Aaron Bond / The Independent Spirit Of When Rivers Meet

Sunday afternoon. The sun is weak, but at least it isn’t raining. I had driven home from an all-day Thrash Metal festival in Derby the day before in time to spend some time with Aaron Bond, one-half of the amazing When Rivers Meet. It’s a different genre of music from that which I’ve experienced the day before, but that’s what I love about the world of rock and Heavy Metal.

Aaron explains that “it’s just me today,” a reference to the absence of wife Grace, the other half of When Rivers Meet.

For those who follow the Bonds on social media, you will understand Aaron had a spell in A&E recently with a nasty bout of cellulitis. It sounds like he’s doing okay. “I’m very well, thank you,” he says. “I have been recovering really well. We went over to our producers yesterday and started the pre-rehearseal, shall we say? We’re in rehearsals tomorrow for the whole week. So yeah. I’m really looking forward to it. And fighting fit and healthy. Thank you very much.”

When Rivers Meet - Aces Are High - a true phenomenon in many ways.
When Rivers Meet – a true phenomenon in many ways. Photo: Rob Blackham

Aaron looks well, healthy, and relaxed, and he’s quick to acknowledge that according to many comments, he got away with it quite lightly. Having got the health update complete, what’s a usual Sunday in the Bond household like then?

It might not be interviews, but there’s always music involved. “It’s all sorts of things,” Aaron says. “Usually, it revolves around something to do with music no matter what it is. And today, it’s just literally preparing for this coming week. So, it’s a lot of sorting out things. Like trying to sort T-shirts out and things like that for the tour coming up and just making sure that everything is being prepared and getting ready for the off.”

When Rivers Meet are very much the hands-on band. As Aaron explains, their independence means they are still very much involved in everything. “Literally everything,” he says, “and that’s one of the good things about being fully independent, because everything is ours. We oversee everything. We overlook everything. We make sure everything is being done properly.”

When Rivers Meet - Firevolt Festival 2023
When Rivers Meet – Firevolt Festival 2023. Photo: Linda McDermott

The last five years have been quite a roller coaster for the couple. Three albums, numerous tours, festivals, cruises, all kinds of things, Brit award visits. Are they now in a position where they have time to reflect on their achievements? “You know what, I’d love to say yes,” says Aaron. “I’d love to say, yeah, we can sit back and just relax. But no, that’s just not in our nature.

“We just keep going and pushing and pushing, and I think one of the things is if you keep pushing and keep going. Otherwise, you could plateau a little bit, maybe. I think the best thing to do is keep going, push forward, and look ahead. I mean, it’s great, don’t get me wrong. Looking back at the accomplishments has been amazing. It’s so surreal to us. Did we actually do that last year or the year before? But now it’s keep looking forward.”

We moved back to the release of WRM’s first album, We Fly Free, and talked about whether Grace and Aaron were in two minds about when to release it. It was, of course, at a time when it wasn’t possible to promote in the live arena. So, was there a difficult decision as to whether to release it or not at the time?

“We did think about it,” Aaron says, “but only for a short time because we thought well, we don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future. At the time, we had just released an EP in 2019. Then we released the second EP, Innocence To Youth, and I think it was in 2020 because, literally, we were right in the depths of lockdown at that time. Then, we had the bubble situation.

“Luckily for us, it was just Grace, me, and our producer. We bubbled together. We recorded We Fly Free. Then we said, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so let’s just release it and see what happens. Hopefully, everything will be fine, and we will come out of it, which we have, thank God.”

When Rivers Meet - Aces Are High - This is likely to be the album that powers them to the next level.
When Rivers Meet – Aces Are High – This is likely to be the album that powers them to the next level.

Ahead of the interview with Aaron, I had the opportunity to listen to the band’s three albums on a car journey. When I got to Aces Are High, I told Aaron that I couldn’t believe it had come out in October. I thought it was earlier this year.

I was completely bemused when I realised it was already six months old. But I recall that the band were playing some tracks last May on their UK tour. So, has it been a challenge to remind themselves of songs that are no longer fresh in their memory?

“Yes,” says Aaron. “We need some rehearsals because we’re revisiting songs that we’ve not played since early last year when we were recording them. And that’s the last time we played some of them. We’re going to be doing some older songs we’ve never played out before as well from the previous albums. So, it is literally a case of revisiting.

“How did this go? How did we play this and all this sort of thing. It’s gonna be really good fun.”

