Rivers+Roads: Music between the lines

by Raleigh Davis

Sometimes the best things fall into your lap when you’re not looking for them. You can strive and hope for something and look for it in every corner of the universe to no avail just to have all the pieces fit together when you least expect it. Such is the case of Rivers+Roads, Bellingham’s newest bluegrass and folk band. What started as a fun way to pass the time amongst friends has blossomed into something much more and they have only been gaining steam since. You’ve probably seen their name around attached to a number of shows they’ve been playing in town but it’s high time you were formally introduced to the honest and powerful music of Rivers + Roads.

The band had their humble beginnings in a way most fitting for Bellingham: a backyard barn in a rural neighborhood. Back then it was just guitarist/vocalist Tylor Decker and singer Sasha Thomas working on some acoustic songs to have some fun. As they honed their craft they decided to share their musings with friends by having impromptu barn open mics.

“We just started to have a couple people come over and listen,” Decker remembered, “then it turned into 20 people over hanging out, drinking… that pushed us to start writing more.”

So what started as a fun time evolved into something more and Rivers+Roads was born. The duo kept working on their brand of earthy and soulful folk with a hint of punk aggression, and in short time they found themselves with an EP. With their debut Chapter One in their possession they decided it was time to hit the scene and start sharing their music with the rest of Bellingham. Little did they know that would lead to an evolution beyond their expectations, as their shows started to attract more and more people interested in joining the team. Benferd Rollins was the first to join the R+R squad on violin; it was a chance coincidence that couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I had just quit my job because it was getting in the way of doing more music stuff,” Rollins said. “I wanted to hit the ground running and was just looking to play… I saw [Rivers+Roads] perform and it just stuck.”

Decker said he met Benferd after a show on the street. “He just said ‘Hey, I want to play violin for you guys’ and I was like… Alright!” So the duo became a three-piece – but not for long. Through more connections and chance encounters they’ve settled on their current iteration with Lucas and Danae Hendrickson on drums and piano respectively.

Now that their line-up is set the band has been working on getting their music out there and perfecting their sound. Listeners can’t help but be drawn in by the soulful, smoky croonings of singer Sasha Thomas backed by powerful, aggressive harmonies by punk-rocker turned bluegrass Tylor Decker. Decker’s acoustic guitar work channels folk and bluegrass through a Drop-Kick Murphy’s lens, which combined with the more traditional melodic layerings of violin and piano provide a refreshingly new twist on the genre. Seeing Rivers + Roads perform is truly a treat that can’t be recommended enough and they have a way of making you feel part of their musical family that lends an intimate air to their performances.

Looking towards the future, Rivers+Roads is currently writing music for their planned full-length and hope to re-imagine some of their previous EP songs for the full band as well as creating new tunes. They have a slew of shows in the wings for the coming months.

Published in the May 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine