Rivers Monroe Keep Rocking Philadelphia

With three band members in my car and two more leaning in through the windows, I knew I had found a band that was more than their skinny jeans and their neon sunglasses. Rivers Monroe is a thriving pop punk band from Philly, and I was lucky enough to meet up with them after their show at Chaplin’s, a small venue in Spring City, PA. The guys will do anything for their fans; that’s why when are were asked to leave the green room, the band piles into my car to talk about their unique sound, which was born right here in the City of Brotherly Love.

The five-piece started with Mike Monroe, Mat Rivers, and a goal. “Girls,” Mike immediately responds when asked why they formed the band. “If anyone says anything different, they’re lying.” After a moment, Mat says, “Initially, it was about girls. Now it’s about music…and girls.” Laughing along, the other guys agree. After starting the group, Mike and Mat were joined by Doc Varga, Kirby San, and Dan Fedele, becoming the Rivers Monroe that we see today.

Their sound can be described as alternative rock with enough pop to get stuck in your head but enough punk to make you feel like a hipster. “I feel like we’re one of the few bands that really plays the type of music that we do in Philadelphia,” Mike says. Kirby calls Rivers Monroe a “rare breed.” Their songs are hook-driven with clean vocals that give you goosebumps and screaming guitar leads that make you sweat, but each song is unique.

Take, for example, the song “Emily (Every Second)” from their new self-titled album that dropped earlier this year. It’s a love song that builds from acoustic serenade to rock ballad in three and a half minutes, and the lyrics (“Every second feels like another day without you”) drive the chorus into your heart. Then listen to “This Is Love”. The song seems to be a straight-ahead pop/rock song until the ending breakdown. It fills your ears with power chords and Mike’s high notes, with the drums pushing you towards a feeling that can only be described as epic. Dan explains, “We somehow ended up jamming on something crazy and we said, we gotta piece this song together so that jam is the last thing people hear.”

“And it’s the coolest thing we could possibly think of to play in a 35 minute set,” Kirby adds with a laugh.

“This is Love”, along with “Moments”, a single from the new album, are the band’s two favorite songs to play live because they’re both fun, high-energy jams. “Moments” has already been featured on the 2014 Super Bowl DVD and in the 2014 NASCAR Racing Game, which is all the more impressive as these placements took place even before the band landed their distribution deal.

The guys are constantly picking on each other; during the interview, Mike reached through the window to smack Doc’s face while he was answering a question. They’ve come to be known around Philly as pranksters, and the pranks have ultimately become some of the best parts of their shows. Kirby claims that one of his favorite shows was when the band opened for Relient K at the Theater of Living Arts because he pied someone in the face onstage. Doc remembers when he got “the mashed potato face” while opening for Paramore, and Mat got “the cheese slap” as the band opened for FUN. “It left a red mark on my face for like an hour. You’re mad,” he says, “but then you’re like, ‘I love cheese, so I can’t really be that mad.’”

With all the practices, shows, and pranks, you would think the guys would get tired of each other. “[Mat] gets mad at me a lot; I get mad at him a lot, too; it’s all good,” says Mike. Without missing a beat, the two laugh and say, “We’re like brothers.”

Their fans can feel the love, too. Rivers Monroe fans are so dedicated to the band that they call themselves the aRMy (RM meaning Rivers Monroe). The aRMy marches through Philly and other cities around the country hanging posters of the band and spreading the word that these guys are taking over the music industry. “Seriously, it’s crazy,” Mike says, “because instead of just having like 5 guys in the band, it’s like having 500 people in the band.” And the street team is growing quickly with members in 37 different states.

Playing in other cities, they say, requires more work to get a crowd reaction. “It’s more winning over the crowd when we play out of town,” Mat explains. Dan says that he always wears Sixers or Phillies gear when he’s playing out of town. “We kind of have to represent [Philadelphia],” he says. “So, it’s like you kick it up a notch.” “But when we’re in Philly,” chimes Kirby, “it’s a hometown advantage.”

“We feel the energy before we even go on,” says Doc.

After years of jams, shows, and food fights, Rivers Monroe are really taking off. They’ve already performed at the 104.5 Birthday Show for the past two years, and they’ve opened for Paramore, New Found Glory, All Time Low, Relient K, Allstar Weekend, and FUN., among others. This week, the band headed out on a 20 city tour covering Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana with The Nearly Deads.

“In every rest stop on I-95, you will find Rivers Monroe stickers,” boasts Mike when talking about touring and gaining fans. They’ll always be a Philly band, but these guys from the City of Brotherly Love are making their way through the country. Swelling from their own storm, these Rivers are rising, and with their new tour and album, they expect that the rest of the country will soon also come to know them as the pop punk pranksters with an aRMy.

Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook.

3 Comments

  1. Victoria watts

    July 2, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I love Rivers Monroe! Definitely on of my favorite Philly bands! 🙂

  2. Jennifer

    July 3, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Love this band!!!!!!!!

  3. Pingback: Rivers Monroe Launches Witty and Funny Sophomore Album: ‘Smart Girls’ - Rock On Philly

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