By: Alexander Card
The Cleveland-Athens musical collaboration, the Burning River Ramblers, will make an appearance at the Union Bar this Friday (April 5), showcasing their genre-bending approach to songwriting.
Comprised of a mixture of current and former Ohio University students, the band got its start in Cleveland in 2010, when Athens native Jesse Catania (drums) delivered a pizza to Chris Rush (bass guitar) and Conor Standish (vocals, guitar). Catania showed off his drum skills on a kit in Standish’s apartment, and before long the Burning River Ramblers were born.
Named for the infamous fire on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River in 1969, the group soon relocated to Athens where they picked up Jesse’s brother, guitarist Zach Catania, and keyboardist Dave Young, forming the Ramblers’ current incarnation.
“What makes our band different is each one of us has our own influences,” said Standish in a phone interview. Classic rock, reggae and electronica all find their way into band’s intricate web of musical stylings. Standish said the Ramblers have often been compared to alternative acts such as My Morning Jacket and Dave Matthews Band
The Burning River Ramblers’ return to the Union is sure to be as enjoyable for the crowd as it is for the band. “We really like to play at the Union,” said Standish. “We really feel like it’s our home… I think [the Union] is the venue that’s received us the most.” The Ramblers try to play about twice each month in Athens, he added, noting, “We also play a lot in Cleveland in the summertime.”
In addition to a steady schedule of live performances, the band has been busy putting the finishing touches on a new album, due to be released in June. The follow-up to the BRR’s 2011 self-titled debut, the new album was recorded at both Suma Recording in Painsville, Ohio, and Rex Kalibur Studios in Athens. Rex Kalibur is owned by Dave Young, who helped produce the album with his father, Dave Young, Sr.
As if playing gigs and recording an album were not enough, the Burning River Ramblers have also made progress in the Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands. After successfully negotiating the first four rounds of the competition, the Ramblers now represent Cleveland in the nationwide voting round. The final 10 bands after that round will go to London, England, all expenses paid, for the final global showdown. Online voting for the nationwide round begins on April 22. It’s a prestigious honor for the band to have even got this far, considering the contest started with several hundreds bands.
Maintaining such a level of activity doesn’t go without its challenges, however. The band members sometimes have difficulty “just trying to balance everything… with having jobs, going to school and playing music at the same time,” Standish said. The Ramblers try not to add concerns regarding the state of the music industry to the list, though.
“I think it’s… changed a lot over the years,” Standish said. “These days it’s not necessarily about getting a record deal.” Instead, the band focuses on building a fan base and playing the music they love.
The Burning River Ramblers will be playing on a bill with Mantra and the Tailwinds at the Union on Friday. To hear their music, visit www.burningriverramblers.com. More information on the Hard Rock Rising competition can be found on the Hard Rock website.