Packed with lyrics that reflect the widespread turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unifying social efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats’ new album, Everyone Everywhere, feels like it was written yesterday. The work’s prescient nature has proved so startling that it even prompted one fan in Boise, Idaho — who received a preorder of the collection in advance of its Friday, June 26, release — to ask the Asheville-based artist if he’d consulted a crystal ball.
In actuality, half of the six songs were recorded in spring 2019, including the release of singles “Stepping Stone” and “Natural Romantic,” followed by a stretch where the guitarist-singer says he, Eliza Hill (drums) and Keith Harry (bass) “toured our asses off.” Refreshed and wielding “a brand-new perspective,” the trio returned to the studio at the start of 2020 for productive sessions that resulted in the album being mixed and mastered by the frontman’s mid-January birthday. Though the release date’s numerous delays open speculation regarding last-minute, relevance-enhancing tinkering, the truth is far simpler.
“Maybe all this stuff was just bound to be written about. Maybe it was inevitable. It feels like coincidence, but at the same time, these are issues that I’ve always written about and things that I want to talk about — whether it be mental health or equality, the ups and downs of relationships, romantic or not romantic,” Scotchie says.
“I think it’s really relevant right now not only because of the pandemic, but also because people are reflecting and evaluating their lives more than ever: A) They have time or B) they see all the fires in the world, so to speak, and they’re looking into themselves to see how they operate as people and how they can hopefully affect the world in a positive way. But, yeah, it was really interesting to see how these songs lined up.”
Like nearly every musical act that’s released new material over the past three months, Scotchie and the Rats have been forced to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing industry. They originally planned to hold a celebration show for the record on April 23 at Ambrose West, then play the band competition at MerleFest that weekend and officially release the album May 8. Then COVID-19 concerns closed music venues nationwide and forced Scotchie to cancel a big show in Charlotte and a tour in Florida.
Following the leads of several other bands, Scotchie strongly considered delaying the release of Everyone Everywhere until his group could get back on the road. With Hill having amicably left the Rats to pursue other endeavors — Logan Jayne from Lyric is the new touring drummer — Scotchie consulted Harry, his “right-hand man,” for advice, as well as the group’s booking agent. He also sought guidance from Matt Williams, the album’s engineer and a key contributor on its standout title track, where his strings pair exquisitely well with Hill’s drums to give the song just the right amount of “Kashmir” vibes. Together, they decided to share the album despite the current atypical circumstances.
“We all came to the conclusion that people need music now more than ever. It was the best time to put out something that was so relevant, too. If it was just a happy-go-lucky rock record — which it really isn’t, opposed to some of our stuff we put out five years ago, this is way more of a conscious, high-energy music experience,” Scotchie says. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to share something with people. I want them to know where we’re at. I also don’t want it to feel dated when it comes out.’”
The Rats and The Tramp
The Rats’ third studio album with Williams, whom Scotchie calls “The Wizard,” a “freak of nature musician” and “the invisible fourth member of the band,” Everyone Everywhere finds the ensemble exploring new sonic territory. Favoring quality over quantity, Scotchie says each of the half-dozen tracks represents a different side of the band and, as opposed to being joined by four-six additional songs, encourages each composition “to get the love that we felt they deserve.”
“We definitely like to carry that rock ’n’ roll flag, but just like the bands that we look up to, they have a signature sound but they’re never pigeonholed into one genre or limited in what they do,” Scotchie says. “I like elements of funk, alternative rock, ’90s, grunge, Southern rock, Steely Dan — it’s really hard for me as a songwriter to fit into one little mold. It’s also just because we’re relatively young musicians and we’re still figuring out what really works.”
That period of growth also included Scotchie’s first experience with clearing samples from a classic film. The politically charged “Fear Mongers” features dialogue from Charlie Chaplin’s closing speech in The Great Dictator (1940), which finds the writer-director-actor’s noble barber character attempting to stir his countrymen to stand up for justice amid intense oppression, delivering such lines as: “You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate.” To obtain permission to use the clip, Scotchie worked with Chaplin’s estate in Paris. The representatives liked the sample and officially approved it.
“It was really cool to communicate with them and to learn. It’s 2020, where a lot of people, they don’t go that route. They just find a loophole to include it,” Scotchie says. “Granted, not every single movie he put out is internationally copyrighted, but it just so happened that was one. And out of respect for the movie and for that speech — it’s kind of the cherry on top of the song. It was done already, and we went back in the studio and put that in and we all got goosebumps.” andrewscotchiemusic.com