Riverbend is a band comprised of four Birmingham high school students — Stanton Langley, Sims Ruffino, Price Pewitt and Max Simon — but you wouldn’t know it based on the group’s seasoned sound and high-profile bookings. Earlier this year, the band released the album Bitter Words, recorded in Austin, Texas, and produced by A.J. Vallejo [recipient of the “Best Producer” award at the 2016 Austin Music Industry Awards]. Over the course of its six tracks, Bitter Words displays a musical maturity that belies the band members’ ages.
Recently, Riverbend headlined a show at WorkPlay, and the band is on the 2017 Sloss Fest lineup. Prior to the WorkPlay show, Weld caught up with the quartet in its rehearsal space to discuss the new album.
Weld: If you will, please talk about the recording of Bitter Words.
Sims Ruffino: A.J. Vallejo heard our EP [Colors] and liked it. He called me and asked when we could come down and start recording. It was in early June of last year. We stayed there for six days and cut the whole thing.
Stanton Langley: The good thing about it was we were kind of forced to take all these new songs we’d written and record them with a spontaneous mindset. We didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. A couple of the songs were written two days before we left. We had to take the most organic spin on it.
Price Pewitt: We were staying at [Vallejo’s] house, where his studio is. So we really got to trap in all this creativity, and we’d record all night. I’d be asleep and wake up to Stanton recording a guitar solo.
Weld: How does your band’s songwriting process work?
Langley: Typically, it starts with Max. He’ll bring in a guitar chord progression or a riff, and then the four of us jam on it and work it out together and get the arrangement set up. Then I usually take it away for a day or two and write the lyrics and we have a complete song.
Weld: Riverbend is releasing music in the era of iTunes, satellite radio, YouTube and social media. What has been your experience of releasing the album and gaining exposure in the digital age?
Max Simon: There’s such a fine line between oversaturating a market and not doing enough, so you really have to find how much music to post on social media. You want to stay relevant and you want to stay fresh, but you also need to cement yourself among an audience.
Langley: What we’ve noticed is that you have to keep churning out new things, whether it’s adding new songs to a set or adding a new element to the group. We’ve got 10 or so songs that we’ve been playing for a long time and now they’re sounding really good, but we also have to keep moving forward and progressing and that’s what we’re trying to do.
Pewitt: I think technology is a blessing and a curse as far as the business goes. It’s great that my friend in California can hear our music so easily but it leaves room for a lot of junk.
Weld: You’re coming onto the scene in an exciting musical time for both our city and our state. If you will, give us your take on it from a musician’s standpoint.
Ruffino: Having the background that I do with my dad and my grandfather [concert promoter John Ruffino and Tony Ruffino] and seeing how it’s progressed from a town in the middle of nowhere to what it is now is unbelievable. Avondale is the most prime example and it’s built this really great brand and the music scene is getting its own identity. Bands like Alabama Shakes and St. Paul and The Broken Bones are bringing national recognition to Birmingham.
Pewitt: Like any type of art, it’s a wildfire. One person coming out of Birmingham makes great music and it makes five other people want to do it and to be better than the others. Birmingham is blowing up.
For more information on Riverbend, visit riverbendofficial.com.