By Will Yannacoulias
Saskatoon hardcore band Riversleem debuted last night at Amigos, performing the entirety of their EP (the aptly titled A Debut Release), a few new songs and a couple well placed covers for an enthusiastic packed house. One of the bands scheduled to perform for the Vizzy Stage’s inaugural month of live music, Riversleem joined several other local artists to switch venues on September 11th in a gesture of solidarity with victims of sexual assault, and to express their commitment to a safer indie music scene. NSMZ spoke with drummer Kurt Wolfe and guitarist Drew Fitzgerald about the band , the venue change and the relationship between art and community.
Riversleem formed in mid 2019, with Fitzgerald, Wolfe and vocalist Kyle Zurevinski practicing as a three piece before bringing in bassist Connor Guillet. Immediately inspired, the band began writing original material and recorded A Debut Release the same year. Fitzgerald, who also produced and mixed the EP, explained that “the recording that ended up being the EP was more or less us capturing one of our practice sessions, it was never intended to be released. We liked the way it sounded and with COVID dragging on we couldn’t jam together for a really long time, so in February 2021 we decided to just release it.”
With restrictions being lifted by the province in July, Riversleem began excitedly planning their first ever live performance. The Vizzy Stage seemed an excellent fit as a brand new venue in Saskatoon, but the group reconsidered as other artists began to seek out alternate venues or cancel their Vizzy shows in protest. As Wolfe explained, “It was a difficult decision to move venues but it worked out super well because Amigos was taking on a lot of the Vizzy artists who were deciding to switch it up, we contacted the guys at Amigos and they were super stoked to have us. At the end of the day, trying to make the scene as safe as possible for everyone and make sure everyone is comfortable is a move in a really positive direction. Things are definitely moving towards a more inclusive scene, which Saskatoon only benefits from.”
Despite being a fairly new band, Riversleem have already impressed with their support of charitable causes. The money made from the sale of A Debut Release has all been donated to Prairie Harm Reduction, an organization in Saskatoon committed to slowing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C among at risk populations in a compassionate way. “I think they’re doing a good job of raising awareness, it’s a cause we can all get behind” Wolfe shared. “We thought, why not send them whatever small amount of money we may generate from this release. We’re not going to make a living off it so why not send it somewhere it can do some good. We all love Saskatoon, love the community here, and music is a great way to bring people together to work on social issues. I think Prairie Harm Reduction is doing a fantastic job of bringing the community together to address an issue, and there’s a place for artists to help with that."
Riversleem also chose to support Chokecherry Studios, donating their profits from Saturday night’s Amigos show to the Saskatoon based non-profit which supports young inner city artists. Fitzgerald explained how the band members admire and support the goals of the organization. “Chokecherry is a collective in the city that promotes art for at-risk youth, provides programming and opportunities for them to develop their artistic skills and gives them a safe place to do so. Kyle and Connor suggested it, Kyle is very involved in the Saskatoon arts scene in general, he has his hands in a lot of projects and a finger on the pulse of what’s happening with the arts.”
Riversleem’s EP, A Debut Release, is available on all streaming platforms. You can visit them online at http://riversleem.com
Prairie Harm Reduction are available at http://www.aidswalk.ca or by telephone at (306) 242 5005
Chokecherry Studios home on the web is www.chokecherry.ca