Interview: John Hartwell (These Wicked Rivers)

Classic rock has always been very popular. It sits nicely in a place where the heavier music meets its origins of blues and R&B. So it has a ready and large audience. Where older bands have become legends they are also dying out and it’s vitally important that new acts are around to hand the baton to. Step forward one such band called These Wicked Rivers. They play with a familiar sound and yet they’ve really carved out an identity of their own making. Gary Trueman chatted to singer John Hartwell at the recent Stonedead festival about the band sound and when the new album is likely to be released.

These wicked Rivers are very much American classic rock sound wise but you’re actually from Derby. Do you think that might surprise a few people?
“I’ve been told it surprises a few people. We just play the music that we like and we dress how we think looks nice. A lot of people seem to think there’s a lot of American influence in there, and we do listen to a lot of American music.”

What bands would you say are the biggest influences for These Wicked Rivers for someone who wanted to check you out?

“For me it’s more 90s grunge. Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, a little bit of Nirvana. Arran (guitar) is more into his classic rock, a lot of 70s stuff. Rich our keyboard player is into a lot of blues. So it’s a bit of a melting pot really, and then we all meet up at Neil Young.”

Like ya do. You’ve played Stonedead today. How did you find it out on the stage playing quite early but still with a good crowd?

“It was absolutely incredible. The crowd were amazing. We had such a good time, we got a great response and it was such a wonderful feeling to be honest.”

The format of the festival is quite interesting. They had a couple of bands play last night but technically it’s all on one day and one stage. It’s almost going back to the original Monsters Of Rock. It’s going back to an older style of festival and it’s proven very popular.

“It is yes. I can’t really remember Monsters Of Rock being a one day festival. I started going when it was Download. But I’ve heard stories about it from one of my friends who did used to go back then. It’s very similar from what I’ve heard.”

It’s a bit more sanitary this one. There’s no bottles of piss flying around which you used to get. The vibe here is really chilled as well isn’t it? The audience can sit back and listen to and watch the bands, it’s that kind of vibe.

“It is yes. Even the area around where the stage is there’s a chilled out friendly atmosphere.”

Are you able to check out any of the other bands on the bill today?

“I really wanted to check out Stone Broken and Those Damn Crows, but we’ve got to shoot off to another festival. We’re playing Rock The Peaks near Matlock.”

You’ve done one album and you’re in the process of funding another one right now. You’ve gone down the route of crowdfunding this one is that right?

“Yes we’ve put a load of stuff that we think is cool up for sale to try to raise money. It’s not traditional crowdfunding in that people are pre-ordering the album or donating. We are selling stuff. Cool stuff like hippy drapes with the band logo, there’s a whiskey tasting session with the band, a day in the studio with the band and other cool stuff too.”

Crowdfunding was a big thing before the pandemic and then a couple of the sites hit some major issues. This was obviously a route you still wanted to go down and you’re doing this yourselves rather than use a site. Were there still any reservations at all?

“Not really because we’re not using a separate crowdfunding site. We’re selling all this stuff through our own website. So there’s no risk of someone running off with the money. It’s all going straight to going to pay for the recording, the mixing and mastering, and promotion.”

How far down the road are you with the album? Is it written?

“It’s written and partially recorded. We’re fitting in recording sessions around gigs and our day jobs but we’re getting there with it. Hopefully we’re looking at the first half of next year for a release.

Some people will think, oh you’ve recorded it now you can release it straight away but it doesn’t work like that does it? There’s an awful lot of work to put in after the studio. Have you got a cover sorted for instance?

“We’ve got a cover designed we think. It’s not final yet but we think we’re there with that. The mixing and mastering will take quite a while. Then we’ve got to shoot promotional videos for the singles and get press copies out. So yes, there’s still a lot to do after we finish recording.”

Are you going to out it out on physical formats as well as digital?

“We are yes. We’re hoping vinyl but that depends on the cost and the lead time. It’s about a year to wait at the moment for vinyl.”

The big vinyl comeback has been astonishing and it’s now outselling CDs and has been for a while. A lot has been made of being able to physically hold something, the size of the artwork and the better sound.

“With larger album covers you do get to appreciate the art work as it’s meant to be. Personally I do think it sounds better. It’s a warmer sound than CDs. So to be able to put an album out on vinyl is going to be pretty awesome.”

Are you planning to tour before the new album comes out or are you going to wait until it’s released?

“We have a tour supporting Hayseed Dixie coming up which starts at the end of September and we can’t wait for that. A headline tour next year is an option we’re looking into. We would love to and we’ll need to look at what options are out there at the time.”

If you could pick one artist alive or dead to share a stage with who would it be and why?

“Aerosmith, because they’re the best live band I’ve ever seen. I saw them in 2014 at Download and it absolutely blew me away. All of it was superb.”

These Wicked Rivers – Facebook

Interview and photos by Gary Trueman