When Rivers Meet - The Fleece, Bristol - 11 May 2023
When Rivers Meet – The Fleece, Bristol – 11 May 2023. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

One of the things that I love about seeing When Rivers Meet live is that they don’t just reproduce the song the way it is on the album. There’s room for a little bit of improvisation. Aaron agrees, “For sure. It’s nice to be able to play the song as correctly as possible off the album, but at the same time, you want to change it a little bit just here and there and add little elements and sparkles and things like that. So yeah, that’s what we’re gonna be doing as well over the next week.”

Aces Are High did well. Number Nine in the charts at one point. I think it’s the album that really established the full When Rivers Meet sound. In an era where selling music inevitably means streams, which don’t bring any financial reward to bands, I wonder what it was like to actually have a Top Ten album.

“When you’re playing against the big boys, and we’re talking about millions of streams, we’re not really anywhere close to anything like that at all,” Aaron says. “So, all our, shall we say, validation comes from sales of vinyl and CDs. It’s kind of cool to think that people still buy vinyl and still buy CDs.

“Don’t get me wrong, streaming is great. It’s the only thing that really helps us as artists to push anything like this into any kind of chart, to be fair. I mean, we haven’t got a great big engine or big label behind us at all. It’s kind of like David and Goliath to a certain extent, and we’re just blown away with the support that we’ve had.”

When Rivers Meet. Blues night at The Garage. 12 May 2022.
When Rivers Meet. The Garage. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

One of the other things that seemed to me on Aces Are High was that Aaron was doing a bit more of the singing on his own. We laugh as I ask if there is any tension between husband and wife about who sings which part when writing their songs.

“Yes, to be honest,” Aaron says. “We write as I’m playing guitar and Grace is singing, basically, so we go with that mostly. But sometimes, it’s nice to have a different angle. In some of the other songs in previous albums, it’s not the case that the song doesn’t suit her voice, but it’s a case of it might suit mine better.

“We’re going back in the studio to record another album this year. I think we are more determined to bring my voice more into it with a lot more harmonies and things like that. So yeah, it’s gonna be an exciting year.”

When Rivers Meet - Breaker Of Chains Tour - Live
When Rivers Meet – Breaker Of Chains Tour – Live

The band have a live album coming out in advance of their tour. Aaron tells me a bit about this project. “So, it’ll be released on the 19 April and we’re so excited by it. We’ve listened to it, and if you shut your eyes, you feel like you’re there.

“It’s so cool. It’s a double vinyl and it was taken off the last tour. The Breaker Of Chains tour. Hopefully, everything will go well on the 19th, with everyone getting their copies, which I’m sure they will. And I hope everyone enjoys it.”

The live album is something of a unique thing. We talked a bit about the classic live albums of the 1970s, including Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, UFO, etc. Was it always going to be a live album that When Rivers Meet were planning, to capture the actual sound live?

“The first live album we did was a couple of years ago,” Aaron says. “We didn’t intend on releasing it or anything. It was just for our own benefit. So, we could basically hear what we sound like in a live venue. So many people just said they would love it on vinyl or they would love to listen to it. So we thought, well, we’ll release it.

“Because we did it last year, we thought we would do it again this year. It’s just so good in the fact that, like you say, not that many bands do live recordings, so we thought it’s a cool thing to do.

“As I say, you can shut your eyes, you feel like you’re there, and it’s just brilliant. I love it. One of the best live albums that I ever heard was a Guns N’ Roses live album. That stuck in my head, you know, because I feel like I’m there.”

I asked the cheeky question that begged to be asked. As a musician, did Aaron listen to the recordings and identify any bum notes?

He’s laughing as he answers. “Yeah, that’s a tough one, really. To be fair, I didn’t really hear anything, but it is live. So, it’s a case of that is what happened on the night. Sometimes there’s a happy accident. Every now and then, you think, oh, that sounds good. We should have done that originally.”

When Rivers Meet - 2024 UK Tour Poster

When Rivers Meet head out on their next UK tour on 27 April with a series of dates. As a couple and a band, they are now seasoned road warriors. So what does Aaron enjoy and despise about touring?

“I tell you, the biggest thing I despise is parking,” he says. “Because we have a 7-seater and a trailer. We might have someone else come along in another vehicle as well, and it’s getting the parking spaces. I hear some places you can’t even enter in our vehicle because of the restrictions. So, that’s my biggest bug. But the thing that I love the most is performing. I just love doing it and we both do. We absolutely love doing it.”

