Aaron Bond, one half of the duo When Rivers Meet, chats with Kevin Cooper about preferring to remain on their own independent label, working with his wife Grace, the release of their latest album Aces Are High and their forthcoming 2024 UK tour.

When Rivers Meet was formed in 2016 by husband and wife duo Grace and Aaron Bond. When they first met, Grace had been touring festivals with a Meat Loaf tribute act and Aaron was playing in local rock bands. Before changing their name to When Rivers Meet, they performed as Holmes and Bond, appearing at the Brightlingsea Free Music Festival in 2016.

The duo began touring the UK in their VW camper van in 2019, including a performance at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival in Skegness. However, in spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK and restrictions were imposed, they were forced to give up on the tour. Diverting their attention to online outlets, they weekly streamed live sessions on Facebook whose popularity exceeded all of their expectations.

They released their first EP, The Uprising in April 2019, and their second, Innocence of Youth in May 2020. Later that year they released their debut album, We Fly Free. Tracks from that album featured on Planet Rock national digital station, as well as receiving airplay on Johnnie Walker’s Rock Show and The Blues Show with Cerys Matthews.

In 2020 the Blues Rock Review listed We Fly Free as being ninth in their top twenty albums of that year. In 2021 When Rivers Meet won four UK Blues Awards for Emerging Blues Artist of the Year, Blues Band of the Year, Blues Album of the Year and the Most Inspirational Online Performance of the Year. They won another three awards in 2022 including Blues Band of the Year which they went on to win again in 2023.

Whilst busy rehearsing for their forthcoming UK tour, Aaron Bond took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning, Aaron, how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin, how are you?

All is good thanks for asking, and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem at all, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at the moment is all good; we are just revving up ready for the forthcoming tour. We are both really excited about that, and we really cannot wait to come back and play up there in Nottingham. We are really excited about that, and it will be here sooner than we expect (laughter).

I have to ask, where did the name When Rivers Meet come from?

(Laughter) I am so pleased that you have asked me that. Originally Grace and I were called Holmes and Bond; Grace’s maiden name was Holmes. Then when we got married it was Bond and Bond which really didn’t work for us. At that time we were in Sardinia recording a few tracks at the time, and we found ourselves playing with the word rivers, with the flow of the music and things like that. We were overlooking a ravine where two rivers met and I said, “wow, there you go, it has to be When Rivers Meet” and that was it (laughter). That’s where the name came from because we feel like we are the rivers producing music and when we are together it all flows.

We must talk about your latest album; Aces Are High, which I have to tell you I love it. I think that it’s a great piece of work.

That’s fantastic to hear, thank you very much.

Are you happy with the fan’s reaction to the album?

What can I say, we are both truly overwhelmed, absolutely overwhelmed. We have always felt that everything that we do, everything that we put out, we love. We think that if we love it, then other people are going to love it too. Whatever it is, it comes from us, and it is genuinely what we love. We try to keep things as authentic as is humanly possible. We have said it so many times; people can tell if you are not authentic, so you just have to be who you are. I got that sentiment from David Bowie actually, from a quote of his. David said that whenever he was writing music, he was doing it for himself and he would come to a point when he was told that he had to write something for an audience, to which he replied, “I have fallen out of love with music” at least until he started writing music for himself once again. And then everybody else loved it once again. We took that from someone like David Bowie who at that time was totally massive, and it has helped us to keep things real, keep things authentic.

A lot of the fans are saying that it is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

That’s a very hard question for me to answer because as I said earlier, we love everything that we have ever done so far, and it has been for us very much an evolution along the way for us musically, and as much as I love Aces Are High, I wouldn’t necessarily say that I love it more than the stuff that we have done before. I always feel that at the time where you are, is what you are loving to do. Aces is quite different to the other stuff that we have done with the last couple of albums. We will love it at the time but remember that the next album that we are going to be doing will, once again, be slightly different and no doubt we will love that as well (laughter). I personally find it to be related to the time period that you are in at that time.

From writing to recording, how long was it?

That’s a difficult one for me to say really because a lot of the songs had been in the pipeline for quite a long time whilst others were literally written on the go (laughter). A good example of that is Golden which we managed to write in just one night. We were in a very emotional state when we wrote Golden, and I have to say that basically it just flew out. And to be fair that is one of my favourite songs on the album. Usually, we are in the studio for about three months, but before that we are writing for weeks and months before. It can be a combination of six months or more, but like I said, one or two of the songs were already on the backburner, from quite a long time ago. So, I would have to say that in general, it usually takes us six months.

Once the album is recorded, can you walk away and leave it alone or are you a meddler?

(Laughter) it’s one of those things where when you are going through the process and you are actually recording, it’s very difficult for you to keep a hold on it, as in, ‘this feels right’ and at that point to have to step away from it, don’t listen to it for a few weeks, and then go back to it. It is then that we will adjust anything that doesn’t sound right at that time. There was a song that we were doing which was going to be on the album and we spent a good three weeks on this particular song, and it simply was not working. For some reason it wasn’t working but we kept going and going but, in the end, we said, “this particular song just is not working” and the next song that we wrote after that was written in two days and it worked far better (laughter).

It was just one of those things. It can turn into one of those never-ending things, but sometimes, you simply have to stop. With Aces, for example, we all loved the sound, but come the next album that we are going to be doing is going to be totally different. It’s not that we don’t love that sound but that was at that time, and this year will be a different thing. It doesn’t have to be but that is how we have been going over the last three or four years.

I’ve currently got four go to tracks on the album. They are Play My Game, Golden, Aces Are High and Perfect Stranger. I think that those four tracks are absolutely fantastic.

Thank you for saying that I’m so pleased that you are enjoying the album; that really is awesome.

You have already mentioned Golden, and you have said that’s your favourite track on the album?

That’s right. I think that Golden would have to be my favourite track. Having said that, to be totally honest with you, I love them all (laughter). However, putting my head above the parapet, I would have to say that Golden is my favourite out of the whole lot although that is a difficult thing to say (laughter).

They say that you should never believe your own publicity but when people are saying ‘this album rocks big time’ and ‘not one bad song’ it must make you feel good?

It’s amazing, it really is. It’s totally amazing the support that we have been getting, and being fully independent as we are, means everything to us. We are judging things ourselves whilst hoping that people like what we are doing. We don’t have anyone else to answer to, as in one of the major labels or anything like that. We just have the people who listen to our music and if they love the music then that means everything to us.

Would you ever consider going with one of the big major labels or would you prefer to stay totally independent?

Well, to be fair, we have had offers; we have had a few and every time we have said, “no, it’s okay, thanks” simply because we are quite happy as we are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a case of us being afraid to do anything like that, it’s just a case of we love what we do, and you really do hear some horror stories. We actually heard one a few weeks ago now from a friend of ours who signed to one of the big labels and she made an amazing album; it really was brilliant, it was fantastic, and she took it to the label who said, “no it’s not what we want, go away and do it all again”. As you can imagine, she was absolutely beside herself.

She was totally gutted as she had poured her heart and soul into that album. Could you go through that because I don’t know if we could (laughter). One of the other things is that we like to be able to give everything that we do that personal touch. We have a connection with the people that we call The Rapids, they call themselves The Rapids as fans, and I honestly do not know if we would lose that if we went with a big label, I don’t know. So, at the moment, we really are quite happy as we are. As we all know, money talks and the music industry is a funny old industry, where the Executives really don’t care about the music, they simply want to make a profit which I find soul destroying.

I have heard a whisper that on the forthcoming tour you are going to be playing the entire album. Is that correct?

Just who have you been talking to (laughter). Yes, that’s right; we are going to be playing the whole album. This is the first time that we have been able to, because before this we had two albums and two EPs that we were playing out on tour and we mixed them all together. However, this time out is the first time that we have actually managed to tour an album as an album. Obviously, there will be some of our old favourites in there too, plus some other songs, from previous records that we have never played live before. I honestly feel that the evening is going to be quite exciting.

Are you always writing?

I wouldn’t say always, but there are always thoughts, little notes and things like that. To be totally honest with you it has been a hectic couple of years I suppose. Before, we had projects in mind where we would be writing up to this point, we would be recording up to that point, and then we would be touring and doing a host of different things. Having said that, to be fair I believe that it has all become a lot more fluid this year. We do tend to be writing a lot more, but that is sporadically which is what we used to do back in 2018. We have been going through a funny phase over the last three or four years, for obvious reasons.

Putting you on the spot, when will you begin writing for the next album?

I already have (laughter). We are going to be in the studio in June and July so we are already writing now in anticipation of that.

What release window are you looking for the next album?

I am not a hundred percent sure yet but it will be released sometime next year. We are hoping for January February time.

I can’t ask you if you have a name for the album yet as I know that if you tell me then you will have to kill me (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) that is absolutely true (laughter).

Writing, recording, performing, which do you prefer?

That’s easy, that would be performing every time. We both absolutely love performing. Don’t get me wrong, we love being in the studio, but it can be very insular and also very intense. The way that we do it is kind of like, you get up in the morning and first thing you are in the studio, all day long, and you might not come out until the early hours of the morning. And that is constant. That is the way that we work with our producer, and I have to say that it suits us in that way because you are totally enveloped into it. But for me, it would most definitely have to be touring and going out performing for sure.

