Interview: Up River [June 2014]

By James Fox

Turn back the clock a few years and you might remember the rush of melodic hardcore in the UK with bands like More Than Life, Landscapes and Departures all finding a sizeable voice within the UK scene. However, these days it’d be fair to say most of those bands seem a little more spent than anything and none ever really managed to pull off the same sort of energetic punch that their influential counterparts from North East America managed in the several years before. Have Heart, Verse and later Defeater pushed a confrontational but emotive sound that was all the while delivered with an intelligent, switched-on mindset. It’s without a doubt that, at least sonically, Up River are looking to follow on from this lineage. A month on from the release of their debut album ‘Undertow’, Punktastic figured it was a good time to sit down with Up River to talk about what’s led them up to this moment.

Up River can’t exactly be considered an entirely new band, having spent three years honing their craft and maturing since forming in Brighton back in 2011. They’re now stretched between there and the Midlands and have recently found themselves playing alongside the likes of Drug Church and Code Orange Kids. They’ve dealt with a few member changes, most notably when previous singer Alex Batchelor decided to leave. “When Alex left we didn’t know what to do,” says then-bassist-now-vocalist Harry Huntington. “There was a point for a few days where we were like, ‘What are we gonna do?’”

Harry was always a large driving force behind the band, and even more so since he stepped up to take on full vocal duties. After spending a big part of his childhood in Belgium, Up River have always done well in Europe. “Europe is a great place,” he explains. “It’s great because touring-wise it’s amazing – they take care of you, they give you a place to sleep, they give you food. It’s always a good show. The fans want it more and it feels like how it should be. In Europe I never see an arm folded. They’re always into it.”

Part of that success was due to releases via European label Anchors Aweigh such as the ‘Rough Ground’ and ‘Hardships’ on 7-inch. However, for their full length debut they looked towards British-based hardcore mainstay Holy Roar Records. “I always admired Holy Roar because they always brought out good records. They had a similar thing to Anchors Aweigh in the sense of, he put out the music he liked, and that he grew up listening to which is what a label should always do.”

Aside from the strong instrumental performances on the record, the album is driven by the direct delivery of Harry’s emotionally distressed lyrics, and its lyrics in particular that have grown to become more influential on him than ever. “I’m a lot more influenced by lyrics. With The Wonder Years, I find realistic lyrics really hit the spot. I could listen to a thousand bands that write about their girlfriends and it’s kind of like, there’s more out there. Last Lights are a really important band for me. Dominic Mallory, his lyrics I think are quite close to gold. His lyrics I think are just brilliant.”

All of those influences, be it musical or personal, come together to make a record which plays on themes that anyone who has ever tried to pursue their passion for music will understand. “The record is about literally just who I was to where I am now. Why don’t you get a career, why don’t you get a real job, what are you doing with your life? Are you stable? All those things that are frightening. I’ve seen a lot of people buckle under that pressure and given up music just for that. It’s how you’re driven as a person I guess. I always want to do stuff with music and I always wanted to pull through and do a record.”

When asked why people should take the time to listen to ‘Undertow’, Harry pensively responds, “Because it’s honest. I think people can relate to it. We put a lot of time into that record and we really crafted it.” He puts it best when he goes onto explain further, “I think some people don’t like wearing their hearts on their sleeves as much as people have before. I think we do that with our band and every song stands its ground. I think it’s all killer no filler.”



Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]