On the eve of this year’s edition of Asheville Barnaroo Andrew Scotchie, the festival’s founder and front man for local rock outfit the River Rats, sat down with AskAsheville.com to discuss this year’s event, the River Rat’s new record and how overcoming personal tragedy altered his and his band’s destiny.
Andrew Scotchie on the surface represents in many ways the musical youth movement that continues to spread throughout the streets of Asheville and beyond. He’s hard working, immensely talented and beyond committed to elevating his band, the River Rats, to new heights of success.
Beneath this typical exterior Scotchie is humble, gracious and introspective in such a way that when speaking with him I feel as though I’m interacting with a much older individual whose life and musical experiences have molded him into this wise almost seraphic soul.
As I walk up from the surface streets towards the steps of the old Victorian style home Scotchie shares with several roommates I’m uncertain as to if I’ve even located the correct address as the home itself looks more like an off campus frat house than that of a musician’s abode.
Within seconds of my shoes striking his front steps Scotchie himself emerges from dwelling, smiling ear-to-ear as usual and opening up his arms to welcome me with a big hug. To be honest my own family doesn’t greet with me the warmth and genuine happiness Scotchie does and here’s the thing, I think he’s actually glad to see me.
Scotchie and I exchange pleasantries in his kitchen while he fixes something to drink and discusses a few house keeping related bullet points with one his roommates, this very attractive twenty-something I might add.
Shortly thereafter Scotchie leads me through his home, first past a worn drum kit on my right then up a set of wooden stairs and eventually towards his bedroom where we sit down for our interview.
Like himself Scotchie’s home and bedroom are unpretentious. The room itself is very much a musicians dwelling. Old vinyl records populate the bookcase shelves, instruments are strung about and posters of past Barnaroo’s, the annual musical festival Scotchie founded, adorn his walls.
Barnaroo is the brainchild of Scotchie himself. Initially the concept of Barnaroo was birthed from the fact that Scotchie and his boyhood friends and bandmates needed a space to unleash their own brand of adolescent inspired rock n’ roll.
“Everyone said one day back in 2009, let’s go over to Scotchie’s place, his mom’s great and she’ll feed us,” gushes an animated Scotchie.
“The first night we had something like fifteen or twenty people over and we ran some power to all the amps and I think I was on drums.”
Scotchie further goes on to explain, “In 2010 I really fell in love with the idea of Barnaroo. I always had this idea of bringing in musicians and bands that were hungry to play and to have a great time with and I wanted to treat people really well.”
“In 2011 and 2012 I started bringing in bands from Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina but at that time Barnaroo was still being hosted at my mom’s place. The last one we did there I think was in 2013 and shortly after that we got a noise violation and my mom’s neighbors ended up bringing me to court. So I had a choice, I could either end it or I could move Barnaroo somewhere else.”
This year’s edition of Barnaroo will be held on the grounds of Franny’s Farm this upcoming Saturday September 26th and Sunday September 27th. As in year’s past, Barnaroo 2015 will continue to benefit the Asheville Music School with a portion of alcohol sales and a silent auction going to support the institution.
Barnaroo ultimately found its way to Franny’s Farm based on a relationship Scotchie had with one of the farm’s owners Frances Tacy. Not at all surprisingly Scotchie diverts the success and growth of Barnaoo a bit away from himself when speaking on the topic.
“The biggest thing I’ve gotten from Frances besides our friendship and this amazing network of people she has given me, is that she showed me how to make something like Barnaroo really work in a way I never really thought possible, says Scotchie.
When Scotchie is not focused on all things Barnaroo he serves as the front man and lead guitar player for the popular local rock band Andrew Schotchie and the River Rats, which is also comprised of brother and sister team Eliza (drums) and Asher (bass) Hill, Alex Bradley (trumpet) and Kyle Snuffer (trombone).
Evidence regarding the band’s popularity can easily be unearthed by simply picking up this year’s edition of the Mountain Xpress’s “2015 Best of WNC”. Andrew Scotchie and The Rivers Rats were named this year’s best local rock band.
On finding out that the band had been named to the top spot Scotchie’s response is again that of someone who is more concerned about others than himself.
“My initial reaction was, oh man I hope we didn’t piss off any other bands in town that we think are awesome,” Scotchie cautiously explains.
“One hundred percent I believe that we deserved it though. Winning made me really happy and it has also made me realize that we have the community behind us and that to me is huge.”
Earlier this year the band released their sophomore effort, We All Stay Hungry which served as the follow up to band’s 2012 debut, Soul and Sarcasm.
“The similarities between the two records really lies with the genre of music we play because our music is still rock, bluesy and very soulful. Those sounds carried over from the last record to the new record but the songs on the new record are very different as far as dynamics and song structure go,” explains Scotchie.
“We wanted each song to be a different presentation and to have different aspects to them. The way that it was produced at The Eagle Room, we mixed it in analogue and that really warmed everything up. The drums sound very vintage, the guitars maintain that soul and the record has this wide open feel but at the same time you can hear everything.”
A few songs on We All Stay Hungry feature Asheville’s own Lyric, who herself took home not one but two “Best of WNC” awards this year as both the best local R&B/Blues and best Soul band.
“I never had the opportunity to sing and record with a female performer. I remember listening on the headphones when Lyric was recording “The Best in You” and she was doing these really high harmonies on top of my main melody and the chorus and every time I think about that moment it gives me goose bumps,” describes a grinning Scotchie.
It’s evident that Scotchie couldn’t be more proud and enthusiastic about the band’s latest release. He continues to speak about the new record and some of the tracks that get him excited.
“I really like “Love Like Fire”, says Scotchie. “The way the drums and percussion sound on that one blows me away. There are three or four percussion and rhythm tracks that Eliza plays on it that aren’t in your face but you can really hear everything on the record and the song just has this great studio recording quality to it.”
Scotchie himself may be one of the most convivial individuals that I’ve met since I relocated to the mountains of Asheville earlier this past Winter. Despite this fact it would be very easy for Scotchie to not have such a positive outlook on the world considering his past and specifically a tragic event that fell upon his family at a time when he was just beginning to figure out who he was as a youth.
“My life got turned upside down when I was 15 when my dad was shot and killed in West Asheville. That was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. That fucked up horrible event in a way made me who I am today, it made me want to do this thing so adamantly and with so much vigor,” Scotchie somberly discusses.
“I’ve been writing about that event for years and what it has taught me about people and family. The first album we released in 2012, the songs were not sad but the lyrics I wrote for it were more about helping me work through what had happened. Even the new album has notes alluding to it as I’m definitely still working through it all because that’s who I am but it’s coming from a much different place now.”
The sky seems to be limit in terms of what Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats may be able to accomplish professionally as they move forward as a band. Scotchie himself goes on to talk a bit about what success would mean to him personally and to the River Rats.
“I think individually we all would have different definitions of success, however in terms of the River Rats success to us we would be continuing to maintain a great relationship with our core fans, getting our songs picked on radio and T.V. shows and having our music distributed more widely,” says Scotchie.
“Success to me in another very important light would be for us to constantly keep developing and challenging ourselves musically because if we don’t try to keep doing that we’ll never grow as a band.”
As for the future of the band Scotchie remains optimistic but again takes a very pragmatic stance on the topic as well.
“In five years I would love to see us touring a ton, going overseas for a couple of weeks out of the year and coming back to the United States and killing it. However let’s say in five years we are still struggling financially a bit but we have good distribution, good fans, we are playing the kind of music we want to, we have a roof over our heads and we have good friends and family, that’s success man. You don’t have to have a big bus and money. Those material things are great but they shouldn’t define who you are,” explains Scotchie.
Scotchie and I conclude our interview, he leads me back down the same wooden steps, past the aged drum kit, out his door and into the warmed up atmosphere of downtown Asheville. I reach out my hand to thank him for his time and before I can even get my arm half way up Scotchie again opens up his arms and brings me in for another big hug.
I came into this interview with Scotchie expecting to be impressed with the knowledge he was likely to going share with me about all of the the musical projects he and the River Rats are tied to these days.
However as I walked away from Scotchie’s home I feel a sense of inspiration and a mountain of respect for an individual, that through his own personal tragedy, has made it his mission to bring music and joy to the community of Asheville with a big smile and even a few hugs.
Asheville Barnaroo 2015:
When: Saturday September 26th & Sunday September 27th: Main Day 9/26 gates open at 9:00 AM with music starting at 11:00 AM (featuring over 12 bands) – 9/27 acoustic music by the pond starts at 10:00 AM
Where: Franny’s Farm – 22 Franny’s Farm Road, Leicester, NC
Food/Crafts: Farm to Fender Food Truck on-site / Over 15 regional craft vendors
Cost: Pre-Show Price (ends 9/25) Single Day Ticket – $20 / Ticket and Overnight Camping – $35 / Children Under 12 – Free / Day of Show Price – Single Day Ticket – $25 / Ticket and Overnight Camping – $40
Who: Les Amis, Lyric, Laura Blackley, Stolen Hearts, Bare the Traveler, Red Honey, Porch 40, Demon Waffle, The Paper Crowns, Kick the Robot, Asheville Music School Rock Band. Special appearances throughout the weekend by Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats.