Since it is towards the end of winter, it’s a surprisingly mild night in King of Prussia, which outside of the mall looks a lot like the middle of nowhere, . The two-floor home of two Rivers Monroe members would look like the home of the all-American family if not for the red sub-compact parked on the front lawn. Mike Reading, vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the power-pop quintet, opens the door revealing a slightly refined fraternity house interior and immediately offers a beer. Mike, in his home-for-the-night duds, a white hooded sweatshirt with white basketball shorts and sand-colored flip-flops, welcomes me as well as Mat Welch, on vocals and keyboard for the group, still wearing his yellow dress shirt and black slacks from his day job working in a government office. Shortly after the warm welcome, lead guitarist Matt Varga, known to Rivers Monroe as “Doc”, showed up also dressed in day job attire: a silk maroon shirt and tie with black slacks with freshly shined black dress shoes.
The two crooners and lead ax man recently hung out with me in their basement on their suede sectional couch, the 90s style (i.e. massive) flat-screen TV at a low hum and beers in hand to discuss their creative process, recent music video releases, some of their future goals and the Philadelphia scene today. Find out what they think after the break.
PHILANTHEM: Did your sound just come to you? Was it a creative decision or a trial and error process?
MAT: It was a situation where we fed off of each other. For instance, maybe Matt says, ‘You know man I’ve working on this guitar riff,’ and Paul will start playing something and I say, ‘Yeah that’s cool it goes with this,’ and I’ll play some keyboard over it that goes with it and we’ll say, ‘Let’s sing something over this.’
PHILANTHEM: So, how it was sounding was what you were appreciative of?
MAT: Exactly. The sound we were making had everything melding together so nicely.
PHILANTHEM: How exactly did you produce the videos and where were they shot at?
DOC: It was a big process. We did a lot of planning before we shot. I remember scouting locations with these guys.
MIKE: Matt did a lot of work.
DOC: I wrote all of the storyboards out. For the shooting schedule: we shot everything in a week. We had literally, by-the-minute schedules saying we had to shoot this at this time and be at this location at this time.
MIKE: Matt actually did a really awesome job. Literally, it was every day from five o’clock to eleven o’clock at night, every night and all day Saturday and Sunday.
MAT: We had to audition the girls, which was kind of cool. We went to Starbucks and had people come in. We ended up getting Ryan’s [a roommate of Mat and Mike’s] ex-girlfriend who is just a gorgeous blonde who ended up being great and Mike’s girlfriend, a friend that she worked with, had a great look and it worked out. When I watched the video, the last one, if you don’t know that these two don’t know each other, it looks like they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. It looks so realistic.
MIKE: Matt’s dad [of Varga Productions], he was just awesome. He was down here every day and he obviously has experience in production so we were able to just really bang it out. When we originally were like, ‘We got to do this four part music video,’ we were just so discouraged. Even now, Steve LaFashia, of Jealousy Curve, said, ‘Good luck with that.’ The other day he was just like, ‘This is amazing. I cannot believe you guys did this in a week.’ We were our own biggest skeptics, but it turned out pretty good.
DOC: My dad did it all for free and even spent money to buy equipment for himself that we needed for the shoot.
PHILANTHEM: Besides getting signed, playing arenas and the like do you guys have any personal goals? Something where if you made it to that point you would be happy and nothing else after that would matter?
DOC: I’ll never be happy. It’s like that with any craft. I said that if I played a venue like the House of Blues or the TLA and I’ve played those, but now that I’ve played them it seemed cool back then, but there is so much more you can do. I think anybody who is really serious about their craft will never ever reach the top. There is no top. If you really love it then you’re going to keep climbing. I think the whole thing is a happy endeavor.
MAT: I have a lot of things I want to do. I want us to be a lasting band; so many bands these days just fizzle away. Even just to have one song and ten years from now someone will be like, ‘I remember that song. I love that song.’ I would like to write for other artists. I would like to write for hip hop, rock, country, everything. I would for us to have our own record company down the line and record, produce and establish new artists. We all, especially me and Matt, eventually want to do sound tracks for movies, instrumental, symphonic type stuff. I think if Rivers Monroe made it, it would be a stepping stone for a lot of things.
MIKE: The day we sign a deal will be a big milestone in my life, but I think that’s kind of just the beginning. A lot of music nowadays is that you hear a song and a month later it’s dated because there are so many different genres. I want to be able to reach out to a lot of people and just strike a chord with them. I just always had this weird notion that someday I was going to be a rock star.
(Mat bursts into laughter.)
MIKE: I have man, I have. I think everything happens for a reason. I’ve got a lot of dreams and aspirations.
DOC: So we know.
PHILANTHEM: How do you feel about the state of the music scene in Philly as of right now?
MAT: There are a lot of cover bands and that’s where all the business is. That’s where all the money is in Philly. The original scene, in the past two years, has grown and I feel it will continue to grow because I think people want to hear original music more, but I think the majority of the Philly music scene is cover bands. There are a lot of great bands that have come out of Philly back in the day so it has potential to be that again.
MIKE: Here’s the thing about the music industry that I think is just a shame. Everything that’s been going on with things like Napster has really hurt the industry. So, the music industry, instead of 10-15 years ago was worrying about, ‘OK, this is a good band that has a decent following, but what about the music?’ Instead, now what they’re doing now is,’OK let’s look at all these bands. Who’s got the biggest following? We don’t care about the music. All we care about is the numbers. So let’s get this band that draws 200 people every show.’ You got to realize those 200 people have been following this band for four or five years since they been in high school. Now, when you sign that band and release that record over the entire nation, what happens is the music is not there. So, yeah, you have a big following but the music is not there to support this whole country of people who want to hear good music. So the music industry is killing themselves by going that route instead of finding the bands that have the potential to hit it big everywhere.
MAT: They’re really challenged as to how they can make money like they did ten years ago.
MIKE: Music is about music. It’s not about the numbers.
DOC: I disagree. I think they’re definitely looking for numbers primarily, but the best way to get signed is still to make great music. Bands have to be run like a business. Marketing has to become as important as writing songs. It’s fifty-fifty.
PHILANTHEM: Thank you guys for taking the time to talk with us.