Detroit-based electro indie-pop outfit River Spirit are set to release their second EP, aptly titled EP2, on January 5th. The group – comprised of Vanessa Reynolds (vocals and guitar), Dan Steadman (guitar, percussion, and vocals) and Paul Wilcox (drums) – worked with local engineer and musician Scott Murphy to record a dreamy and uplifting collection of songs. Overarching themes of pleasure, possibility, and perseverance set to ethereal beats and soothing vocals make EP2 the perfect elixir for ridding yourself of 2017’s bullshit and starting off the new year right. I met up with two-thirds of the band to talk about making the EP, finding beauty in darkness, and what the future has in store for the whimsical trio.
Tucked in the corner of the Detroit Institute of Art’s Kresge Café, Vanessa Reynolds and Dan Steadman are just as calming and genuine as their music suggests. After almost ten years of playing together, the two friends have found the perfect balance of energy, easily finishing each other’s sentences to paint a broader picture. With both Reynolds and Steadman playing guitar, the same uncanny balance is found in their music. “Me and Dan have been playing together for such a long time, I feel like we’ve built a way of playing where we’re each occupying our own space,” explains Reynolds. The duo’s cohesive playing style can easily be heard in the EP’s opener, “Winter Song,” a relatable track that captures the essence of loneliness and stagnation brought on by winter winds.
While “Winter Song” leans closer to the side of introspective melancholia, it’s whirling, wind chime outro offers flickers of hope and serves as a smooth transition to the three sanguine songs remaining, mostly focusing on finding joy in yourself and others. In “Set Alight,” Reynolds sings, “You can open doors with your eyes shut / Don’t you realize you are one of a kind.” She explains that the song is meant as a voice of encouragement to a loved one, reminding them to harness their power and not get bogged down by external forces.
This is a theme that the band intended to portray throughout this body of work. “We’re all in such turmoil trying to process the things that have been happening these past few years,” says Steadman. “Being able to enjoy yourself within that is super important.” Reynolds agrees, adding that finding joy can sometimes even be an act of rebellion in this day and age. “I feel like it can be kind of radical to be able to stop and just have fun, or rehearse your music, or do the things you love and be happy.”
Reynolds’ ability to find the light hasn’t come without her fair share of adversity. “There was a period where I was kind of homeless and squatting in spots… it was another time of making possibilities when it feels like there aren’t any,” explains the artist. “As much as it was hard, I felt a lot of optimism within that and I met a lot of amazing people and had a lot of amazing experiences.”
The infectious optimism that Reynolds brings to River Spirit seems to have drawn a series of serendipitous events for the band. When Reynolds, a tattoo artist of over eight years, crossed paths with and tattooed Josiah Wise of serpentwithfeet, the band snagged an opening spot on Wise’s tour. Then, the band’s engineer offered to let them trade tattoos for studio time for their forthcoming LP – hard evidence that if you put good vibes into the world, you’ll get them right back.
The charmed trio has performed with acts like Aldous Harding, Stef Chura, and S (Jen Champion) and plan to spread their wings with shows outside of Detroit in 2018. Until then, look out for River Spirit’s EP2 on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and Apple Music starting January 5th or (if you’re in Detroit) check out the band’s EP release party at Third Wave Music on January 12th.