“Dark grass.” “Hip-hop Americana.” “Folk-funk-pop fusion.” These are just a few oddball genre names that attempt to describe the musical stylings of Harrisburg-based trio Rivers.
“Somewhere in between James Taylor and Gorillaz,” says hand percussionist Matt Sinkovitz, trying to pin down the sound of his band, which also includes lead vocalist/guitarist/banjoist Vincent Yarnell and upright bassist/vocalist Joe Schaefer.
“When we first started playing, we would make up a different name for every show. After playing out with ridiculous names like The Mallards or Captain & The Crunch Berries, Rivers just stuck with us,” says Yarnell. All three members of Rivers have been playing music for years – Yarnell with 11-plus years of self-taught banjo and guitar; Schaefer a classically trained bassist since third grade; and Sinkovitz playing piano, guitar and percussion since elementary school.
Rivers released their first EP in January (pay what you want for the self-titled release on their Bandcamp site), receiving so much positive feedback that they’re currently in the studio working on a second EP, to be released at the end of this month.
“We just wanted to give people something to take home from our shows,” says Yarnell. “We started giving [the EP] away for free and have been blown away by everyone’s generosity. Some people insist on giving us something for it. It’s nice to see that people want to hear something new – and not only that, they want to help artists keep making new sounds.”
The group has played more than 100 shows this year—ranging from a festival in Dover with 3,000 attendees to The Oval in Philly to an intimate acoustic set at The Treehouse at Dickinson College.
“[Those venues] are all so unique, but we really enjoy playing house shows. We love the intimacy. It allows us to fully connect with people, and that’s why we play music,” says Yarnell.
“We are a listening-type band, so to have an nice-sized attentive audience right in front of us is our ideal scenario,” adds Sinkovitz.
Back in February, I had the chance to see Rivers open for Diane Cluck and Jeffrey Lewis at The MakeSpace in Harrisburg. If you enjoy even an inkling of what you hear from their recordings, I encourage you to go out and see them perform live. (It’s not hard to do – Rivers is playing all over Central PA, as well as in Maryland, New Jersey and DC – nearly five days a week.
If you go, you’ll find that the band’s in-room presence is astounding. And maybe you’ll leave with one of those free EPs they hand out.