Rivergods – Waiting for the great leap forward
Though the Rivergods have a long history, their current lineup has been together for less than a year. Capsule, their first album, has been out only a few months, but they believe they’ve already outgrown the record. “It feels that way,” says singer/pedal steel player Nancy Brossard. “I listen to it and I hear a lot of things that are different now.”
Ben Parent, the Rivergods’ main songwriter, guitarist and singer, agrees. “We’re already a different band than we were nine months ago when we recorded Capsule. I’m proud of it, I think it’s a good record, but we’re so much better.” Since Capsule was released, the band has been playing with a new drummer and evolving musically. Parent is already looking ahead. “We have close to 30 new originals, he says. “I definitely have the next album mapped out in my head.”
The Rivergods formed after Parent and guitarist Eric Gelfond got tired of clashing egos in Radiotricity, a noisy grunge outfit. “We took a little time off and started playing together again, playing more acoustic based,” Parent says.
In the spring of 1997, Parent and Gelfond formed a new combo and started preparing to record. Amanda Just, a co-worker of former bassist Charles Rothenberger, came in to play viola on a track and wound up joining the band. With Brossard singing backup and playing guitar, the band started to jell and began recording an album. As they finished that recording, Rothenberger quit to go to law school and Gelfond left to raise a family.
Parent recalls the band’s dilemma: “Do we put this out? It’s not really how we sound now, and it’s not really the lineup, so what do we do with it?” The project was eventually shelved. Bass player Jim Gannotti joined the band, and Brossard, a classically trained operatic singer, found she was also a natural, atmospheric pedal steel player.
The Rivergods found their new sound in the sweet mix of steel, viola, acoustic guitar and vocal harmony that dominates Capsule. Brossard’s steel and Just’s viola twist playfully around each other, texturing Parent’s folk, country, and pop-flavored tunes. Parent and Brossard’s voices blend beautifully on the double lead of “Ten Mile Yearning” and the chorus of the R.E.M.-inspired “Paul Revere”. Add to that a strong and steady rhythm section, and Capsule is a radiant album that can stomp and shuffle, or sit back and contemplate life and love.
The Rivergods cover a lot of ground, and cover it well, on Capsule, but they insist they’re even better now. “I think we’re going to continue to grow in leaps and bounds in the next six months even,” Brossard says.