by Adam Aiken
Most acts worth their salt can give a decent impression that they’re pleased to be there.
Even the most cynical and pissed-off band can at least pretend to be enjoying life while they’re on stage in front of their fans.
Behind the scenes, though, their real personalities can shine through – dismissive of their fans, arrogant, putting on a front to flog tickets and merch. We’ve all heard stories about why you should never meet your heroes because so often you end up devastated by what you find.
But sometimes you’re lucky enough to come across the polar opposite, such as Aaron and Grace Bond, aka When Rivers Meet. The husband-and-wife team who are always so full of joy onstage are just as bouncy, friendly and chatty – and, well, normal – when we meet as they are on stage.
This “meeting” actually takes place over the phone, but the conversation is so relaxed and convivial that even down the phone line their approachability is obvious – and it’s quickly apparent that they’re exactly the same in real life as they are when they’re full of grins on stage.
They’re currently in the studio putting the finishing touches to their next studio album – their third – which is due out in the summer.
“We’re working on the last song for the album at the moment,” says Aaron. They’re not sure yet what it’ll be called, but it might be By Your Side.
And it seems the composing process is coming naturally to them.
“Aaron wrote the lyrics for this last night and this morning I’ve done the music for it,” says Grace.
They’ve got so much in their diaries for this year that it’s a good job they don’t seem to have writer’s block.
“We’re out with Reef soon and it’s going to be really cool because we’re doing a duo set, and we’ve not done that since we supported King King, which was a year and a half ago,” she says.
“So we’re really excited about putting together a fresh duo set, and then we’ve got our headline tour which is really exciting.”
The support slot with Reef starts in mid-April before their headline tour – which will see them performing as a four-piece, with WRM producer Adam Bowers on bass and James Fox on drums again – gets under way at the end of that month.
Fans who’ll be seeing both tours are likely to see different sets, but the Bonds haven’t yet pinned down what will be in each of them.
“We’ve yet to decide [what to play] but it would be lovely to put a few new ones in,” says Aaron.
Grace adds: “Our head is totally in recording mode at the moment, but once this is done we’ll look at the duo set.
“We’ll definitely mix it up but we’ve got some songs that are mainstay duo songs, so it’ll be a bit of a mixture.”
They say that some of their songs work better in one format or the other – as a duo or as a full band – even though they all tend to begin life being performed as a duo.
“It’s kind of how they all start out because we’ve done the live streams so we’re used to playing everything as a duo,” says Grace.
“I’d be lying if I said we don’t miss having a band. The full band is just a whole different world. But it’s still going to be fun as a duo.”
By the time their full-band tour kicks off in Colchester on Friday, April 28, with a date in Norwich the following night, fans can expect to hear some new material – and not just stuff off their forthcoming record, either.
“You’ll definitely hear some new songs, that’s for sure, and some songs we haven’t performed at all from our previous albums,” says Aaron.
“There’s going to be some mainstay songs there, too. But they might be jazzed up a little bit or changed a little bit, or go back to the original format which we weren’t doing on the last tour.”
And that means there will be some painful decisions to make, as happens when a band’s catalogue expands.
“We’ve not had that conversation yet. We know it’s going to be really hard otherwise we’d just end up with a three-hour set!” says Grace.
Now based in Essex, Aaron and Grace met in the Norfolk boozer where Grace was working. He was a Downham Market lad while she had headed over the county border from her native Ely.
Aaron wandered in to the Live And Let Live in Downham (“a really cool rock pub”, says Grace) and was served a passion-fruit J2O – that well-known rockers’ tipple – by his future missus.
“Aaron was terrible at chatting me up,” says the woman who later became Mrs Bond.
“That was 19 years ago – Jeez…” adds Aaron. Not for the first time during the interview, a bout of chuckles ensues.
Much of the following two decades has been spent building up the force that is When Rivers Meet.
To newcomers, they’re a new outfit who came to prominence during the Covid crisis – this fresh pair who embraced live streams and social media and who were nimble enough to fill the hole left by more established acts whose long-formulated plans were thrown into chaos by the global lockdowns.
But that narrative overlooks all the groundwork they put in long before 2020.
“It kind of did feel like a bit of a 10-year overnight success thing for us,” says Grace.
“Everyone was, like, ‘Look at this new band’, and we were, like, ‘”We’ve been here for ages!’
“We’ve been playing music together for years and years and we have been travelling around the UK in a campervan playing pubs, but we emerged, if you like, during lockdown.”
And as well as winning over a bunch of loyal fans who pop up wherever they play, WRM have been collecting awards left, right and centre as though they’re going out of fashion.
They have recently been nominated for Band Of The Year by the UK Blues Federation for the third year on the bounce which, as Aaron says, is “absolutely phenomenal”.
It’s a reward for the relentless effort they’ve been putting in – effort that shows no sign of letting up.
As well as the upcoming tours and the summer album release, there’s plenty more on the horizon.
There are a bunch of festival dates in the summer and a slot on the Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea Mediterranean cruise, and they’re also waiting on news about some support slots later in the year.
It means there’s no sign of WRM’s upward trajectory changing direction any time soon, and you just know it’s all going to be just as fun and exciting for Grace and Aaron as it’ll be for the rest of us.