By Christian Thompson
If one were seeking proof of a growing collective nostalgia for the 1980s, a great place to begin looking would be at the trend’s that define today’s musical landscape. Whether it’s mainstream pop’s synth revival or underground rock’s current obsession with reverb and washed out production values, there’s no shortage of musicians paying homage to the decade’s abundance of signature and revolutionary music.
What’s more rare, however, is when a group knows how to take those tried-and-true sounds and actually build something original on top of them. Originality is no easy feat, but local indie-rock band, Like the River is on a fast track to making a sound that’s all their own.
Like the River, now based in Northern Virginia, initially formed across the Shenandoah River in Martinsburg, WV. This different scenery might be responsible for the three-piece band’s genre-blending, which sounds unlike most of what music in Northern Virginia currently has to offer.
“We all came from punk and emo backgrounds originally,” said Hunter Taylor, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. These roots are displayed in much of the band’s material, whether it’s through their intricate dynamics, emotionally charged vocals, or anthemic choruses.
But Like the River melds these more modern sounds with an unusual take on new wave, shoegaze, and jangle pop—some of the genres that defined the music of the ’80s. Taylor cites The Cure and the Talking Heads as particularly influential and their recorded output includes covers of Cyndi Lauper and Depeche Mode, all towering musical figures during the decade.
The band’s most recent single, “Mint,” doesn’t even need a full measure before hearkening to mid-’80s New Order. The track, which is perhaps the band’s best yet, is full of stately, reverb-heavy guitar lines and shimmering, dreamy keyboard textures. Yet rather than relying on melody alone, the group’s punk influence lends the track a ferocity that could make a lot of new wave acts sound toothless by comparison.
This energy that Like the River imbues their songs with makes their live show a must-see. On Friday, May 18, they perform at Crooked Run Brewery in Sterling. Taylor said the group will open the show with “a short unplugged set followed by a full band set featuring some covers like [Lauper’s] ‘Time After Time.’”
The musical variety Like the River offers ensures that they’ll please lovers of rock and pop music from almost any style or decade, but their distinctive sound promises to give listeners something they haven’t heard before. Check them out now before everyone and their uncle is calling them their new favorite band.
Like the River goes on stage at 8 p.m. and there is no cover for the show.