River Whyless
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River Whyless

Asheville, North Carolina, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Asheville, North Carolina, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Folk Pop




"Bob Boilen's Favorite Discovery at Americana Fest"

My favorite random discovery at America Music Festival was this band River Whyless. This ensemble is an amalgamation of folk and pop and beyond. Brilliant harmonies and words. An abundance of talent from this Asheville band. It was hard to capture a picture of the whole band so this is their fiddler Halli Anderson. #AmericanaFest #tw #ascf - NPR All Songs Considered

"World Cafe Next"

The latest installment in World Cafe: Next features a folk-rock quartet with three singers and writers; the band is named after the River Whyless near its hometown of Asheville, N.C. Somehow, the group's distinct songwriting voices add up to a cohesive sound — not a simple thing to do.

River Whyless released its first album in 2011 and traveled to Louisville, Ky., to record its new EP. Hear and download a pair of songs on this page, or as part of the World Cafe. - World Cafe (WXPN, NPR Music)

"Paste Review of 2015 EP (8.2 Rating)"

Sometimes it can be hard to stand out in the crowd when you’re producing experimental folk rock. Plenty of groups are capable of harmonizing well and turning simplistic rhythms into infectious anthems, but it’s rare to find artists who can evoke as much emotion as River Whyless. This Asheville, N.C.-based quartet crafts songs that immerse the listener into a time and place with well-defined emotional arcs. River Whyless EP is the band’s first release since their 2012 debut, A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, and the past three years of touring have clearly given the band a powerful sense of self-confidence. River Whyless’ eponymous EP showcases the band’s willingness to shy away from expectations and explore its sonic horizon with compelling results.

The EP begins with “Life Crisis,” a song filled with driving percussion, bouncing melodies and an ever-evolving musical background. “Life Crisis” serves as an excellent introduction to River Whyless for first-time listeners; between the soaring harmonies, emotionally gripping lyricism and dazzling violin work from Halli Anderson, there’s plenty to fall in love with. While tracks like “Life Crisis” will suck you in, ones like “Maple Sap” help you comprehend the brilliance behind the band’s work. River Whyless is an act that’s capable of tugging at your heartstrings with little notice, leaving you reeling before their next words come out. One minute vocalist Ryan O’Keefe is singing of making maple syrup in the woods, the next he’s contemplating the years he’s spent going through the same process, growing closer to being alone as he works his way through life.

Another thing that makes River Whyless stand out so much is that they’ve got four members capable of creating their own unique sounds, crafting rich songs all with distinct musical voices on display. Halli Anderson’s whimsical voice glides through the mix on “Bath Salt,” floating atop skittering drum beats while “Miles of Skyline” finds bassist Daniel Shearin taking over vocal duties, bringing a bright falsetto to the tight syncopated rhythms that flesh out this track. The sheer diversity on this EP is reason enough to give it a listen, but the talent on display is why listeners will continue to stick around for more.

River Whyless is a band capable of seamlessly slipping between soft, serene ballads and heart-wrenching, foot-stomping anthems at the drop of a hat. There’s an excellent sense of dynamism found within the tracks on the River Whyless EP. Anderson frequently plucks her violin to flesh out acoustic chords; Shearin contributes subtle bass riffs and dreamy glockenspiel lines while Alex McWalter provides a powerful percussive foundation for these tracks to grow upon. With such an immense musical landscape set forth, these songs’ vibrant stories are what makes this such an enjoyable release. Each track feels as if it’s from a different narrative standpoint, loosely tied together with rustic themes and passionate, visceral content.

Releases like this are what makes artistic growth exciting. It’s clear on River Whyless EP that the band has yet to find a niche to crawl into like so many of their genre. It’s easy to find a formula and stick to it, and when your debut is as impressive as River Whyless’ was then it’s probably very hard not to. But the River Whyless EP proves that it pays to be a band filled with curiosity and a willingness to explore your comfort zones. Although the EP clocks in at under 30 minutes, it’s a fulfilling experience that shows that River Whyless is on the verge of a very exciting musical journey that you’d be foolish to miss out on. - Paste

"Mellow Folk from River Whyless"

As I speak, the weather here in Austin has grown increasingly frigid (which I abhor), so I just want to bundle up and jam to something warming (wearing out my Sturgill Simpson LP). This River Whyless single should definitely do the trick, offering up some ornate folk music. From the picking of the guitar to the burst of cymbal crashes, you can tell that there’s been great care put into each touch on their new work. It’s the sort of music that provides emotional warmth while allowing for the lyrics to carry your mind away. Look for their self-titled EP on January 20th via Backwoods Nation. - Austin Town Hall

"WXPN My Morning Download"

River Whyless are an indie folk group from Ashvville, North Carolina. They are releasing their self-titled EP on January 20th. Including Ryan O’Keefe (guitars, vocals), Halli Anderson (violin, vocals), Alex McWalters (drums, percussion) and Daniel Shearin (bass, vocals, harmonium, cello, banjo), the band has a warm and welcoming acoustic based sound.

Three members of the band have been playing music together since their days in college at Appalachian State. They released their debut full length in 2012. Like Fleet Foxes, River Whyless have a contemplative, relaxed style. The instrumentation weaves together seamlessly, a high point being Anderson’s violin playing, and the band’s soothing harmonies. River Whyless play Tin Angel on Thursday, January 29th. Below, download a five song sampler by the band from NoiseTrade, including a NoiseTrade exclusive recording of the Woody Guthrie via Billy Bragg/Wilco tune “Airline to Heaven,” as well as a few tracks from their previous release, and a new song “Life Crisis.” You can download the new EP here. - WXPN

"Song Premiere: River Whyless - "Maple Sap""

Those of you who caught Asheville, North Carolina band River Whyless on our Christmas sampler and have been eager to hear more, rejoice: the band is set to release their first EP since 2012 later this month. The self-titled release was recorded in Louisville, Kentucky at La La Land Studio with Kevin Ratterman (Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket), and features songwriting input from each of the band’s four members: guitarist and vocalist Ryan O’Keefe, drummer Alex McWalters, violinist and vocalist Halli Anderson and Daniel Shearin on bass, vocals, harmonium, cello, banjo. The EP was recorded and mixed in a short four days, but it represents years of friendship and collaboration.

Listen to album track “Maple Sap” in the player above. River Whyless EP is set for release on Jan. 20. - Past Magazine

"Bombadil/River Whyless"

On Saturday, June 21st Bombadil gave a special performance at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro to celebrate the double-vinyl re-release of their 2009 album Tarpits and Canyonlands (a record that, because of injuries within the band, never got a proper release show) and also to kick off their US tour. River Whyless, an extraordinary folk-pop act from Asheville, opened the show.

River Whyless is fronted by the stunning Halli Anderson, who provides lead vocals and violin. The band’s sound is a very tight mix of traditional bluegrass, folk-pop and street percussion, with some serious classic rock undertones. It bears repeating: this band is incredibly tight.

Through crescendos and bridges they never a missed beat, broke a rhythm, or failed to look like they were having the time of their lives. River Whyless’ breakdowns are creative and incorporate each member of the band, bringing their street percussion sound to the front. Keep your ears open for this group, as it seems unlikely they will stay unknown for much longer.

Durham’s Bombadil, like River Whyless, formed as a college band (Duke home to the former, Appalachian State the latter). At the Cradle they served up the kind of big multi-instrumental-vocal smorgasbord rarely seen and even more rarely understood in these days of computer music. Josh Starmer, who played cello on Tarpits and Canyonlands, joined them onstage.

Bombadil fans, who seem to belong to every group of the grand social spectrum, are genuine and unencumbered by the usual pretence and pomp one generally associates with independent bands. Even more unusual, Bombadil is equally affectionate and grateful towards their fans. Stuart Robinson, who plays piano and sings his ass off, took the time to recognize Pat, who on Saturday had been to forty-seven shows. Each member of the band stayed at the venue until past midnight to meet fans. They also used the time between songs for corny jokes (mostly about vegetables) rather than for reminiscences. The crowd participation felt spontaneous and dynamic.

While not as tight or polyrhythmic as River Whyless, Bombadil has a lighthearted approach that’s not as apparent in the former band. Both bands’ harmonies were very well done but Bombadil pulled off some truly impressive vocal feats. A significant point of commonality between these two bands: all members sing and sing well. Much is made of the hiatus Bombadil was forced to take in 2009 but this gossip should generally be ignored. They are worth whatever you might pay to see them.

Describing Bombadil as a folk band is like describing Pablo Picasso as a portrait artist. Yes, their instrumentation is in the folk tradition, yes their voices wail in close folksy harmony, but Bombadil has done something altogether new with the genre. Much in the way Picasso and the cubists disassembled the physical world into its most basic components, Tarpits and Canyonlands deconstructs and reassembles standard folk devices into intricate, carefully orchestrated, endlessly layered patterns.

In this way the Picasso reference is not just rhetorical. One could almost describe Bombadil as Cubist Folk. A few songs from Tarpits stand out as examples of this comparison. In particular “Sad Birthday” isa catchy little tune that gathers to a sing along chorus. Another track worth mentioning is opener “I Am,” which builds on two simple piano chords and a nursery rhyme round into a triumphant finish replete with horns, strings, and three part harmonies. The sound created by this technique is vaguely reminiscent not only of the cubists but also of Stravinsky's ostinati, wherein the composer creates a repeating pattern (like the ever-present two chords in I Am) over which to combine different blocks of musical variation.

The extremely talented musicians of Bombadil are able to replicate entire orchestras, populated by everything from slide guitar to horn sections, out of which their folksy wails emerge to proclaim their often cryptic lyrics. Their driving rhythms and simple chord progressions keep you listening and tapping along while their voices either chant fiercely or rise into a triumphant chorus. This sort of bombastic sound could easily fall into a Mumford & Sons-style monochromatic landscape of epic choruses and anguished voices, but Bombadil manages to keep their music just weird enough to keep you guessing while adding just enough pop to keep you singing along.

Faithful fans of Bombadil will know that this complex sound is nothing new to the band. 2008’s A Buzz, A Buzz is also full of thickly layered instrumental tracks and passionate wails. But there’s something unformed and immature in the way that album’s pieces attempt to come together that has been resolved into a much more cohesive sound on Tarpits. In A Buzz, the repetition is so unrelenting that it’s irritating and hard to listen to.

On Tarpits and Canyonlands, and again on 2013’s Metrics of Affection, Bombadil manages to stay true to the little quirks that make them great while keeping their pounding repetition subdued enough to make their music listenable. Where A Buzz sounds like an unrehearsed and unconducted orchestra plowing through an album with reckless abandon, Tarpits and Canyonlands and Metrics of Affection have a careful, thoughtful sound that deliberately builds on their majestic cadences.

And the best news of all? Bombadil is currently working on their next album, to be released in early 2015.

-Oliver Child-Lanning and Daniel Hilgenberg - Fabricoh Magazine- Oliver Child-Lanning and Daniel Hilgenberg

"River Whyless warms up a cold night at Stopover"

The Savannah Stopover Music Festival was in full force on its second day, and the offerings were stringy sweet.

Despite the freezing cold (which in Savannah is anywhere between 40 and 50 degrees), Moon River Brewing Co. and their really cold outdoor patio was the place to be. The swarms gathered around the open-flame-covered-in-plastic-hand-warmers and heard some really fantastic Americana-based music.

Also, Moon River has really good beer. It will keep you warm.

