Although I’d see the name Red River Dialect on various gig posters, I knew nothing about the band prior to seeing them play a live show supporting Thomas White. Singer David Morris is a commanding figure, coming across with an intensity that demands your attention. It is a similar intensity which runs through the new album “awellupontheway’ and makes it such a gripping listen. Red River Dialect are not a one man show and both live and on the record, the band surprise and delight in equal measures with the guitars mesmerising at times. Don’t take just our word for it, “awellupontheway’ was ‘Record of the Week’ at Brighton independent record store Resident – putting it in some mighty fine company. Why not have a listen via the Bandcamp links below whilst you read our interview with David……
You’ve just released new album “awellupontheway” are you pleased with the reception so far?
I’d just like to say initially that I can’t speak for the group, but I think we’re all pleased. It’s a strange thing. It makes you realise that people listen to the words. We’ve had all sorts of comparisons too. We’ve had everything from Jethro Tull to Roky Erikson to Funkadelic, and that blew my mind.
Please tell us how the group came together?
I have used the name Red River Dialect for my songs since around 2006, but the beginning of this incarnation of the group started when I met Simon Drinkwater. He is someone deeply immersed in song, and his songwriting is reflective of that love and passion. I think we recognised those qualities in each other when we met, even though they manifest in different ways. He plays electric guitar on this record, but in the past has played harp, keyboards and acoustic guitars too. Jack Kindred-Boothby (who plays bass and cello and sings additional vocals) joined in late 2010. Simon and I were playing some open tuned songs at an open mic, possibly a rendition of Dylan’s version of ‘Seven Curses’, and Jack joined in on the cello. I had seen him around town and his smile always seemed remarkably warm and real, which has proven very true. I asked if he could play bass. Hugh Cowling (who plays the drums and the really lyrical lap steel parts on the album) is a born musician and gentlest soul. He was someone who I always wanted to get involved, but until we found the right bass player it just didn’t seem right. So when Jack came, we had all the reason to get Hugh to come along. Ed Sanders (violin & harmonica) is a close friend of Jack’s from when they were young. One night at that same open mic night (which Simon ran for a few years, at a pub called the Front in Falmouth) he and Jack did a semi improvised duo, and the way that Ed wailed away on the fiddle was so full of landscapes and faces that I immediately asked Jack if he would be ok with me asking Ed to come along to practise. And as soon as all five of us got together it just made sense immediately. For me it was the first time that I felt like that in a group. Finally we have our newest member, which is Sam Collins, also playing electric guitar. We met in Brighton. We can’t recall how, but he joined us for the recent tour we did when the album came out and we’re hoping he can carry on with us.
Where does the name Red River dialect come from? What is the significance?
It seems to shift its meaning pretty regularly and I am hesitant to put any single one down in case it stops changing. There is a source, and I had my reasons and ideas invested in it, but it’s not so important to me now. It has come to represent the good times I have had with the people in the band, and with the people I have met through the music.
Do you write material as a group or individually?
So far it has been the case that I write the songs on an acoustic guitar, sometimes with the lyrics all done too, and then I just throw them into the spirit of all of us and it comes back out with all this life and colour. It’s an honour to have that possibility for the songs. Sometimes there were no words, just chords and a melody in mind, and the way that everyone else interprets the feel of those can have a big effect on shaping what the words become. Sometimes things the band say about the music, or the way they react, can be a springboard for the themes.
Your lyrics refer to, amongst other things, folklore and religion and at times put me in mind of some of the legends of ‘olde’ Cornwall. Is this fair and are these recurring themes within the work of Red River Dialect?
I find the album is quite an intense experience, demanding of attention – was it a challenge to put together?
Nope, it just all came out in a very short space of time. We wrote all the songs between February and April last year, and then the engineers Jimmy Robertson and Demian Castellanos came down to Cornwall in early June and we set up one evening and then recorded for a couple of days and it was done. Those guys, Jimmy & Dem, they are half the reason it came out the way it did. They were very positive, and we knew they knew what they were doing, and they made it very easy for us to relax and just play. There are a couple of things we overdubbed, but every song is a live take, with all of us playing in this one room overlooking the Penryn river. It’s at the majestic Troubador Studios, which alongside various other creative endeavours in my old home, is under imminent threat of development. People can read about that here: http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Hundreds-opposing-wharves-proposal/story-16679809-detail/story.html
When asked, how do you describe RRD’s music?
I struggle & say psych, folk & rock in a convoluted order.
‘Summers in Flight’ provides an epic end to the record. Please tell us a little about this song.
Well, because Simon and I moved to Brighton a couple of months after the album was recorded a few people have thought it was about moving to the South East of England. To the best of my knowledge I had no idea I was going to do that at the time I wrote that song. We used to call it “church bells” before it had a name, because people in the band thought that it felt like a peeling of bells. I used to ring bells at church when I was about 9, till I was 12 maybe. There was one old guy, at Probus church, he had the biggest hands I have ever seen. Playing this song feels like riding on the front of a wave. A big wave made of D chords.
A good friend said he heard elements of The Waterboys in your music, to my ears some of the incendiary guitars remind me early Pixies. In short Red River Dialect are a beguiling mix of influences – who do you think have most influenced your sound?
I didn’t hear the Waterboys for the first time until after we had recorded this. I gave an early, unmastered copy to my boss at Resident (the record shop in Brighton) last autumn and he said it reminded him a little of them. That cued an obsession that has been lasting me ever since. I have no idea what has most influenced the sound. Right now I can’t stop listening to a song called ‘The Tiniest Seed’ by Angel Olsen.
What are the immediate plans for the band?
We live all over the place, far from each other, so it is hard to get together, but when we do we have a good time. The plan is to come together in autumn to write new songs and hopefully play as many shows as we can, whenever we get the chance.
If Red River Dialect had to recommend three records from this year, what would they be?
I can only recommend a couple personally, not for the band. They would be Elephant Micah’s ‘Louder Than Thou’, ‘Tell it to the People’ by Roy & The Devils Motorcycle and ‘Maraqopa’ by Damien Jurado. I was never a fan of his until I heard this album. I also want to say that Jack from the band made an incredible album as The Female Thief, a duo he plays cello and sings with, alongside David Hobbs on guitar. You can buy it from their bandcamp page.
And finally, just because I’m nosey – what are your 3 favourite Dylan albums?
I used to listen to Dylan all the time when I was 15, till maybe 23, and then I sort of stopped. This is hard to do, and I have a love/hate relationship with many of the songs in each, but I think it might be….
Time out of mind
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Thanks to David for being so generous with his time. You can find out more on Red River Dialect via the following links: