Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band.
Right now the touring lineup is primary songwriter and band manager Isaac Hill on vocals and octave mandolin, Heidi Hill on vocals and tambourine, Ian Hill on vocals and mandolin, Colin Hill on vocals, washboard and saxophone, James Bristol on upright bass (who also does all of our art), Faith Hersey on djembe, Joey Schuller on banjo, vocals and silver tongue, Chris Fazio (the best musician in the group) on violin, trumpet and piano, and Jose "Shenango" Ochoa on accordion and clarinet.
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to The Hills and The Rivers? How long has the band been around?
Isaac had done some previous solo stuff and had started “The Three River Boys” with fellow busker Conor Scott, but since starting The Hills and the Rivers in 2013, has been putting most of his effort into that. Joey Schuller co-leads Punk/Folk band “Cousin Boneless”, Colin Hill’s solo project is called “Colin & the Crows,” Ian Hill’s is called “The Jack of Spades.” All of these bands are part of the “4th River Music Collective” that we started with Cousin Boneless. Chris Fazio, Jose Ochoa and Joey also play in “Mayday Marching Band,” a local brass band.
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
There are two meanings to the name, the first is that Isaac, Heidi, Ian and Colin Hill are all siblings, and the collective of musicians that play with us are somewhat fluid. There have been many people who have played in the band over the years, but it’s pretty stable now. The other meaning is that the rivers Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela and the fourth underground river “Wisconsin Glacial Flow” along with the foothills of the Appalachians define the landscape of Pittsburgh. We also wanted a name that evoked the timelessness of the natural world, “as old as the Hills.”
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
Isaac Hill is the primary songwriter, but Heidi, Ian, Colin and Joey have contributed to lyrics, and Chris Fazio has contributed to the music. The main themes change with each album, but are centered around the Tarot cards that each album are named after. “The World” deals with the end and beginning of cycles. “Apocalyptic Dreams” (The Tower XVI and Judgement XX) deals with ecological, political and social collapse, and how to find hope in such a chaotic world, and our new album “The Fool & the Magician” deals with personal transformation.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Black Bird Raum, Shirley Collins, Comus.
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
Isaac has always been playing music, and had been busking since 2011, but in 2013 when he saw soon to be friends “Rail Yard Ghosts” show up on the street corner of Three Rivers Arts Fest 12 musicians deep and blow everybody’s mind, he knew he wanted to start a large street folk band.
What do you do to prepare for a show?
We like to put all our hands together in a circle and say “1… 2… 3.. (and then we say something different every time)”
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
We had a blast opening for Billy Strings last summer at Feastival, and this last 5 week West Coast/Southern Winter Tour was amazing, but we are very much looking forward to playing FloydFest this summer!
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
We would love to tour with Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, The Shins, Rising Appalachia, Infamous Stringdusters, but it would be amazing to tour with Leonard Cohen if he came back from the dead!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’re very excited to release out third album, “The Fool & the Magician” on May 18! We think it’s our best yet, it’s more of a concept album, where musical and lyrical themes develop and transform throughout the whole piece. We put out our first video single “The Fool,” which you can find on YouTube and are working on the video for “The Magician” now, so keep your ears and eyes open!