"The short story on The Root In Fluents is that they’re a young, blues/rock band from Winnipeg, MB Canada. Their debut album, Red River Flu, was recorded and written over the course of 3 years, and released March 2011. Simple, yes, but it doesn’t come close to telling you what you should know about RIF.
For instance, their music is not average or common. It’s heavily layered, with touches of clean complexity. The members; Kevin Johnson (lead vocals/guitar), Anton Cenerini (lead guitar/backing vocals), Nelson Sprout (bass/backing vocals), and Lee Galinaitis (drums/percussion/keys/mandolin/backing vocals) are also influenced by folk, progressive, and funk fusion, putting themselves on a level all their own. This kind of blended sound, one can imagine, is best appreciated when performed live. And as luck would have it, that’s precisely how RIF feels as well.
Live instrumentation is the dominating force that drives their music, especially since their acts on stage have earned them substantial recognition from the beginning of their career. Even though blues is their foundation, RIF have a ton of influences from Eric Clapton, to Led Zeppelin, to Cream, to The Black Keys. They also have a soft spot for The Allman Brothers Band.
“After we’ve matured more as musicians, we’ve discovered that nothing feels better for us than covering The Allman Brothers Band. They have major influence on our song-writing, and their songs showed us how to bring our live jams to the next level.”
Along with the variety of musical direction, there is diversity with style for each member.
Bass player Nelson is into jazz fusion and often comes up with complicated riffs and layered songs.
Lead singer Kevin likes hard rock mixed with a simplistic writing approach that resembles that of the Black Crowes or the Beatles.
Lead guitarist Anton prefers to show his musicianship, and just sticks to the music without occupying himself with the small details of song-writing.
Drummer Lee listens to music for its production value, so he likes both the simple and complicated tunes, and has the best production insight.
So how did this band come together in the first place? They didn’t all meet in the same lunch period or run in a similar crowd. Instead, Nelson and Anton were childhood best friends, and after learning to play guitar from his dad, Anton convinced Nelson to play too, and learn bass while they were in high school.
Later on at a house party, Anton picked up a guitar for the crowd, and Lee, already an experienced musician, heard him, grabbed a guitar, and joined in. The brief jam session went very well because Lee was invited again, but to play on drums, as Anton told him “I come with a bass player”. After the three played together, Lee dropped out of the band he was with to commit to the newly formed trio.
After years of playing together, doing mostly classic rock and blues covers, Kevin aka Kaje, came in. Nelson met Kevin through a mutual friend and invited him to sing with the band one night at a downtown bar, The Pony Corral. A number of Sunday night performances at Pony Corral later – while underage – it was official; RIF was born.
Fast forward to 2008, and the band was accepted into the Young Performers Program at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, a training and performance program that offers workshops and mentoring with professional musicians. They were lucky enough to be paired with musician/songwriter Andrew Whiteman (Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Broken Social Scene, Apostle of Hustle). Whiteman had a significant and positive impact on the guys.
According to Kevin, “He asked us to play and he basically sat there like a producer. At the time we were still just a jam band and he threw us a serious wake up call: To make it as a musician you need you write original music. This seemingly simple message hit us hard.”
RIF clearly took Whiteman‘s advice and guidance to heart, and carried it with them after applying to compete in Minnedosa’s Rockin’ The Fields battle of the bands in 2009. After playing a show at the contest they won a second playing spot at the festival, and had the opportunity to open for Edgar Winter, a pretty big deal for upcoming artists.
“Edgar Winter is an incredible singer and musician. So it was inspiring to play before him” says Nelson.
One thing RIF has done that’s like a lot of bands though, is have a unique little story behind their name. It’s unusual, and makes perfect sense at the same time.
“The name sounds like ‘root influence’ to symbolize that we’re really like musical projections of our primal influences” explains Lee.
“Also, in Winnipeg, we face several floods from the Red River every spring. We like the ‘In Fluents‘ play on words because of its allusion to tree roots being in the high flow of the river. Metaphorically, we are the root in the stream of music,” Anton includes.
This is a personal theme with the guys; having well thought out and creative concepts, executing them, and sticking to what they do best. They want you to listen to their music, of-course, and hopefully like it, but they won’t alter their vision in order to please.
“We do write songs with the intention of them being heard and enjoyed by others” Nelson clarifies, “but we don’t paralyze ourselves into worrying about what people will think”.
They actually would prefer to add something new to what we’re already used to hearing on the radio,
“The ultimate achievement for us would be to bring talent, song-writing, and musicianship back to the forefront of mainstream music”, says Anton.
As opposed to playing by its rules, “So in a sense, we want to be mainstream, but we absolutely don’t want to conform to current mainstream,” Lee finishes.
There’s absolutely no conforming within this band. Even their approach to their work is refreshing, as they explain the reasons behind their focus on live music,
“The live show lets us bring our studio songs to the next level, where we can extend solos, break down at times, do whatever we feel. Playing live is an emotional and physical release like no other, for all of us.”
That doesn’t mean they take anything away from physical albums, “We don’t undermine the importance of a good recording. A lot of our favorite local musicians are incredible live, but their talent doesn’t translate in the studio, and it’s really a shame,” Kevin muses.
There’s a certain level of maturity these young artists have already reached that could be enviable. Music is a clear and simple concept for them, one they thoroughly understand, and can easily express.
Nelson adds a perspective almost anyone with the experience of playing or listening to music can agree with, “Studio recordings show one’s ability to craft under total control, but the live show exposes a person’s or band’s true colors.”
So, is getting air-play a goal for RIF? Fortunately, it is. The first time they heard their music on the radio was after being the top 4 chosen out of 75 unsigned acts for a local radio station’s rock contest. “Wet Whistle” was the track played. It was overall, a surprise for the band.
“We had barely finished recording the song before we submitted it, and it made it on air like it was destiny. We didn’t promote our internet profile in the contest at all. Turns out fan votes had little importance on who the judges selected.”
A lot of artists talk about selling out vs not selling out, staying true to self, being involved in music for the simple love of it, maintaining authenticity, etc. All are classic topics within the thin walls of the music industry by now.
Newcomers, naturally, have something to prove. So when boldness and the fire of unconventionality translate into a genuine way of just being musicians, and one not meant to leave false impressions or sell you on a rehearsed image, it counts for a hell of a lot.
Ask these guys what the most important part of being who they are is, and you’ll get phrases like “spontaneous creativity” and “constant challenges”. The Root In Fluents, as a band, doesn’t just talk the talk, they also rock out that coveted walk."