“Glastonbury was something really special for us”: Platform speak to Leicester band By The Rivers

Credit:  Liam Keown
Credit: Liam Keown

Leicester-based reggae-soul band By The Rivers have been hailed as future stars of Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, their career kick-started by a personal invitation from Neville Stable to join The Specials aboard their 15-date arena tour in 2011; the band play at Bodega next week and Platform writer Jamie Barlow chats to lead singer Nile Barrow ahead of their show.

Since opening for the iconic two-tone band, which included a date at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena, then branded the Capital FM, By The Rivers have gone from strength to strength, releasing their self-titled debut record three years ago and supporting the likes of Madness, The Wailers and Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

Nile, the six-piece’s frontman and co-founder, admits their career was ignited following a set supporting Staple, a singer for The Specials, in Derby – after the show Nile speculatively handed Neville an EP and business card and within a week got a phone call.

Nile adds: “He (Neville) basically said to me that he really enjoyed the music and he was going to show the rest of the band to see about getting us on the tour.

“For me, hearing that was crazy. Within a week of that I had a phone call from Lynval Golding (The Specials’ guitarist/vocalist). He also said he really enjoyed the music and that they were trying to sort something and then, the next thing we knew, we were supporting them.”

Nile – who set up the band in 2010 with childhood friend and vocalist/drummer Jordan Birtles – admits the group’s experiences have enabled them to feel comfortable playing to audiences of thousands of people.

“Playing with those bands and seeing how they perform and put across their music was an amazing experience, to see how they handle those kind of crowds and the energy they can give – that’s something I feel people can see in our music,” he says.

“I feel like we’ve really come into our own, having been given the opportunities to support bands of that size and also play at festivals like Glastonbury – that was a big step for us and a real chance to prove ourselves.”


One of the staple ingredients to the band’s progression have been their impassioned, energetic live shows; By The Rivers were put forward by Dean Jackson, presenter of BBC Radio’s The Beat, to play at the Somerset festival in 2013 as part of the BBC Introducing scheme.

They made a lasting impression, hailed by the BBC as one of the ‘Top Five Rising Stars’ – amongst Foals and Jessie Ware – to be seen on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage.

“Off the back of that we were able to go back in our own right (in 2014) and that really felt nice to be able to be able to go back and say: ‘This is going to be our show now’. It was something really special for us.”

By The Rivers’ genre is hard to pin down, the band intersecting reggae, soul and afrobeat – their influences have evolved, following the release of their roots reggae-inspired breakthrough album.

But Nile admits their latest EP, What You See, which came out last Friday, has seen the band develop a surer sound.

“There’s a lot of different influences coming in to the music. There are the summary elements in there and you will still be able to hear the By The Rivers sound, but kind of a progression from the album.

“Just recently we’ve been listening to a lot of soul music, still delving back to a lot of early stuff.

“We’ve been listening to Lou Reed’s band, Antibalas and that kind of vibe and anything that’s world music, or has brass instruments in there and a lot of different instruments and percussion going on.”

Credit: Joe Whitmore
Credit: Joe Whitmore

By The Rivers kicked-off their UK headline tour last week and will stop off at Nottingham’s Bodega on Thursday.

Nile admits that Nottingham has always been a good city to play in, having started out playing a number of gigs at The Maze, in Mansfield Road.

Nile adds: “On the last tour we played at Bodega and it was a really, really good vibe.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been there so it’s going to be nice to get back to Nottingham, it is a place close to our hearts and not too far away from home either.”

Fans can expect new material in their set – music that will be on their next release, a further EP in the pipeline for later this year – summer vibes and upbeat music, says Nile.

“We’ve taken a fare bit of time out writing new material and we’re really eager to give people something new to listen to,” he adds.

By The Rivers will be supported by Nottingham-based band, Ujahm, and play at Bodega on Thursday, 26 May.

Tickets are £10 and be found at http://www.seetickets.com/artist/by-the-rivers/672318.

Jamie Barlow

Written By