Portuguese rock & roll quartet The Real Beavers‘ new EP Watch It Burn is out on 29th June. John Clay caught up with frontman Bill Rivers to talk creativity in lockdown, finding his stage persona and The Devil.
Hey Bill, how’s it going in Portugal’s version of lockdown?
Hi John! Well, Portugal we’re pretty much on it and got praise from other countries apparently for reacting quickly to the situation. I’m in a small town, so it’s not as in your face as it is in a big city. I’m following all the procedures and only go out when necessary. I’m pretty much a hermit anyway, so psychologically it hasn’t affected me very much.
Have you been using the period to work on new material?
Of course. I spend all the time I can working on stuff, so this pandemic has given me more time to do things. Sounds ridiculously selfish, but it has been beneficial regarding being creative. I’m always writing new songs and since lock down I’ve been drawing everyday.
Let’s talk about your upcoming release. What did you learn about yourself at the other end of pushing it through into reality?
It’s quite a process to get something like this done. I’m someone who works on creative ideas very quickly, so when I’ve realised the idea and manifested an idea in a less ‘framed’ way, then I’m onto the next thing. I had to, and still am learning, to understand the professional approach of working on the same thing (which is finished in my head) over and over again, to get it manifested ‘clean’ as it were. Working in a band is still very strange to me as I am primarily an artist who works alone, so I find myself in a situation that is quite alien to me, but also interesting.
What particular song off the EP are you looking forward to playing live?
We’ve already played the songs from the EP live. The bonus track ‘Lost’ is pretty special to perform. I wrote it 10 years ago and I still feel something when I perform it. In the last year I don’t have to play guitar as much as before, however, this has given me more time to find myself as a performer. Prior to the band, I really only performed acoustic songs by myself, very introspective performances, so going into rock and roll I’ve had to, not knowingly create a character, but find one through a natural process. The thing is to be as pure as honest as you can when performing, and from that, a certain ‘style’ of performance will come out. I try not to overthink it, but I’m sure subconsciously, my head is referencing performers I like, such as Iggy Pop, David Byrne and Lou Reed. These were the guys I absorbed and watched a lot. But a straight answer to your question, ‘The Devil’s Loose’ is pretty fun to do .
You talk of honesty in your songwriting. Is it easier to find the strength to be honest in the place you reside now, away from London?
Had to think about that one. I’m from the midlands, not London by the way. I wouldn’t say easier, but it makes certain things clearer as being here has allowed me the time to breathe a bit better and look at things with even more introspection and objectivity, but I don’t really write about certain specific external events. I’m more interested in what’s going inside and how one responds to certain things or why one responds in a certain way. I’ve always done this, and I’ve always tried to be as honest as I can (observant, truthful to myself) be it in a place that is or isn’t healthy for me. I’m really talking about existential themes and using familiar things, allegories etc. to express this. A rock/pop song is as good as any place to do this.
Can you think of a favourite allegory in one of the tracks from the EP?
‘The Devil’s Loose’ probably. On the surface the language conjures up quite familiar imagery, particularly the word ‘Devil’ and the lyrics do appear to be quite clear and concise, but I was very well aware that the devil, on one hand, is referring to ignorance and on the other, mediocrity. I picture the Devil’s guise as soulless and stupid, rather than sexy, alive and rebellious, which I feel is he antithesis of what the devil is. In essence, it’s an allegory about awareness, to remember the devil comes in many disguises, the subtlest being the most dangerous.
Now that’s a way to end an interview, if ever there was one. But alas, capitalism! Come on Bill, do let us know when your E.P is out and where we can find it!
It will be released online, spotify, bandcamp etc. on June 29th and it is also available as a CD, which you can get by contacting us. Find us on facebook for more info. Cheers John
No worries, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.
The Real Beavers’ new EP Watch It Burn will be released on 29th June.
Interview by John Clay
Photograph by Tito Ladeira