It’s not a new concept by any means, but maybe the beauty is in the simplicity of Khalid Yassein’s words: “Our philosophy was to take risks and do something different.”
Yassein’s band, Wild Rivers, has shown that it is ready to take these risks through a vulnerability that is nearly unmatched.
While this type of vulnerable process often comes with a lot of digging and the pouring out of emotions that isn’t always pleasant, it also allows for closure and new beginnings.
The result of Yassein’s digging is found on the Wild Rivers’ latest EP, Songs To Break Up To.
It is rooted back in 2018; the band was just coming off a roadshow marathon and Yassein was in the final stages of a long-term relationship. This dissolution turned to heartbreak, which ultimately became the topic of the foursome’s newest collection.
Many do not want to remember the feeling of heartbreak; for Yassein, it was inevitable while creating these tracks. “The subject matter of this EP challenged me to be pretty vulnerable with it,” he says. “There was a moment with the lyrics, the title, the whole concept, that I just kind of had to take the plunge.”
While this often led to tough conversations, Yassein says he enjoyed the creative process because it forced him into waters that he had not previously waded into.
“Committing to being unapologetically honest was a challenge, and that was pretty exciting,” he says. “I think it inspired us to take risks during the entire recording process.”
Getting to this level takes lots of crafting and fine-tuning, which the group did while Yassein and Devan Glover were in college at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “The band really started when Devan and I were in college,” Yassein says. “We were both studying things outside of music [biology and psychology] and hadn’t really found our musical place in the city.”
As the two began making music as a duo and eventually started recording a debut record, they met the bandmates that would help solidify Wild Rivers — guitarist Andrew Oliver and former drummer Ben Labenski.
“They came into the project really naturally,” Yassein explains. “It was after recording that we kind of became a real band, eventually joined by our new drummer Julien Laferrière. Now it’s morphed into more of a traditional band project, where we all contribute creatively in different ways, with the duo still being the centerpiece of the songs.”
Collaborating as a group allows everyone to pitch ideas and give input on how to best create music for their fans to consume, and it’s safe to say that Yassein, Glover, Laferrière and Oliver run like a well-oiled machine. This consistency in agreement led to the success of Songs To Break Up To.
Yassein says the band didn’t intend to take the path that it did with this project. As a collective, though, they wanted this EP to reflect a real experience that most in society go through.
“We didn’t really set out to make a break-up record, but as we were writing it, the music reflected that real experience,” Yassein says. “After we chose the tracklist, we were reflecting on this unintentional theme, and decided to lean in and explore this concept.”
While it was a serious topic that isn’t often associated with laughter, producer Skylar Wilson came up with the light-hearted title that gave everyone in the band a good laugh. “It all came together in Nashville in the fall of 2019 where the band retreated to,” Yassein explains.
They worked out of Creative Workshop in Nashville’s Berry Hill neighborhood with Wilson, who has also produced for artists such as Rayland Baxter, Justin Townes Earle, and Joshua Hedley.
“We had some great moments as a group, especially in Nashville where we came together as a family, having barbecues in the backyard and just really living through this entire process,” Yassein says.