Reading & Leeds 2014: Dry the River: “We’ve slowly worked our way up”

Dry the River have made their way up the Reading & Leeds Festival bill and on to the Main Stage.

Dry the River’s slot on the Main Stage at Reading & Leeds this year is, as frontman Peter Liddle describes, the realisation of a “lifetime ambition”. The four-piece are local to the southern leg of the festival, “so everyone’s always had ‘Main Stage Reading’ as a milestone.” “And we’ve slowly built towards it,” his bandmate, Matt Taylor adds. “We started out on the Festival Republic stage, then worked our way up the NME/Radio 1 stage, and slowly over the years towards being on the Main Stage – and this year they finally let us!”

The band come to Reading & Leeds with second record, ‘Alarms in the Heart’ in tow, the follow-up to 2012’s ‘Shallow Bed’ released the Monday following the festival. “It was a long and arduous process,” bassist Scott Miller explains, almost laughing. “It hasn’t been easy. Sometime around February last year, we thought ‘Yeah, let’s get in the studio and record this album’, thinking we’d be finished by about May. This August it’ll finally be out!”

In the time between starting and finishing work on ‘Alarms in the Heart’, the band and violinist Will Harvey parted ways. “When we started out we were going for that folky sound,” Matt explains, “with more acoustic instruments, and the violin really fit in with that. And more and more, on the new material we’d been writing, we were using keyboards a lot more. The direction we were going down was perhaps less what he was trying to do. Sometimes these things just happen.”

“There are a couple of tracks on the new record that will get people moving.”

— Matt Taylor

‘Alarms in the Heart’ was recorded between various studios in Iceland and later in London. “We spent some time in Iceland and came home with something we thought could be an album, but we weren’t quite happy with it, it wasn’t where we wanted it to be. So we then spent a few months that summer, all the way through to November in different studios in London tweaking what was there.” Matt continues. “Once we’d decided what we’d done in Iceland wasn’t completely perfect, we didn’t know when to stop!”

With an appearance at Glastonbury under their belt already this summer, “low-key” might not be the right term for the few dates Dry the River will play in the first two-thirds of 2014, but they have been picky about where and when they’ve opted to play new material. “The audiences haven’t heard any of them before,” muses Matt, “so it’s that awkward thing ‘cause you know that people want to hear songs they might recognise, but at the same time we’ve got this opportunity to start playing the new ones. After four years, 400-odd shows of playing pretty much the same material every night, it’s exciting.”

Of course, by the time they head out on tour this October, that won’t be a problem. “Fingers crossed!” Matt laughs. “I think some of the new material lends itself better to a bit more of a singalong atmosphere. Some of the songs are more uptempo, we’re hopeful that it’ll get people moving their feet a bit. Dry the River fans have a habit of just [he nods his head slowly]. Our songs are quite slow, quite melancholy. Or at least those on the first album are, it’s not exactly stuff you can dance around to. There are a couple of tracks on the new record that will get people moving.”

That wasn’t something that hindered the crowds in India, when the band played a trio of dates late last year. “It was a real experience,” describes Peter. “We played Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.” “They’re into a really diverse type of music,” Scott adds, “Jon and I went to Sonisphere, and that was more heavier music – bar this year, those bands don’t rock up at Glastonbury and go down that well. But in India Meshuggah headlined the festival and the crowd were going wild, and then those same audience members were watching Dry the River and going wild for us!”

Matt interrupts. “London audiences could take a few tips from India.”

Taken from the August issue of DIY, out now. Reading & Leeds Festival will take place from 22nd - 24th August. Dry the River’s new album ‘Alarms in the Heart’ will be released on 25th August via Transgressive Records.


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