Rivers to Road: The story of a community driven band

by McKenna Cardwell

Music is an amazing gift when you consider its ability to bring people together. United by common emotions that are expressed in songs, music can provide not only sustenance for the soul, but comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. The music of local Bellingham band Rivers to Roads is deeply influenced by this feeling of family and community, both in the chemistry between its members, and its message to their listeners. Tylor Decker, half of the band’s founding duo, says that this message has only strengthened through their most recent EP release, Seasons.

“I hope that when people listen to our music they feel encouraged to take advantage of the small things in life,” Decker said. “That we should come together and celebrate all that we have right now.”

This idea of community is a driving force behind the indie folk sounds of Rivers to Roads and is rooted in the beginnings of the band.

After years of playing in various punk bands, Decker decided to make the move from the Marysville area to Bellingham. Through the connections of mutual friends, Decker came into contact with Sasha Thomas and the two bonded over their mutual love of making music.

“Sasha used to throw these open mic nights in this sort of barn in her backyard,” Decker said. “She would just post the event on Facebook once or twice a week and the community would come to sing and dance and just have a good time. We started jamming together and things just took off from there.”

From the beginning, Thomas and Decker loved the idea of creating a full, big band feeling but were limited to what sound the two of them could create together.

“To try and achieve that full percussion sound I would tap a tambourine with one foot and stomp on a piece of wood with the other,” Decker laughed. “I think I broke at least two tambourines because I accidentally smashed it with my foot.”

Together Thomas and Decker released Chapter 1, a five track EP on August 31, 2014. Debuting their warm, upbeat and melodic sound with an folk flair that carries naturally, despite Decker’s punk background.

“I feel like as a musician, you hold onto things from where you were brought up, and find ways of incorporating those past elements into the music of who you are today,” Decker said. “Our music now has the same heart and energy, but just with a different face.”

Since the release of Chapter 1, Rivers to Roads has grown to a six piece band with the additions of Michael O’Neill on viola and vocals, Brian Kent on bass, Lucas Hendrickson on drums and Danae Hendrickson playing keys.

“When you are a part of a two person band, you both play your thing and that’s all well and good,” Decker said. “But I found that when you have multiple musicians, you can listen back on what you’ve recorded and hear each part separately. It’s amazing to be able to step back and hear things you’ve never heard before.”

With the newfound ability to achieve that full band sound Decker and Thomas wanted from the start, Rivers to Roads began work on a four track EP titled Seasons.

After about three months of recording, the album was released on Aug. 12, and is a representation of the band they have become today.

“We wrote most of the songs when we only had two people but redid them in a whole new way with the band we are now,” Decker said. “As cheesy as it sounds, hearing the music on the new album is kind of like having a child and seeing it mature.”

Based on true feelings and real life experiences, the songs of Seasons are not forced. Rather they are full of emotions simply “put out on the table” by a band who conveys the value of mutual love and support through music.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to play with these people and make music together,” Decker said. “Everyone considers this band as something worth fighting for and is willing to make sacrifices in order to maintain it. It’s the idea that we are a family that keeps us strong.”

For more information, check out facebook.com/RiverstoRoads.

Published in the October 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine