ability to really push the mixes in the direction we wanted to go and tweak them. At the same time, there’s a bit of a trade-off: the more options you have, the less happiness you find in something. … But I think the record turned out better because we had time,” says vocalist/guitarist Ryan O’Keefe, adding that the band even spent a year creating the album cover.

It’s safe to say that the extra care and attention resulted in a multi-layered album that fuses folk, indie rock, Americana and roots music. For fans of the band, this isn’t necessarily anything new, but such a mix allows River Whyless to transition from genre to genre, even if it makes the band hard to categorize one against. to the other.

“When people ask me on the street what we play, I never really get a good answer. I end up saying ‘folk rock’ or something like that, but that means different things to different people. I don’t I really have no idea,” admits O’Keefe. “The genre is always difficult. We’re definitely not a pop band. We’re definitely not an indie rock band. … I think at the end of the day, ‘Americana’ can be a broad term. It includes a lot of roots music and the idea of ​​those alternate beats as well. It’s really hard. We never got it. Someone once called us ‘nature’. pop”.

“Oil Skin” and “Dove of Mourning” of Monoflora are two examples of what the band does best, but maybe you should decide for yourself: River Whyless plays Levitt Pavilion Thursday, September 1 with heavy diamond ring.

With three singer-songwriters—O’Keefe, Halli Anderson (vocals and violin) and Daniel Shearin (vocals, bass and harmonium)—River Whyless is a “very democratic band,” says O’Keefe. Shearin’s home in Swannanoa also served as the space and studio for the final set of recordings.

“We all have our own writing style, but with this record we really tried to do as much as possible together,” he says. “Overall, it’s a pretty open conversation. We try to keep it as open as possible throughout the writing process to allow everyone to contribute ideas. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that.

Add to that the percussion work of Alex McWalters, and River Whyless is the soundtrack of a babbling Appalachian stream as it winds curiously down the mountainside. The ebb and flow of musical styles allow listeners to pick up a variety of sounds. Whatever they are, explains O’Keefe, Monoflora is a buffet in this sense.

“I think there’s a lot of layers, and I think it has to do with the fact that we recorded it on our own without having this very strict start and end of the recording session, we so we were able to fill in the gaps where we thought they needed to be filled,” he says of the record. “That kind of seems to be what we’re becoming, in a way. When we sit down to write, it seems to go more and more in the direction you hear Monoflora, which I think is this songwriter driven music with a lot of layers and a lot of experimentation in both the beats and the harmonies in the music. We are very rarely satisfied with ourselves with a very simple production. Sometimes we shy away from each other a bit, but most of the time I think it opens up secret doors in the creative process, always trying to…find those first instincts and then push the boundaries.

River Whyless, 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1, Levitt Pavilion, 1380 West Florida Avenue. Tickets are $35.

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