Friday, 13 January 2012 10:37
Psychedelic rock group Ancient River officially formed in 2008, but the members had recorded together as friends for years earlier. This month, bandmates James Baretto (guitar and vocals), Chad Voight (drums) and new member Alex Cordova (bass) release fourth album, Let it Live.
James is involved in local music not just as a performer but also as a rock ‘n’ roll DJ at Loosey’s every Tuesday, and Chad is an experienced drum teacher at Studio Percussion and recently released the second installment of his drum instruction book series called The Classic Beat. We sat down with James and Chad to talk about all things Ancient River.
By Greg Allard
Photos: Marcus Tanner
How did your band start and evolve to what it is today?
Chad: It started through mutual friendships, hanging out listening to music and jamming, which led to several home studio recordings. Those recordings had a certain magic to them, so we decided to form a real band. Playing live helped us focus our songwriting, taught us to entertain a crowd, and come up with an engaging live show that includes improvisation and cool visual projections so each show is an event.
James: You can hear the evolution of the band by listening to Ancient River Radio on our website. It plays everything we’ve ever recorded together and streams 24 hours a day.
What does the name “Ancient River” mean?
James: Timeless, flowing, earthy and dreamy. We got it from a Neil Young lyric, and it sounds cool.
How does it feel to play in Gainesville?
Chad: The great things about it are the ease of booking shows, living right by the clubs and having the freedom to stage shows the way we want. Plus we have a roadie, Warren, who helps us with our gear even if we are only going down the block.
Any plans to tour out of town soon?
James: Yes, we have played out of town as far Austin, and we’ve had great experiences and now the plans are to continue playing other cities, especially to support the new album.
Chad: I would love for us to be a full-time touring band.
Tell us about the new album.
James: It’s called Let it Live—10 songs, 40 minutes. It paints a more complete picture of the band. It was recorded over the spring and summer and has a very rocking and live feel to it at the front end of the album, and listeners will hear the spacier side to the album on the second half. It’s our fourth release within a year. It’s one of my favorite albums we’ve done because it has songs varying from ’60s garage rock all the way to ’90s grunge and modern psychedelia.
Chad: If you are a fan of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, The Who, ’60s Surf Rock and R & B music, then you will probably like this album too.
How does your song-writing process work?
Chad: Practicing on a regular schedule allows us the time to constantly come up with new riffs, which over time turn into songs.
What are your major musical influences?
Chad: Jazz greats like Art Blakey and Buddy Rich, ’50s Rock ‘n’ Roll like Chuck Berry, the rock gods of the ’60s and ’70s like The Who, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Black Sabbath, The Beatles. Punk rock, like The Clash, The Ramones and Fugazi. I’m also a big fan of alternative rock from the ’90s like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
What are your short- and long-term plans?
Chad: Short term, we are looking forward to our CD release show for Let It Live, happening Friday, Jan. 6, at Double Down Live with local legends Driver, Big Oil and the Root Doctors.
James: Long-term plans are to continue writing and recording on a regular basis and exposing our music to more people outside of Gainesville.
What do you think about the current state of the music industry? I mean, do you think you would have had a greater chance at commercial success if this were another era?
Chad: The music industry is in a state of the unknown because many of the old ways of doing things don’t work anymore. One thing that has remained consistent is the live show. Bands can still get on stage and rock a crowd. Would Ancient River have a greater chance in another era? Maybe. It would be something to have been in a band anywhere from 1965 to 1973 because that era had an explosion of creativity, and music fans were real believers in what was happening at the time.
Well said. On the other hand, what do you think are the positives about the music scene today?
James: It’s nice that there is something out there for everyone, and with the Internet, you can find and follow whatever music you want to.
Do you guys have any day jobs?
Chad: Rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day.
Excellent. How can I do that? But on a more serious musical note, how important is it to you to write a song that is more radio-friendly, you know, with a definite hook and whose duration is cut down to something like 3:03?
James: Whatever works the best for the song I suppose. We have songs that clock in around 2:30 and others that run between five to seven minutes. From a writing standpoint I don’t care; however, when I’m producing the band, it’s something I’m extremely aware of. Our most recent two albums each have 10 songs and the albums are 40 minutes long with hooks around every corner.
Ancient River’s fourth album since 2010, Let it Live, is available at local record stores, ancientrivermusic.com and iTunes.
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