Local string band The Accomplices opened the night with a rousing set and River Whyless became the feature of the night, at least for me.


It's easy to get old and forget what home is. But, River Whyless, out of Asheville, was a stark reminder of the region that created Americana music. It sounded like the best of home to me.

For all intents, they are a folk/rock band, but perhaps unintentionally, they are so much more. With dissonant breakdowns that mostly include Halli Anderson's electric fiddle, the quartet expands, in a delightful manner, on their folk predecessors.

River Whyless opened with a tune called "Pigeon Feathers" from 2012's "A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door." Anderson's sweet violin melody that opens the song seemed to lure the crowd in, like a siren of old. It became easy to forget the cold.

This band's immense talent became quickly evident with the percussion break midway through Pigeon Feathers. The entire band was banging on something. Most amusing was bassist Dan Shearin's percussion work on the rim of a bicycle tire that was acting as drummer Alex McWalter's crash symbol.

They played several songs from "A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door" and even one song that had no name. Shearin dubbed it "P3" for me when I asked for his set list during a conversation afterward.

To my amazement, neither of these bands were heading to South By Southwest. However, I can say that Savannah is better for River Whyless' stopover, and if you haven't yet seen The Accomplices, go. - DoSavannah

"Asheville’s River Whyless Brings Its Happy-Go-Lucky Pop Folk to Rhythm N’ Blooms"

The hills of North Carolina have a knack for inspiring hummable folk tunes. Fortunately for the guitar-toting transplants in Asheville-based folk-rock band River Whyless, the area’s influence isn’t limited to natives.

The members of the quartet—singer/guitarist Ryan O’Keefe, singer/violinist Halli Anderson, singer/bassist Dan Shearin, and drummer Alex McWalters—hail from across the country, but didn’t tap into their rootsy sound until meeting at Appalachian State University in Boone in 2006.

“Ryan and I ran on the cross-country team, and eventually we started making music together,” McWalters says. “A guy we were playing with at the time introduced us to Halli and everything sort of fell into place.”

It wasn’t until around 2009, when the then-trio, who performed under a different name at the time, moved to Asheville and met Shearin that River Whyless was born. “Our sound just sort of evolved and we realized that the band needed a makeover,” McWalters says. “So we changed the name, starting rehearsing like crazy, and got on track to where we are today.”

So far, the group’s revamp has proven successful. National tours with Americana staples like Ben Sollee and Railroad Earth have swelled their fan base and, just a few weeks ago, a photo of the band performing at Kings Barcade in Raleigh, N.C., was featured, much to their surprise, in The New York Times’ 36 Hours section.

“The Times thing was very, very awesome, but totally random,” McWalters says. “We didn’t even know it was happening until it was already in the news.”

River Whyless’ debut album, 2012’s A Stone, a Leaf, an Unfound Door, is equal parts toe-tapping jams and wistful, layered harmonies. Recorded at the band’s home studio in Asheville, the songs stitch together Anderson’s velvety violin playing and a rotating ensemble of percussion. It’s clear that O’Keefe and Anderson’s love-drunk harmonies are a focal point for the group, which relies on the pair to kick-start the writing process.

“Ryan and Halli write the bones and lyrics of the songs, and we eventually start chipping away at them as a group,” McWalters says. “Sometimes we start working and it evolves into something completely different.”

That creative process has come in handy lately. The group ditched their plans to head to Austin’s SXSW festival in favor of staying in Asheville to record a four-song demo for their upcoming second album.

“We’re just going to put [the songs] out into the world and see what kind of response we get,” McWalters says. “Essentially, we’re trying to get some help to make the actual record itself. We’re really excited about it since it’s been almost two years since our last one.”

In addition to facilitating a tight-knit bond, the band’s frequent touring has allowed them to test their new material on an eager and receptive audience.

“We’ve played three out of the four songs live, so we’ve got a pretty good feel for them,” says McWalters, who adds that their style has progressed over the years. “It’s always been along the folk-rock lines, but if you go back and listen to our old stuff it’s quite a bit different. Our newer material is moving in that same general direction, but it’s more seasoned.”

Pop folk, new Americana—whatever you want to call it, River Whyless is on track to join similar bands like the Head and the Heart, Of Monsters and Men, and Lord Huron as ambassadors of one of popular music’s of-the-moment genre. Anderson and O’Keefe’s ruminative duets complement layered guitars, while bursts of bells and other spontaneous instrumentals create a “we’re just making this up as we go along!” vibe.

That happy-go-lucky mentality has struck a chord with East Tennessee audiences. River Whyless isn’t a stranger to Knoxville or to the Rhythm N’ Blooms roster—they have played a handful of shows at Preservation Pub and took the stage at the Square Room for last year’s festival. But even though they’ve made an appearance before, the group is excited to showcase their new material this time around.

“Things have been crazy lately, with the Times, recording, and everything,” McWalters says. “It’ll be nice to get out there and share what we’ve been working on.” - MetroPulse Knoxville

"River Whyless: Lost & Found"

When Asheville-based River Whyless set out to record A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, they had a different name: Do It To Julia. That moniker was culled from a particularly irascible passage from George Orwell’s 1984 and dated back to the band’s inception as Appalachian State University students six years ago. The switch happened last year while the group was touring through the Deep South where no one knew them by either name.

“I think it was the best decision we’ve made,” songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Ryan O’ Keefe says of the old epithet. The beleaguered name confused some — “Who’s Julia?” — and struck others as misogynist. As songwriter/vocalist/violinist Halli Anderson was told by her father, “We were getting tired of lying to you about it.”

“It was a long-term decision,” adds Anderson. “We’re going to be a band for a while.”

With a new name came a new sound. Gone are the bubbly pop hooks, and bright dancey beats of DITJ’s 2008 debut Archie Carroll. On A Stone (its title also a quote, this time from Look Homeward Angel by Asheville author Thomas Wolfe), River Whyless opt for rhythmic-meets-pastoral indie folk numbers in the vein of Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes, with layers of fiddle and tasteful percussion ranging from booming kick drum to jazzy cymbal brushes. The handclaps, shakers and simple bassline that back the vocal break on “Pigeon Feathers” are a high point. O’Keefe’s sinewy lead vocal is pleasantly raw and poignant, well-matched by the sweetness of Anderson’s lyric contributions.

That’s not the end of the metamorphosis, though. Bassist Matt Rossario departed; Uncle Mountain’s Dan Shearin is stepping in while they shop for a permanent replacement.

A Stone is a slow burner, pretty and likable but revealing its nuanced artistry a little more with each listen. At its heart, it’s a concept album that delves into the idea of place — both physical locales and Arthurian-like fantasy worlds. O’Keefe says the fanciful sound, conjuring forest paths and knights on horseback, comes as much from hiking as the games of make-believe he once played with his brother as a kid. It’s a leap into the conceptual territory of existentialism and orchestral-prog rock, though the latter relates more to the symphonic use of strings than the lyrics – think Little Tybee and Andrew Bird rather than Yes or Genesis.

The recording was done in Martha’s Vineyard — the band jumped at an opportunity to escape the distractions of daily life in Asheville — during three weeks last winter, infusing the songs with the melancholy of sea and sky, damp earth and salt air. Cathedral acoustics come into play with the triptych of “Cedar Dream” parts I, II and III, but here the church is more the altar of nature. There’s a haunting charm to the way the first two songs meld together – the first quiet and pensive, the second punchy and textured — with shared themes and an atmosphere of hazy warmth. These are seasons of the heart, stations of the day. By part III, voices resonate in an imagined chapel of trees, building urgency toward a cool and airy conclusion.

Despite the effort and expense of the recording process, River Whyless are offering A Stone as a free download, paying it forward after funding the album with a successful Kickstarter campaign.

In redefining everything, from its name to its recording approach, River Whyless has found a sound worth exploring. A Stone shimmers between worlds, drawing the listener into the timeless places of nature and of make-believe. But it also bridges real locales, from its inception in Martha’s Vinyard to its completion back in Asheville. And it marries past and present, retaining Do It To Julia’s fetching harmonies and rhythms while embracing an expansive and mature new vision of arrangements, orchestration and vivid songwriting. - Alli Marshall

"River Whyless - A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door [Album Review]"

River Whyless came to us via an email from one of their fans. She said, “If you have some time to take a listen you won’t be sorry.” No lofty band comparisons included and no hipster name-dropping – just a bold proclamation.

Not knowing if I was about to hear electronica, metal or some blend of the both, I took a listen and was immediately floored. Turns out they are a four piece from Boone, NC and they kick out an earnest, upbeat brand of Appalachian folk. The two main songwriters are Ryan O’Keefe and Halli Anderson and it says here that Halli is also a classically trained violin player and she isn’t afraid to put it to good use.

They have a sound familiar with other HearYa favorites such as Horse Feathers, Seryn and Wilderness of Manitoba. My favorite tune is “Stone,” a sprawling 7 minute plus tune that explores religious themes (or at least I think they do). It starts with a melody that would sound comfortable on a Fleet Foxes album and then at about three minutes, it breaks down with some spectacular and ominous violin playing before coming to a standstill. The guitar and banjo slowly pluck the song back to life with Anderson on vocals. Then the band builds into a climatic finish and ends with just the chorus and a feeling of peaceful satisfaction.

There is plenty more to like on A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door. Great thing is you can go find out for yourself if you download it on bandcamp on the cheap or for free. In addition, those lucky enough to be in Austin will have the chance to catch them at SxSW. I have a feeling that you will be hearing much more of River Whyless . - By Woody - HearYa Music Blog

"Looking Homeward with River Whyless"

