Currently comprised of Willy Vlautin (vocals, acoustic guitar and electric guitar), Dave Harding (bass, backing vocals), Sean Oldham (drums, percussion, vibes and backing vocals). Dan Eccles (guitar) and Paul Brainard (pedal steel, piano, vibes, acoustic guitar, trumpet and backing vocals), the Portland, OR-based alt country quintet Richmond Fontaine can trace its origins back to 1994 when the founding duo of Vlautin and Harding met at Portland Meadows Racetrack and pored over the racing form and talked about music. Bonding over their mutual love of Husker Du, Willie Nelson, X, The Blasters and The Replacements, the duo decided to write and play music together. After expanding to a quartet, Richmond Fontaine developed a reputation for a sound that meshed elements of rock, country, punk and folk and paired them with Vlautin’s narrative-based songwriting (which has interestingly enough have been compared favorably to the short stories of Raymond Carver and Larry Brown). And as a result, the band has been praised by a number of nationally recognized and internationally recognized outlets including Uncut, Q Magazine, Mojo, The Independent, The Sun and others.
Interestingly, over the past 8 years or so Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin has also developed a reputation as a critically acclaimed novelist. His debut novel The Motel Life won a Silver Pen Award from the state of Nevada and landed on the The Washington Post‘s Top 25 Books of 2007 — and it was later adapted into the critically acclaimed movie, The Motel Life which starred Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. Northline, Vlautin’s second novel was published in 2008 and was a San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten Bestseller. His third novel, Lean on Pete was published in 2010 and won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and was Hot Press’ book of the year. And his last novel, The Free was published two years ago. Along with nine full-length albums, an instrumental soundtrack for Northline, two live albums and an EP, Vlautin and company have been incredibly (and exhaustingly) prolific.
After a three year hiatus from recording, the members of Richmond Fontaine returned to the studio with their long-time producer John Askew to write and then record their forthcoming tenth full-length effort, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, which is slated for a March 18 release through Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and Decor Records across Europe. The album’s first single “Wake Up Ray,” is a jangling bit of alt country that tells a story with such exquisite narrative details that it creates a very real, lived in world in which the song’s characters wake up every day to a life and a house that they hate and yet feels largely inescapable — all while reminiscing over the time that’s passed and a love that’s long been over. And although wistful and mournful over the things that can’t be, there’s an acceptance of things being impermanent and a quiet joy in once knowing those things.