Meet the 'Steel Sessions' Artists: The Band of Rivals

Posted by Gerard Longo on

Versatile and creative, The Band of Rivals blends numerous influences for a dynamic live show and a unique sound. Catch them as they tape PBS39 Steel Sessions Fri., Aug. 14 at 11:00 a.m.

First, what made you want to be featured on PBS39 Steel Sessions?
We’ve always respected all that PBS does, so naturally, the thought of being on one of their networks to showcase our music sounded like an incredible opportunity.

In your estimation, why is an opportunity like Steel Sessions important for up-and-coming musicians?
The best thing for us in the last few years has been exposure. It’s been instrumental in introducing people to our music and passion for doing it. Programs like this help bands so much, because they allow artists to reach demographics and audiences they otherwise might not be able to reach.

Now, we turn to your music. Let’s start with the formation of The Band of Rivals. How did you all come together?
Initially, three of us (Abbey Reed - Violin, keyboards; Alex-Michael Alleva – Guitar; and Sean Cox – Vocals, guitar, banjo) met while involved with a musical production at Eastern University. After playing a handful of shows as a three piece, we all agreed that the sound was lacking. Greg Ondo was brought in on drums and Doug Keller provided bass. In the summer of 2013, we recorded and released our first album entitled, “The Better Angels of our Nature.” Following the release of that record, we began to become a much more collaborative group. Our new album, which was released this past June, reflects how we’ve grown as a band, both stylistically and in regards to the overall tightness of the sound. 

Your band name, The Band of Rivals, speaks to the different influences each member of the group brings to the table. Tell us about that.
Honestly, if someone were to hear all of us play separately, and also hear our musical backgrounds, they’d probably think we would not work well at all as a band. We all feel that this is our greatest strength. A few styles are definitely dominant in our sound, like folk, blues and rock, but since the other members are not strictly “folk players,” they provide incredible perspective and approaches to their parts.  

You’re a versatile group of musicians, with members of the band playing multiple instruments. How does that make your creative process more dynamic? What does it do for your live show?
That’s one of my favorite things about our band. If we feel like certain instrumentation is being used a lot, we always have a ton of options to try out. It can make the live show a fun challenge when we need to juggle three instruments apiece, but I think it allows us to use a large amount of textures and sounds we could not use if we all just played one thing.

Speaking of your creative process, your new album – “The Ladder, The Ghost & The Water” – was released in June. What was the creative process like, including the writing process and who worked with you?
This album had a much longer process than the previous one. There were a number of things we had not taken enough time on developing for the first one, so we wanted to ensure we took all the time necessary for this one. Many of the songs on it were ones we had been performing for some time. Some had even been written during the making of the previous record. Speaking personally as a songwriter, this was the most collaborative record I had been a part of to date, and I feel it’s all the better because of that. As I said before, having everyone’s unique perspective during the recording process gave us a really awesome final result.

Tell us what listeners can expect to hear on the new record.
A very eclectic blend. The album is called “The Ladder, The Ghost and The Water,” which references three major lyrical themes throughout the record. We really tried to push the boundaries of what folk music can mean, and were very intentional about using a wide array of influences. For example, the single, “Ghosts of You,” is a stomping tune that is influenced heavily by the Johnny Cash rhythm section, while the closing track, “Bastille Day,” is an eight-minute jam that hearken back to the ballads of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. These songs tell stories of love, loss, suffering, but in most cases, hope and redemption. 

How has the band’s sound evolved since your 2013 release, “The Better Angels of Our Nature?”
I believe we have come from a singer-songwriter with a full band to a fully collaborative quintet where everyone has a hand in the creation of the song, from pad and paper to the live performance.

You’re set to tape Steel Sessions at the PBS39 Public Media & Education Center on Fri., Aug. 14 at 11:00 a.m. What can those in attendance expect from your performance?
We can guarantee a good time. We have some really fun rocking tunes prepared, and we can’t wait to share our own brand of Americana with all who join us. 

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