From Nashville to Costa Rica to D.C.: The Riverbreaks’ New Album Has a Peace Corps Influence
By Erica Burman on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
From Central America to the American South, The Riverbreaks of Washington, D.C., is an Americana band in more ways than one. The band’s singer Ryan Bailey was raised in Nashville and came of musical age in Chapel Hill, N.C., but wrote much of their new album, Wildfire, while serving as a Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer in Costa Rica from 2007 to 2009.
Wildfire “sonically combines the best of Americana and indie rock with folk and country influences, but lyrically covers a lot of ground, spanning themes of youth, heartbreak, the Latin American drug war, the marginalization of indigenous groups, and nature,” according to the group’s website.
The Riverbreaks are releasing Wildfire with two shows in their home base of Washington, D.C. On Friday, February 1 they performed at the Kennedy Center and Saturday, February 16 they will be at the Black Cat. Out of town, the band rocked the Living Room in New York City on February 2, and will be heading to Local 506 in Chapel Hill, N.C., on February. 17. The album is getting airtime at college radio stations in Philadephia and Chicago, as well as on AAA powerhouses like KVMR.
Growing up in Nashville, “there were always musicians around,” says Bailey. A friend of his worked at a guitar store, and he was able to score a very nice guitar for not much money while still in high school. While studying at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill he formed a band and immersed himself in the local music scene.
But the Peace Corps called. “I always wanted to work in a foreign country and learn a new language, and Peace Corps seemed like the best opportunity for me. I also really like to create and manage my own projects, so Peace Corps was a perfect fit!”
Naturally the guitar went too. “I took my guitar and would play for hours in a small house I had in the jungle,” says Bailey. “I’d make a large press pot of coffee and work on songs whenever I had free time. I also had a mandolin, but never got too far. Sometimes I’d play music with some Costa Rican musicians: there were a few guitarists, a keyboard player, and an accordion guy in my town.” Occasionally he would send songs to his friends back home.
Wildfire is the second album for The Riverbreaks. The band released its debut album Get You Right in spring 2011, and shortly thereafter began working on Wildfire, which it recorded in the spring and summer of 2012. “Some of the lyrics took shape when I started thinking about the parallels in the southern U.S. and South America,” says Bailey. “In both places indigenous groups have been marginalized and there are similar agricultural, natural and spiritual elements.
The album was produced by Chris Stamey, who is a critically acclaimed member of the dB’s and producer of bands including Whiskeytown, Lost in the Trees, Megafaun, The Rosebuds, Le Tigre, and Alejandro Escovedo. Working with Stamey seemed natural to The Riverbreaks, as members Ryan Bailey (vocals), Jesse Prentice-Dunn (electric guitar), Andrew Satten (keyboard), and Neela Rajendra (violin) all attended UNC Chapel Hill, where Stamey’s studio is located, and Drew Ball (bass) attended nearby North Carolina State. As they delved into the music scene there, all roads led back to Chris as a musician, songwriter and producer. Special guests on the album include Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown, Tres Chicas), Mitch Easter (Lets Active, REM producer) and Logan Matheny (Roman Candle – a major influence on The Riverbreaks), among others.
The Riverbreaks prove that while there is no place like home, sometimes an exotic locale lends depth and dimension to songs with deeply personal references. Their combination of gorgeous Americana and indie rock makes Wildfire unforgettable.
Listen to songs from Wildfire: http://www.theriverbreaks.com/music/
The Riverbreaks Live
Friday, February 15th
9 PM, Tickets $10
1803 West Street, Annapolis, MD
Black Cat (Main Stage)
Saturday, February 16th w/ The North Country and Orchard Wall
9 PM, Tickets $10
1811 14th Street NW, Washington, DC
Sunday, February 17th
9 PM, Tickets $5
506 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC