While some bands take their careers in strides — take time to come together, discover their sound and find their musical footing — others hit the ground running, taking their steps two at a time. River Spell, who found each other in 2022 and have been moving quickly since embodies the latter. Guitarist and vocalist Grant Livingston, electric guitarist Ben Maillard, bassist Jake DeMarco and drummer Zack Ritchie have swiftly made big moves in those two short years, having already played alongside bands like Railroad Earth, The Motet and Tea Lea Green. They dove deep and fast into the local scene, having already frequented venues like The Fox, Cervantes’ and Aspen’s Belly Up. They achieved a new milestone this week with the release of their self-titled debut album.

Serendipity pressed the fast-forward button when Livingston moved to Colorado in 2022 “with the intention of starting a band” and met Maillard, DeMarco and Ritchie not long thereafter. A collaborative project from the start, Livingston already had “lots of original music,” and the other three were “already active in the Denver music scene,” leading to this newfound band playing shows “pretty much every weekend right away.” Like the best of any local band, River Spell joined forces with a myriad of influences and backgrounds. “As a band we come from all different musical backgrounds,” said Livingston. “Between the four of us, we love pretty much everything.”

River Spell

Photo Courtesy of River Spell

Ritchie took his experience with the jazz drum set and found himself playing with Amoramora and Sky Pond before uniting with River Spell, a band that he describes as having different musical tastes, yet has come together with the intent of making great music. “As a group, I think [that] makes our sound interesting.” What adds on to that sound is that the band has a jam-packed two years of live performances under their belts, giving them the opportunity to really hone in on the live element of their music. The biggest step with this album, then, was to “capture the live energy that we’ve been crafting on stage and translate that into a studio form.”

For Maillaro, that step was a bit of a hurdle. “It’s one thing to take a fresh idea and flesh it out in the studio, but it’s an entirely different animal when you’ve been relentlessly performing a song live,” he said of the recording process. “I found it difficult to strike a balance between the parts feeling organic and ‘live,’ while still sounding polished enough for a record,” a sentiment that his band members shared. The final result is polished, digestible, and yet still holds close to that live element. “There are elements of funk, bluegrass, rock, and psychedelia mixed with a lot of improv and some silliness, which is basically what you can expect at a River Spell show,” Livingston said.

In opting for a “more raw and energetic sound” for the album’s recording, River Spell runs parallel to a local music scene that is integral to their bandmanship. The “collaborative nature of the Denver music scene,” according to Livingston, is an extension of River Spell’s story, which is what organically happens when people are “down to link up and gig with someone who just moved to town.” It’s simple, natural, and has put the band in “some unforgettable situations with new people and places,” said DeMarco. For Ritchie, this robust ecosystem of a local music scene has helped River Spell create its “own unique amalgamation of Colorado music.”

The music and community of River Spell will keep on flowing, with more tunes and good times to be left in their wake. March will see visits to Keystone’s Warren Station, Denver’s Caribou Room and Boulder’s Fox Theatre, along with a stop on April 26 at Cervantes’ Other Side. With so many shows both in the bag and on the books, it’s inevitable that we’ll be seeing a live album from River Spell sometime this year while they  “keep writing and playing and spreading [our] music.”

Listen to River Spell on Spotify here.

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