Riverside: Interview and Live Impressions

Photo by Eloi Mayano-Vinet

Even though I’ve been listening to the progressive rock/metal band Riverside for over ten years now, it’s only recently that I’ve had the opportunity to see them live for the first time, as they haven’t been to North America much during their decade-long career. With the chance to sit down with Riverside guitarist Piotr Grudzinski not being one that I was going to pass on, I was also eager to discover how their new album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine, would sound live. Here’s what Piotr had to say about the band, the tour, and the new album.

Hello Piotr! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. How are you doing today?

I’m good thank you!

How’s the tour going so far? How is the crowd responding so far since you haven’t been to North America much?

Yeah, we only played about ten dates two years ago with Jolly, and we’ve been in a couple of festivals in the past in North America, but that’s about it. For us, it is kind of a new market as a live band. We play quite often in Europe, and the next step is to conquer North America. We played in South America for the first time. It was really great. Overall, people are pretty enthusiastic and we played really crowded shows with people being really into the music. So far the nicest show was yesterday in Quebec City.

You’re touring to support your new album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine. How did you come up with that name?

Marius is a really lyrical writer. Love and fear are a couple of the strongest emotions we feel, both being kind of the opposite to each other. The time machine in between reminds you about your past experiences and getting back to them. Every time you are making big decisions, you’re checking both sides. This album is about that; making really big decisions that change your life 180 degrees.

It’s interesting you say that because one thing that struck me while listening to the album is it’s a little more positive than your previous ones, both in the lyrics and the music, and that it’s less aggressive; more toward a progressive rock sound. Was this the intention from the very beginning?

This is kind of Marius’ personal album. He is the main guy and he did all of this. I don’t think he planned something positive, but it is quite positive in the end; there is hope. Most of our albums are dark, and by the end you’re confused and there is not much hope!

Just before we started to compose these songs, we sat together and we started to find keywords to describe how we would like the new album to sound. For sure, we didn’t want to have this rock from the 70s again because it appeared on the previous album. A lot of bands also focus now on music from the 70s and we wanted to avoid this. We decided to change decade and we choose the 80s. For this album, we took something from bands like The Cure or Cocteau Twins and these kinds of alternative 80s bands. We wanted to have a kind of spacy or airy feeling – more melodic and less of the heavy riff.

I think in the end about 90% of the time we did what we had in mind at the beginning of the composing process. Probably nobody expected that it would be a bit lighter and that there would be no 12 or 15-minute songs. We are pretty proud of this album and after many reviews I think the people liked it as well.

The reviews are quite outstanding so far…

Yeah, and it was kind of unexpected. We thought a lot of people would say we are not a progressive band anymore and that we are more pop-ish or something. Actually, this is not a change of direction. We want to take inspirations from other genres and other bands all the time. I really like that we are kind of unpredictable.

When I started to listen to you guys about ten years ago, you were really grounded in the metal scene. Now, it seems like you’re more toward a broader musical spectrum. Have you seen a change in the crowd over the years?

I can just say that I had something similar in my life with Anathema. When they started they were a metal band and I was really into metal. They were growing up and changing their style and I was changing as a person too. I was growing up with the band in a way. It can be the same with Riverside. We didn’t play extreme metal, but every person who followed us can see that we are progressive not because we play progressive music, but because of our skills and the way our music is progressing.

Photo by Paulina Kimbar
Photo by Paulina Kimbar

Is it challenging as a band to try and evolve your sounds fearing that maybe long-time fans will be upset that it isn’t the same thing as before?

I think in the end there are two kinds of bands. There are bands that are searching and looking for something new, and there are bands that find their place and stay there. I cannot judge which way is better even if we choose to be more unpredictable. But people can still feel it is Riverside even though we evolve; whether it’s with Marius’s voice and his way of playing bass, or my way of playing guitar, or Mia’s way of playing keyboard, it is still Riverside.

As a music fan, is the music you listen to today a lot different from what you were listening 10 years ago?

For sure, it is much more difficult today to find good music. It’s kind of a paradox because we live in a time when there is a lot of music, new bands, new style, and it is easier to access all of it with Spotify and the streaming stuff. Maybe because I’m older, but it’s difficult to find something that I really like these days.

When I was younger it was much easier. I discovered Pink Floyd, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance; all bands that I still enjoy. Now, it is really difficult to surprise me. I really like Leprous, the new band from Norway. They are really amazing. But I also like these old bands like Dead Can Dance, which is the probably the greatest band for me ever.

You’ve been touring for a while now. Do you prefer playing live or being in the creative process of a new album?

We are this kind of band that when we are on tour, we miss composing new songs and recording the new album, but when we are in the studio for a couple of months, we feel like we would like to play these songs live. Of course it is kind of a tiring tour; the first week we were flying in between cities and with all the partying sometimes we are really tired the next day. It is part of being a musician. At the end of the tour I will be really tired and probably won’t touch my guitar for a month!

Thank you very much for your time Piotr and have a great show!

Thank you!

interview - riverside2
Photo by Eloi Mayano-Vinet

The show lived up quite amazingly to the expectations the North American fans might have had growing for quite some time. Riverside started their set by going back in time to their last three albums for the first three songs, and by the time they introduced Conceiving You with I Turned You Down as an intro, they had the crowd in their pocket.

It is really during the live experience that we can witness the musical talent of everybody surrounding Marius; the guitar and bass playing at the beginning of Saturate Me Love really shines when played live. Marius is a great leader and, although I’m not too sure about his obsession of scratching his bass at the beginning of a bunch of songs, he takes the lead more than often, especially on songs that revolve around him, like The Depth of Self-Delusion or Saturate Me Love. To watch him sing and play the bass at the same time live made us realize his musical skills.

As Piotr said, the band is really evolving within its roots. The heaviness of earlier albums is really put aside during the live performances and they wrap themselves into a strong melodic and melancholic feeling. Love, Fear and a Time Machine has more in common with albums like Anathema’s We’re Here Because We’re Here or Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. The setlist also reflects this change of direction, though it covered the band’s entire history. The rest of the set was going back and forth in time with a focus on their last two albums. Still, they couldn’t pass on any of their essential songs like Panic Room, and by the time the encore started with The Same River, they had covered pretty much what we would’ve wanted from them.

* Riverside are about to start a new European tour on Thursday October 15, hope you can catch them on one of the dates listed below:

Oct 15 Germany, Dresden, Tante Ju

Oct 16 Germany, Oberhausen, Turbinen Halle 2
Oct 17 The Netherlands, Zwolle, Hedon
Oct 18 The Netherlands, Tilburg, 013
Oct 20 UK, London, Islington Assembly Hall
Oct 21 UK, Bristol, Marble Factory
Oct 22 UK, Manchester, The Ritz
Oct 23 UK, Glasgow, O2 ABC2
Oct 24 UK, Northampton, The Roadmenders
Oct 26 UK, Southampton, The 1865
Oct 27 France, Paris, Divan Du Monde
Oct 30 Portugal, Lisbon, Paradise Garage
Oct 31 Spain, Madrid, Joy Eslava
Nov 01 Spain, Barcelona, Sala Apolo
Nov 02 France, Lyon, Marche Gare
Nov 04 Switzerland, Pratteln, Z7
Nov 05 Germany, München, Strom
Nov 06 Germany, Karlsruhe, Substage
Nov 07 Germany, Berlin, C-Club
Nov 08 Poland, Kraków, Studio
Nov 10 Poland, Gdańsk, B90
Nov 11 Poland, Warszawa, Stodoła

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