River Whyless has a story to tell, and they want to share it with their kids someday. “My mother was in a four-piece rock n’ roll band when she was in her early twenties,” says violinist and singer Halli Anderson. “She kept a picture of them and an old tape recording of a song that she had written. The beautiful thing about making an album is its timelessness. If nothing becomes of it now, at least I’ll have an extremely happy moment of my life preserved; to share with those that are close to me in the future, my children.”
The band all lived in a house together when I first met them in the fall of 2007. At the time they had yet to become River Whyless—they called themselves Do It to Julia, and their cold garage served as their music studio in the middle of nowhere, down a windy road in a snowy mountain town called Boone, buried in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
I attended a dinner party on a snowy night with my undergrad creative writing classmates at the house of River Whyless’ drummer, Alex McWalters. At some point in our conversation, after beer and wine and food, and after we had thoroughly discussed our passions for poetry, prose and our own hopeful aspirations of becoming writers—the room got quiet. Alex brought out his drumsticks and started tapping on a table. Someone started in lightly on the piano as others looked around for nearby objects to make sounds with. A person grabbed two books to beat together, as someone started shaking a box of cereal. Another friend began crunching a bag of Tostitos chips, and several had spoons and cups wildly clanging together in discord. A few found themselves vocalizing, humming, clapping, or manifesting some semblance of lyric. We were creating a song.
If an outsider walked in on us making all this noise we would have seemed like some inane, chanting bohemian group who had lost their minds—and maybe that’s what we were. But through the shaking cereal boxes and bags of chips, and the light tapping of drumsticks blended with the cacophony of off-key humming, each of us heard something that sounded like music. This is when I first realized that Do It to Julia—now River Whyless—was dedicated to crafting music that came from an honest place within them.
River Whyless is as much about the music they create as the place they come from. In the summer of 2009, after three years of performing under the name Do It to Julia, they moved to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and began to refashion themselves as River Whyless. But before they traveled off the mountain for tours, they needed to find a sense of direction. Alex says, “It took a long time for all of us in the band to figure out who we were as musicians and as people, and how to convey that onstage.” Asheville’s environment caters to the creative community, and as they tour across the country for the second time in a year, they carry the city with them: “Asheville represents us, and we it. Asheville is a city with a lot of potential that’s still working to figure out who and what it wants to be. It’s exciting and inspiring to live and perform in a city that seems to mirror our own sense of self-discovery.”
There are four members of River Whyless, and they’re best friends and like family: Ryan O’Keefe (vocals, guitar, bells) Halli Anderson (vocals, violin, bells) Alex McWalters (drums), and Matt Rossino (bass, banjo, ukulele, vocals). The two main songwriters are Ryan and Halli, and their songs begin to take shape when Ryan or Halli present something to the bandmates—a lyric, a phrase, or a melody—and together they pick apart the direction and feeling of a song.
Their newest album, A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, is a quote from the 1929 Southern Gothic novel, Look Homeward Angel, by Thomas Wolfe. The title is fitting: “Wolfe was from Asheville, and we liked the idea of paying tribute to that legacy. It was our way of embracing our new home—a way to mark our transition from Boone to Asheville that wasn’t complete until the album itself was complete—some two years after we actually moved to Asheville.”
And River Whyless, many of whom were former English majors and writers themselves, thrive on structure and narrative. One of their more finely-tuned songs, “Pigeon Feathers,” starts softly with bells, leads with sharp violin undertones, then blends a melodic discord of guitars and drums, building to a coolly composed and isolated lyric from Ryan’s cracked voice: “I once dreamed I was a poet.” “Pigeon Feathers” took three years to write and record before the band was happy with its direction: “Some of the best and most exciting moments are when we put together two parts that don’t seem to belong together—a verse and a chorus, or a drum beat and a melody—and meld them into something you wouldn’t conventionally think to combine.”
Halli, a classically trained violinist, feels that their “best writing moments are the spontaneous ones when the whole band clicks and just goes.” All is not as i - By Ryan Willard - ProxArt Magazine

"River Whyless, Live Session #106"

The last time I see River Whyless I was in Austin, Texas for SxSW 2012. It was a Wednesday afternoon, which is typically my favorite day of that week. I’ve just arrived in town with fresh legs and a grin on my face as I prepare to see a hundred bands and meet up with old friends. So on Wednesday, the various characters in our entourage all made the pedestrian quest from hotels to a wine bar called Uncorked – not your typical music venue.

Woody, Shirk, Safariman, my cousin Katy, and a college pal named Rocky all arrived, exchanged hugs, opted for craft brews instead of wine and sat down at a patio table outdoors to catch a set by River Whyless. It was a perfect setting for the North Carolina band as they greeted a small crowd of folks who had discovered their debut album, A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, but like us, had never seen them in person.

We were greeted with a soothing set of acoustic folk music highlighted by co-songwriters, Halli Anderson and Ryan O’Keefe. Halli’s violin gives each song a dreamy, ethereal quality while Ryan’s string plucking (with feather accent in his guitar) and percussion from Alex McWalters keep songs rooted in the ground. River Whyless have an earthly quality that went down perfectly with my organic IPA on that day.

It was at this set that we invited them in for a session. It was also at this set that I found my last chair to sit in for the week of SxSW. You can visit the River Whyless BandCamp page to stream their debut album and buy it at the low price of name your own.

River Whyless – Band Introduction

Exclusive: River Whyless – Great Parades

Exclusive: River Whyless – Cedar Dream Pt. III - By Oz - HearYa indie music blog


Still working on that hot first release.



