Viv & Riley's sound is old-soul roots music to its core, elegantly combining a traditional backbone with the fresh iconic melodies of future-leaning indie-folk, and the tightly wound vocal harmonies of the old-time and classic country music they came from. Although they grew up on opposite sides of the country, Riley in Seattle, Washington, and Vivian in Lexington, Virginia, the two had an instant musical connection upon meeting in 2018. The pair has been collaborating since then, honing their sound playing hundreds of shows across the US, UK, and Canada. Since 2018, they’ve recorded and released multiple albums to critical acclaim from the likes of NPR Music, Rolling Stone, and No Depression, and have garnered nearly six million streams on Spotify. A bittersweet nostalgia lies at the heart of Imaginary People, the new album from Viv & Riley, released September 15, 2023 on Free Dirt Records. Over ten tracks, the pair applies an indie roots sheen to newly composed pop gems. Rooted originally in the folk tradition, the pair reframe the production into experimental territory, crafting songs that speak to finding a path forward into adulthood in an uncertain world. The album brings a reflectiveness to summertime jams that speak of uninhibited joy and creative camaraderie.
Based out of Durham, North Carolina, they’ve tapped into the area’s eclectic and collaborative music scene, recruiting Alex Bingham of Hiss Golden Messenger to produce the album. Bingham brings a sunny, lush sound to Viv & Riley’s music, moving beyond their earlier country roots and toward a layered sound and sonic experimentation. The songwriting has evolved as well, from the world-weary, stripped-down country songs they’re known for to indie songwriting at turns sweetly sad and gently sardonic. Ultimately, Imaginary People is about carrying and honoring our pasts, about letting that inform our new steps forward. This balancing act is familiar territory for Viv & Riley, who also play in The Onlies, an award winning old time stringband that Riley co-founded in Seattle at age 7. In that role, they serve as co-artistic directors of The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. In both preserving traditional music and bringing their own original folk music to new territories and audiences, it is clear that Viv & Riley have much to do with the present and future of roots music.
“Shines a light on the past without giving up its place in the present”
~Rolling Stone Country
“A triumph of lyricism and musicianship”
~Wide Open Country
“Needs to be on your radar” ~Saving Country Music
“She doesn’t just sing in the style of Appalachia, it oozes from the pores of the songs.” ~Twangville