Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bending Sound: Carlisle-based Rivers dives into the local indie scene.

Screenshot 2015-06-01 08.31.45Rivers is a smattering of genre-bending sounds—tapping into folk rock, pop, funk, blues, chamber pop, Americana, roots rock and alternative—that make up a fluid and dynamic indie folk style.

But, when you think you can put a finger on their overall sound, Rivers keeps you guessing. That’s the beauty of their music.

After just two short years of playing together, Joe Schaefer, 25, Matt Sinkovitz, 31, and Vincent Yarnell, 25, are eagerly working to get their distinctive folk amalgamation into the eardrums of as many people as possible.

“People really love our music,” said Sinkovitz, the percussionist. “It’s amazing to share what you’ve created with people and get such a positive response. It makes you feel like you are doing something right. We have kids sitting around us at farmers markets, and we play senior homes. We can hold it down for most audiences.”

They regularly play at some favorite local spots—Appalachian Brewing Co., Little Amps, Suba and The MakeSpace in Harrisburg, as well as the fourth Monday of every month at Andalusia Tapas Bar in their hometown of Carlisle. They’re also picking up gigs at bars, restaurants, markets and festivals in places like Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Influences and Sounds

Yarnell leads the vocals and plays guitar and banjo with acoustic grit and smoky soul, drawing inspiration from musicians like James Taylor, the Wood Brothers and Gorillaz.

Schaefer’s voice and upright bass are smooth and easy going, yet fearless. Drawing from his classical training and love of bassist Edgar Meyer, he lends classical sounds, but can rock out fiercely.

“Joe just bashes the bass. He plays it like a 12-piece drum set,” said Yarnell, who added that his bandmate is “super funky.”

Sinkovitz is the rhythmic heartbeat of Rivers as the percussionist, bringing a love of many genres to the table—jazz, classical and hip-hop—from Simon and Garfunkel to The Notorious B.I.G.

Drawing from wide-ranging influences and sounds, the seven-track “Rivers (EP)” is a pleasing, multifaceted experience.

Pop folk ballad “Heartland” is an inviting, smooth listen that has potential for commercial appeal. “Halymorpha Halys Blues” channels gritty alternative rock and moody blues, cleverly relaying the plight of a brown marmorated stink bug—its scientific name serving as the song’s namesake. “Photographic Memories” weaves the swing and coolness of jazz with the plucking cadence of bluegrass.

The EP’s cover, a collage crafted by Carlisle artist Aron Rook, seamlessly joins Rivers’ folk rock sound with its indie image.

“We just asked her to use a piece from a collage series she had recently created,” Sinkovitz said. “Aron is our favorite artist and has done several poster designs for us as well.”

By the end of the summer, Rivers plans to release a second EP, and, as 2015 wraps up, they hope to record a full album of more original material.

Open Mic Magic

Rivers formed thanks to the area’s active open mic circuit.

Sinkovitz and Yarnell met each other first at the Alibis open mic in Carlisle and started playing together.

“I was drawn to Vince because I could immediately see that he was a great guitar player and a strong, original songwriter,” said Sinkovitz. “Once we started playing together, we discussed trying to find a bass player.”

Shortly thereafter, they saw Schaefer perform at the Courthouse Common open mic.

“His skill level and ‘sick-nastiness’ on the bass is what encouraged us to reach out to him,” said Sinkovitz.

You could say that the three musicians were at the right open mics at the right time.

“We were there just to perform and play music. Our meeting was serendipitous,” said Sinkovitz.

After just a year of playing together, the young folk musicians made a momentous decision. They hung up their hats at their day jobs and embarked on the life of a full-time band.

This year, they have set a goal of playing 200 dates and, counting June bookings, were almost halfway there.

“It feels good to make a goal and see the goal in action working for you,” said Yarnell. “This is the best job you could ever ask for. If we have a day off [from playing], we are writing more songs.We are paying the bills getting to play music from our hearts.”

To find Rivers shows in the area and to download “Rivers (EP),” visit

June Concert Dates

  • June 6, 9-11 p.m.—Suba Mangia Qui, Harrisburg
  • June 10, 3-7 p.m.—Farmers on the Square, Carlisle
  • June 19, 9 p.m.- 12 a.m.—Yardz Bar and Grill, Enola
  • June 20, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.—Broad Street Market, Harrisburg
  • June 22, 6-9 p.m.—Andalusia, Carlisle
  • June 27, 4-8 p.m.—Music in the Garden, Carlisle
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