Regarding venues, When Rivers Meet have played most smaller places across the UK. Some of them are favourites, and Aaron explains that it’s also exciting to choose some new places to play. For example, they are playing the Thekla in Bristol, which is a converted boat. That is exciting.

It’s the schedule that dictates where they play, with Aaron explaining that some just weren’t available for this tour. Others are new. “Some of it is just the schedule,” he says, “because some venues weren’t available. We had the chance to play some venues that we played before, but we decided to go somewhere else for no other reason that we like to play in a different venue. Norwich, for instance, we played Waterfront twice and this time, we’re gonna play Epic Studios. For no other reason than it’s just a different place to play. So it’s cool.”

When River Meet - Steelhouse Festival 2023
When Rivers Meet- Steelhouse Festival 2023. Photo: Georgai Brittain/MetalTalk

I can’t let Aaron get away without his experiences of the Steelhouse Festival in 2023 and the mountain road to access the site. “To be fair, we didn’t know it was up a mountain,” he says, “so it was a complete shock to us when we got to the bottom and like we just gotta follow what?

“Where are we going? It’s just like going up this, and we had everyone in the car with the trailer. We made it, but it was a shock.”

The joy of a festival is often discovering new bands rather than seeing favourites. When Aaron is on stage at a festival, he will see a range of fans, from the dedicated followers to the curious. Does it give him a buzz to see people enjoying his music?

“Yeah, it does happen for sure,” Aaron says. “The thing is, if people don’t know who you are, for instance, and or don’t know your music and then you start playing, you can actually see it in people’s faces. They are thinking, I’ll give them a few seconds or give them a few minutes, give them a chance.

“And then the head starts nodding and things like that. That’s great because there’s nothing more satisfying than someone else liking what you do. It’s great when it happens.”

April

27apr7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | SouthamptonThe Brook

28apr7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | BristolThekla

May

02may7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | ManchesterGorilla

03may7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | GlasgowSt Lukes

04may7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | LeedsBrudenell Social Club

09may7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | NorwichEpic Studios

10may7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | NottinghamRescue Rooms

11may7:00 pmWhen Rivers Meet | LondonThe Garage

Planning for the tour is underway, as Aaron already mentioned. They’ve had some great musicians with them in the past, and Aaron explains that they have the same team in place for this run.

“We’re very lucky in the fact that we’ve got the same people as what we had last year. So, we’re very pleased about that and our producer’s playing bass again. So that’s really cool. Sometimes certain people can’t make it for whatever reason and then it’s just a case of bringing some other people in.

“It’s nice to have the consistency, but at the same time, it’s nice to have a change every now and then, and I’m sure they feel the same way.”

With three albums to choose from and certainly a couple of songs that are probably felt to be essential, choosing that setlist becomes a harder job every time. I ask Aaron about the challenge this time around.

“Oh, now you’re putting me under pressure,” he laughs. I reassure him I’m not hunting for clues. “That does actually happen where we’re thinking, what songs are we gonna play? It’s really what songs are we gonna drop, but, like you say, that’s the toughest thing.

“Because to be honest, I want to play them all. As you say, you’ve only got an hour and a half, and we have so many other songs that we’ve never played before. We need to put some in. We need to put them in because we want to play them. But at the same time, you don’t want to drop any.

“That’s a tough one. It doesn’t cause friction, shall we say, but there will be the odd disagreement in what we should and what we should not drop. We always come to it at the end, and we always agree.”

When Rivers Meet - KK's Steel Mill - 30 June 2023.
When Rivers Meet – KK’s Steel Mill – 30 June 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

After the UK tour, it’s a busy run for When Rivers Meet. The band have the live album, the tour, and then a series of festivals in the summer. Aaron reveals that they will be back in the studio in June and July.

“We’ve got plans to dip our toes into Europe as well, playing some festivals over there. And then we’re on a duo tour around the UK and we haven’t done that since 2019. So, we’re going back to our roots to a certain extent, just Grace and I. But there are so many more plans other than that.”

It’s clear that there is plenty more to come from When Rivers Meet. In fact, you feel this is merely the first couple of miles into a very long and fruitful journey.

They have the drive, the ambition, and the talent to make that creativity go a long way. And being independent gives them freedom, too. “This is one of the greatest things about being independent,” Aaron says, “because we can choose what we want to choose, and then we all work together.

“In this business, that means a lot because we’re all promoting each other and everything like that.”

You can keep up to date with all When Rivers Meet tour dates here.

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