August 1, 2008

Riding the Current


There isn't enough room to rehearse amid the whole grains and organic foodstuffs of Breitbach's Farmers Market Food Store on Iowa Street. But members of the indie folk rock group River and the Tributaries often hang out there to plan and write songs. Or restring an instrument.

The six musicians have been playing together for four years, with two self-produced CDs under their belts and a third in the works. There are plans for a music video and a contract with a resource service for emerging independent artists. Best of all, to hear them tell it: There's a rental house waiting for them in Iowa City when classes resume on the campus of the University of Iowa. All that and not a one of them is old enough to vote.

"River" is River Breitbach, 19, whose family owns the store. He's the leader, sort of and plays mostly acoustic guitar and mandolin.

"We mostly do original music," he said. They write in various combinations, alone or with one or two others of the group. The music reflects their personal experiences - love and friendship. "Everybody jumps around to different instruments and everybody sings."

His brother, Jackson Breitbach, 20, plays violin and keyboard.

"There aren't a lot of venues that are the right size for us to play," Jackson said. But they've performed at DaVinci's and Isabella's in Dubuque, New Diggings (Wis.) General Store and at such events as Dubuquefest. Their songs have been featured on "Midwest Music Makers" on KGRR in Dubuque Iowa, as well as on "Down on the Corner" and "Night Music" on KUNI Public Radio.

This isn't a free-form jam band, but sometimes the musicians do random jamming. Musically, that's the way Jackson and River grew up, busking - street corner playing - with the Breitbach family's One Hat Band.

"Busking is different from playing inside a venue so you have to kind of edit on the fly," River said.

Scott Gratton, 20, plays electric guitar and keyboard and is an aspiring audio engineer. Like the Breitbachs, he's from a musical family. His parents, Ken and Cheryl ("Scooch") are Nothin' But Dylan, a Bob Dylan cover duo.

Bethann Gavin, 19, cello and mandolin, likes to stress that the musicians - all of whom sing - are classically trained.

"Sometimes we'll bust out flutes, trumpet, accordion," she said, "add random hits, surprise them with a fiddle."

Erin Hedly, 18, is bassist. Her parents own Uncle Ike's music. The drummer is Griffen Harris, 18.

The six were friends at Dubuque Senior High School, where all were involved in assorted music programs.

They've recently signed on with Hitt Music, a music solicitation business that catalogs artists, putting them in touch with producers of TV, film, documentaries, games and the like. Their self-produced discography includes a self-titled CD and "Bread and Water." They're working on the third. In August, they'll shoot a video with Into the Hill, a Dubuque video company.

Originally published by SANDYE VOIGHT TH staff writer/[email protected]

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