  • EP Release January 20th, 2015
  • World Cafe Next artist January 19th, 2015
  • Notable Press - New York Times, Paste, The Huffington Post, Pop matters, The Bluegrass situation
  • Facebook - 6,800 fans   Twitter - 1,250 Folowers
  • Press: Alyssa DeHayes at Riot Act Media
  • Radio: Shil Patel at Team Clermont

Asheville, North Carolina's River Whyless is a band much like that titular body of water - a mingling of currents, a flow of time and physical space, all brought together in a murmuring sense of purpose. It is the expression of a group of musicians, three of which are songwriters, who have played together in various forms since their college days in the North Carolina mountains. Their forthcoming EP, their first release since their 2012 debut album, is the next evolution of the band's collective voice.

Composed of Ryan O'Keefe (guitars, vocals), Halli Anderson (violin, vocals), Alex McWalters (drums, percussion) and Daniel Shearin (bass, vocals, harmonium, cello, banjo), the band found themselves at a bit of a crossroads when preparing music for a new release. "Sometimes each songwriter really differs quite a bit from the other," said O'Keefe. "We had to figure out how to incorporate everyone's writing style into a cohesive idea. These were the five songs where we could find that common thread."

After the "long and arduous, DIY" process of recording their first album over a period of many months back in 2011, the band elected to decamp to Louisville, Kentucky's La La Land Studio to work with Kevin Ratterman (Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Ben Sollee) on their new recordings. "We like to get out of town when we write and record. Putting our minds and bodies in a creative place tends to yield the most honest results. In an atmosphere like La La Land you can eat, sleep and breathe the music you're working on without the distractions of everyday life. I enjoy that," added O'Keefe. "We recorded mostly live with just a few overdubs. Kevin likes to move at a good clip in order to capture that magical, synchronistic moment. He also records to tape and uses all this great gear. Tracking this way was new and exciting to us and, I think it shows in the songs." Recording this way captured the chemistry and intuitive bonds of long-time collaborators hitting their stride. As a band who has toured heavily over the years, it reflects River Whyless as a cohesive unit, where each member anticipates the other’s move, and effortlessly complements it. The new EP was recorded and mixed in just four days. "I'm more proud of these songs than any others we've recorded" glowed O'Keefe. And it's easy to see why.

The machinery-like percussion that leads track four, "Miles of Skyline," is interwoven with clock-like guitar patterns alongside Shearin's lead vocals. The weeping guitar of "Fine Companion" underpins the stridently hopeful lyrics. "Maple Sap" builds on its multiple metaphors of firewood and sap to ask universal questions we grapple with in stillness with ourselves. "Bath Salt" has a loping rhythm that showcases Anderson's voice finding a mark between Sandy Denny's ethereal plea and Crystal Gayle's country swoon. The English trad-folk sounds are the band's obvious touchstones, putting them in a category similar to contemporaries like Fleet Foxes and Stornoway.


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Midpoint Music Festival (2Xs)
Music City Roots- Nashville, TN
Bristol Rhythm and Roots (2Xs)
FloydFest (3Xs)
Shakori Hills Music Festival
Bele Chere Festival
Rhythm and Blooms Festival
Music on the Mountaintop (4Xs)

Touring support for:

  • Felice Brothers
  • Gregory Alan Isakov
  • Ben Sollee
  • Railroad Earth
  • Trampled by Turtles

Notable Media Moments:
  • EP Release January 20th, 2015
  • World Cafe Next artist January 19th, 2015
  • Notable Press - New York Times, Paste, The Huffington Post, Pop matters, The Bluegrass situation
  • Facebook - 6,800 fans   Twitter - 1,250 Folowers
  • Bandcamp.com Top Sellers and Staff Picks
  • Daytrotter Session- Rock Island, IL
  • WXPN "Morning Key" (Song of the Day)
  • HearYa Live Session- Chicago, IL
  • Audiotree Live Session
  • Live and Breathing Session
  • A-Sides Session-Huffington Post
  • 11 Alive NBC News in Atlanta GA

Band Members