Fate definitely played a big part in the formation of B.C. folk-rock-inspired band The River and The Road.
The story begins with Australian native Andrew Phelan who, while hiking across the American Southwest, felt compelled to visit north of the 49th parallel. Phelan reportedly had two Canadian options presented to him: Vancouver and Montreal, the former of which proved to be the victor, if only by default as it was the cheapest option of the two.
It was there he met singer and banjo player Keenan Lawlor, who had moved to Vancouver from Vancouver Island. Although the two started out as a healthy, inspiring form of competition for each other, they soon realized that they actually musically complemented one another fairly well and decided to forge ahead with The River and The Road.
In 2012, the duo decided to bolster their sound, adding drummer Cole George and bassist John Hayes into the mix.
Although George had performed with a number of different acts in the past, he says it was the dynamics of The River and The Road’s songs that ultimately drew him in.
“I moved from Campbell River to Vancouver and was playing with a couple of blues bands as well as a Led Zeppelin tribute. A lot of what I had been playing up to that point was music that is on ten virtually the whole time, but with Andrew and Keenan’s songs, I was able to stretch out more as a drummer. The material had peaks and valleys. That really appealed to me,” George says.
Following the release of their self-titled debut, The River and The Road took a path a little less frequently travelled. While they routinely toured throughout Western Canada, the band leveraged Phelan’s Australian roots to mount a hearty three-month tour of Down Under before they had even ventured to Canada’s East Coast.
“Andrew was in a position where his visa was going to expire and, rather than returning to Australia on his own, invited the band to go along for the purpose of touring. It was remarkable timing in the respect that each of us were in a position that we were able to undertake such a huge initiative, but we always realized that it might have been seen as being a little counter-intuitive to be touring another continent before we have even made a name for ourselves in our home country,” he laughs.
The group used those worldly experiences, including having undertaken a pair of cross-Canada tours, wisely when it came to the making of Headlights, their sophomore record released earlier this year via MapleMusic Recordings.
Produced by Jamey Koch (Ron Sexsmith, The Tragically Hip), the record continues the group’s tradition of compelling story-telling matched with impeccable harmonies, all of which is complemented by dynamic arrangements.
Recorded in studios in Toronto as well as their hometown of Vancouver, George says the experiences realized with supporting their debut definitely found their way into Headlights.
“Our newest record is the culmination of the friendship between the four of us and how this group has turned into something important for each of us.”
What: The River & The Road with Kalle Mattson
When: Saturday Aug. 29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton