There comes a time in every music fan’s life when they hear a band and become an immediate fan. That’s what happened to Hayley when she heard Rivers Monroe at the Middle East in Cambridge. She went to the “Somewhere Before Christmas”tour to hear Johnnie Guilbert, Social Repose, and SayWeCanFly, not knowing that Rivers Monroe would also be playing. Hayley enjoyed all the bands that night, but she walked out with one CD, the Rivers Monroe new release Smart Girls.
Hayley wanted to get to know them, so she approached them at the venue to ask for an interview, and they could not have been friendlier. After talking with lead vocalist Mike Monroe, keyboardist/vocalist Mat Rivers, guitarist Doc, and bassist Kirby, the wheels were put in motion. Now everyone can get to know Rivers Monroe, as Hayley caught up with Mike & Mat while they were taking a break on their tour bus to talk about things like how the band got together, their style & their musical influences, and why Doc has a second nickname.
HRU: Hi Mike & Mat! Can you see the hoodie I’m wearing? Kirby put it on me at the show!
Mike: Nice! Do you like that sweatshirt?
HRU: Yes I do! It’s my favorite sweatshirt. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. You guys were great at the Middle East. I’ve been playing Smart Girls every day since I saw you! How’s the tour going?
Mike: It’s going great! We just played Texas, and we played Orlando last night, and now we’re making our way to Atlanta. Then we have Nashville, Greensboro, and New Jersey. It’s going really great,
HRU: What’s a typical day like on your tour bus?
Mike: A lot of driving, a lot of sleeping….
Mat: A lot of Netflix….
Mike: Yeah a lot of Netflix. Although I don’t have unlimited data, these guys do (laughs), so I just sit here, but it’s ok, the scenery is nice.
HRU: Smart Girls is my favorite song right now. My favorite lyric is “she’s checking out her Twitter while she’s playing babysitter”. What that based on a real girl?
Mat: It’s based on the idea that there’s this stereotypical nerdy smart girl, and that’s the kind of girl that we’re into, so we wrote the song about that. Being a smart girl is a good thing.
Mike: It might have been inspired by a particular individual, but we’ll leave that out there as a question mark (smiles).
HRU: Did you write all the songs for your first two albums yourselves?
Mike: Yes, so far all the songs we have written ourselves together. But we’ve talked about collaborating with other people, other artists, in the future. It’s definitely something we’re open to.
HRU: Where do you get inspiration for your songs – from real life experiences, from your imagination, or maybe both?
Mike: I would say both.
Mat: Yes, a little bit of both. The best songs come from real life experiences, but sometimes you just write about things that inspire you.
Mike: Sometimes life experience, love, relationships, that’s where it all stems from.
HRU: When did you decide you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Mike: About a week ago. (we all laugh!) No, really probably since high school, a long time. I was in a lot of sports in high school, but once I graduated I started getting into music a lot.
Mat: I used to play snare drum in the marching band, and it was fun. But it wasn’t until I started playing piano that I really started getting into the writing part of it & feeling like “Wow I can do this!”.
HRU: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Mike: I was a big alternative fan growing up, but now I’d say Blink 182, The All-American Rejects & Fall Out Boy.
Mat: I’m a big retro fan. I like Prince, Michael Jackson, Journey…
Mike: Yeah we’re big fans of 80’s music. The name of our band was inspired by Hall & Oates, we’re big fans.
HRU: I love 80’s music! And I just saw Blink 182 with All Time Low.
Mat: We were just listening to an All Time Low CD.
HRU: Your first album was self-titled. How is Smart Girls different from your first CD?
Mat: With this one, we focused more on quality. With the first one, we just had all these songs & wanted to pick the best ones & get them out. We rushed through it a bit. The songs were all recorded at different times, and we mashed them all on to one CD. Smart Girls was way more planned out. We knew what we wanted to do.
Mike: We knew what we wanted our sound to be, so like Mat said, it was more organized.
Mat: We actually recorded that whole album in one studio in a few weeks. The other album was sporadically done over a few years.
HRU: Mike, I know that you knew Mat before you teamed up with the rest of the guys. How did you two meet, and how did you connect with the other members?
Mike: Mat & I actually met at a tryout for another band in New York City years ago, and we started writing together. We tried to have a band, just the two of us, and that lasted about six months.
Mat: We said we needed to get a band together, so we started networking to find a guitar player and a drummer.
Mike: We went through some other band members briefly, but once we met Doc & Kirby, we were solid.
HRU: At the Middle East concert, Doc told me that his other nickname is “Marty McFly”. What’s the story behind that?
Mike: Marty McFly! (laughs) It’s because he wear the vests!
HRU: Oh haha! I get it now!
Mike: Yeah our image for the last album was more indie pop-rock & pop-punk.
Mat: Then we went more retro.
Mike: I saw this vest one day & I told Doc “You have to dress up like Marty McFly!” So that’s his thing now.
Mat: We’re bringing the puffy vest back (laughs).
HRU: Let’s talk about Warped Tour, I know you were on it in 2015. Some people have told me it’s fun & some say it’s grueling. What was your experience?
Mike: It’s both. It’s an awesome experience but it’s also tough. It’s day after day of getting up early & working the lines, talking to people about our music.
HRU: It must be really hot out there too!
Mike: Yeah it is hot! But the great thing about Warped Tour is that it prepares you for any other tour you could ever go on.
Mat: It was like boot camp! And it was a way to reach as many people as possible. We’d be the first ones out there early, talking to people, and by the end of the day your feet hurt so much, you can’t take another step!
HRU: Is that how you got the aRMy together?
Mike: Well when a band starts to break through, you want to get a street team together. Luckily we meet our street team leader online from Twitter, Christina Sanger, and she started up a street team. It’s been awesome. We have a few hundred people on our street team now.
Mat: And when we had the thought that RM is in the word “army”…. we just drop the “a” & the “y”, and it’s aRMy.
HRU: That is really cool!
Mike: Yeah it has a nice ring to it.
HRU: Are there any bands that you stayed in touch with?
Mike: All Time Low. We got to play a show with them about a year and a half ago, and they were so awesome. And we just recorded two new songs with Rian Dawson down in Nashville about a month ago. And of course on this tour now – Johnnie, Braden, Richie – we’ve really been bonding with those guys.
HRU: Tell me about the songs you did with Rian Dawson.
Mike: We have about 10-15 new songs, and we took two of them to Rian – “Monsters” and “Safe House”, which you heard at the show. We did some pre-production then went down to Nashville, and Rian really helped us out with the production & the recording process. He was great.
HRU: I watched your Happy Thanksgiving video on YouTube when you were at Denny’s! Mike, you were wearing a Star Wars shirt, are you a big fan?
Mike: I am! The guys have a running joke that I’ve never seen it..(laughs).. but I have. I’ve seen them all, and I love Star Wars.
HRU: In the video, the first thing you said was that you were thankful for your fans. What is it like connecting with all your fans online & on tour?
Mike: It’s awesome. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them, so we try to show our fans how much we appreciate them as much as possible.
Mat: We’re very social at shows, and we stay very active on social media. We like the fans to know that after the show, they can chit-chat with us, and we’ll follow them back on Instagram or Twitter.
Mike: We have a “follow for follow” rule. Some bands have 10,000 followers & only follow back 500, but we try to follow all of our fans back. We know how important you guys are.
HRU: Thank you! I’m a big fan, and I’m following you all & listening to all your music. I hope you come back to Boston soon! Thanks for spending this time with me today & best of luck with the rest of the tour. Can’t wait to hear what you do next!
Mike: Thank you! I’m so glad we got to meet, and that you became a fan. We’ll see you next time we’re in Boston!
Follow Rivers Monroe on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @RiversMonroe
You can also go on their website http://www.riversmonroe.com & subscribe to their YouTube channel.
Here is video for Hayley’s favorite Rivers Monroe song “Smart Girls”, the title track of their new CD. Thanks again to Mike & Mat for the great interview!