By The Rivers

By the Rivers are about to embark on their acoustic tour. It was in their acoustic set up that I first unearthed By the Rivers. I stumbled across them on YouTube, where SB TV had caught them at Alexandra Palace. They performed an acoustic version of ‘Where You Gonna Go’ in an A64 session. I was hooked, a cliché I know but, I hadn’t heard anything like it. By the Rivers contemporary twist on Reggae cannot be ignored.  Members Nile Barrow and Jordan Birtles from Leicester formed the six piece in 2010 and have been friends since early childhood. Their catchy melodies and insightful lyrics echo issues that affect their youthful generation. ‘… when they’re coming after you? They don’t need evidence, they don’t need proof’, the social comment made parallels that of a favourite band of mine, super group Mongrel.  I couldn’t leave it there.

Immediately I wanted more, however my searches were running dry, the top result Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon.  With limited material available online – I needed to see this band live. When I finally got hold of a ticket I was rattled with excitement to what ‘new to me’ material I may hear.  It was a long wait but I got by on the One Word Single featured on Spotify which contained B-Side Take Control.

My first By the Rivers gig could not have been in a more perfect setting at a more perfect time. I’d just finished my A Levels, two years of slog, hard slog, over. I was lost I didn’t know what to do with time. DBE were hosting an End of Exam party across two venues. One of these being my favourite bar in the Midlands, The Orange Tree, it was here I completely shook off my two years of schooling. I’d never seen the Orange Tree more livelily – it was full to capacity. The energy and enthusiasm that By the Rivers bought to the town was like nothing before. The six piece filled the stage, the eye contact made between themselves and the audience was evidence that they couldn’t be enjoying their performance more.

Over the past two years Boney M’s hit has now been pushed to the bottom of the search page. YouTube is a now flood of By the Rivers singles, sessions and festival highlights and on Spotify you can stream their self-titled debut album. The band achieving success in reaching a top spot in BBC East Midlands Introducing’s ‘Countdown of Most Played Artists 2013’ and through recognition from reggae pioneer David Rodigan.

Their UK acoustic tour begins in Nottingham this February going on to Bristol, Hay on Wye, Loughborough, Norwich and Leicester. You can also catch them in Sheffield and Birmingham supporting The Selecter on their 35 year anniversary tour. Can’t wait till then? You can download the acoustic track ‘Board that Train’  for free now.

Jerome Thomas

I first heard Jerome Thomas one rainy night in New Cross.

Rushing to try and make it on time for some arrangement I was inevitably late for, I passed the dingy New Cross Inn on the corner – haunt to many Goldsmiths students looking for a cheap night out, and some other rather interesting characters besides.

The smooth and soulful sounds I could hear emanating out the door were enough to catch my attention, and pique my curiousity. I had to go in to check it out, no matter how late it might make me, and how sticky the floor was going to be. What I ended up seeing was one of the strongest performances I’ve witnessed since starting at uni, and I’ve been keeping tabs on Jerome’s work since.

I recently caught up with the Dalston-based singer and designer to talk influences, plans, and creativity:

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Alright well, I’m Jerome Thomas, Singer/Songwriter from East London. I’ve been singing since i was a little’un, but started taking music seriously about 5/6 years ago.

The Soulnotes are a band i formed a few years back when i was at university and they are my band, so you’ll see em at most, if not all of my gigs. We write and record together sometimes too.

Describe your sound in three words (for all those people out there with short attention-spans!):

Fusion of everything – FOE.

How did you first get involved with music?

I’ve always been around music and creativity. I was writing songs, poems and stories as a kid all the time. In terms of just music, I think i was about 12 or 13 maybe and I performed at a open mic for young’ens and I remember – as cliche as it sounds – feeling really good doing after doing it; the reaction was positive, so from there i just carried on writing and singing.

Where do you take your inspiration from as an artist?

I try not to let others influence me as an artist and I feel that if you’re looking at someone else, you become less focused on you. I forever want to be original and create my own guidelines. 

There are obviously people I admire and would like to follow in the footsteps of in terms of success and musicality;  people like D’angelo, Marvin Gaye and Amy Winehouse. Regardless of their personal matters, their music is flawless to me and speaks for itself. With that said, I love all types of music.  

But most, I’m inspired by freedom: no limits or boundaries, being able to do what you want if and when it suits you.

You also design and sell t -shirts under your boutique brand ‘Foe’ – Can you give us an insight into your work in fashion?

Yeah, I’d been customising a lot of my clothes, getting clothes for cheap in charity shops and markets, and just trying stuff out with studs and bleach and dyes. Then one day, i was chilling making a t-shirt for myself and it clicked – just start selling them. It’s still in the baby stages now though, I’m concentrating more on my music, so the fashion side is sort of like my side job.

What other plans does  Jerome Thomas have for the near future?

Well i got a song looking to drop soonish, so thats coming up. I’ve also been collaborating with other producers and their projects are due for release soon too, so you should be seeing me pop up a bit more ‘fingers crossed’.

Finally, are there any other young musicians out there inspiring you?

Shakka, Etta Bond, Mark Asari, Joel Culpepper – they’re all doing their thing right now. Couldn’t really sit here and list everyone, but those are the standouts for me.