You briefly mentioned Nottingham; you are back here on Friday 10th May playing the Rescue Rooms once again, are you looking forward to that?

Absolutely, we can’t wait to get back up there to Nottingham and play the Rescue Rooms. There is such a great vibe in that venue. One of our favourite memories is at the Rescue Rooms where we were playing a song called Tomorrow, and we just stopped because everyone in the house was singing it to us. I could see the tears welling up in Graces eyes; it really was such a moving moment. We really do love the Rescue Rooms; the place is awesome.

Do you enjoy your time spent here in Nottingham?

Absolutely, we absolutely love Nottingham. We spent some time there with a host of different things; we have been up there to see some big gigs as well. We came to see Iron Maiden there, that was great, and friends of ours took us to The Tap And Tumbler which as you know is a real rock pub and I loved it (laughter). As soon as I walked through the door and saw all of the Rockers in there I thought, ‘this is home’ (laughter). Nottingham really is absolutely fantastic, and I love it.

Who has influenced you along the way?

There have too many to mention to be fair. If we are looking in the past, my dad’s influences would include Rock and Roll, Elvis (Presley), Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and people like that. My mum’s major influencers were The Beatles and ABBA which I have to say is a really weird combination (laughter). My own influences who I found off my own back were bands like Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Rival Sons, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and people like that. But, as I said earlier, there really have been so many.

Working with your wife Grace, is it always a smooth ride?

(Laughter) absolutely not (laughter). But I have to say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s one of those things where we want to be together all of the time, and we are. It really is wonderful to be able to work with each other. Back in the days when we both had day jobs, we were constantly texting each other, ringing each other and we were missing each other so much because we just wanted to be together. Obviously, we have our ups and downs like any other couple, things like, ‘have you left the toilet seat up again’ (laughter). That is just normal stuff, but it’s great, it really is.

Taking you back to 2021, When Rivers Meet became the first band to win four awards at the UK Blues Awards, just how did that feel?

That really was very surreal because it took place during lockdown, and we hadn’t actually been out on the road as a band at that point. Grace and I had been out as a duo, and then lockdown happened, everything got cancelled, and we were literally in the studio recording the first album. We set up a tour, with the band, so for us to receive those awards, really was amazing. But as I say, it really was very surreal.

Not content with that, in 2022 you went onto win another three awards, including Blues Band Of The Year on both occasions.

(Laughter) I know, it’s crazy and we actually went onto win Blues Band Of The Year again in 2023 (laughter). That now means that we are now officially in the UK Blues Federation Hall Of Fame which means that we can’t win it again (laughter). That really was amazing, so it is a massive shout out to all of the Rapids out there who have supported us all the way and more to the point, have supported live music, in particular the Blues genre here in the UK. The Rock and Blues genre here in the UK is very strong and is getting stronger year on year and that is truly amazing.

You formed When Rivers Meet back in 2018. Are you currently ahead of the game where you would like to be at this stage?

Wow, what a great question. For me, it is a very difficult thing for me to say. If you had asked me the same question back then I would have said, “yeah, whatever” and I would have thought that there was no chance of us being signed to a big label. So, I think that it is a testament to, I suppose, to the internet to be fair. What you are able to do now as an independent artist, you can do anything. You can now get your music out there to anyone around the world. People just couldn’t do that before, but you can now. Using the internet the right way, is most definitely one of the advantages. So, to be where we are now, and if you had asked me that back in 2018, I would have thought no chance. But to be fair, it’s really cool.

Forward thinking, where would you like to be in five years’ time?

God, where are these questions coming from (laughter). Just to be still playing music, touring, recording, basically doing what we are doing now. We would be very happy with that, for sure.

And supporting Take That (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) well you never know, if they come calling, we would have to think about it I suppose (laughter). I think you know what the answer would be (laughter).

Testing your memory, what was the first record that you bought?

That was Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker.

Who did you first see performing live?


What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

One of ours and yes, you have most probably guessed, it was Golden.

What is currently on your live rider?

That’s easy, that would be a bottle of Sherry (laughter). It warms your vocals up, that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it (laughter). Also, it makes you feel like Christmas (laughter).

Aaron on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been fantastic. I will be coming along to photograph you at the Rescue Rooms. You take care and good luck with the tour.

Thanks Kevin it’s been an absolute pleasure. That really is fantastic, you will have to come backstage and have a Sherry with us (laughter). Cheers man, I really do appreciate it, see you up there in Nottingham.

Tickets for the 2024 tour are now on sale