If former “American Idol” contestant River Gibson played Cajun music, he could be gigging in his native Acadiana every day. But waltzes and two-steps never moved him. Green Day did.
“I appreciate Cajun music,” said the 24-year-old singer-guitarist in the modern rock-pop trio LVVRS. “But it never called out to me. Growing up, bands like Green Day and Foo Fighters and Coldplay inspired me.”
Green Day made massive mainstream impact in the 1990s. Featuring frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, the punk-pop trio from Berkeley, California, captivated Gibson. He listened to Green Day’s Grammy-winning 2004 rock opera, American Idiot, hundreds of times. He attended every Green Day show in striking distance.
“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be talking to you now,” Gibson said. “Green Day is the best live band I’ve ever seen. That inspires me because performing is what I enjoy most. I enjoy sharing that experience with the crowd, trying to bring everybody into the show.”
Because Gibson and LVVRS (pronounced Lovers) play mostly original rock-pop songs, they rarely perform in their home region of Acadiana.
“It’s challenging for bands like us,” Gibson said. “People like Cajun music because they can go out and have a good time and drink. They know what to expect every time. But I never dabbled with Cajun music because it never really came from my heart. I’m into doing what’s in my heart and not faking anything.”
A former music business and public relations student at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, Gibson is taking a strategic approach to LVVRS. He doesn’t book LVVRS in bars, for instance. Instead, the band played opening act gigs at venues including the House of Blues in Houston, Texas Club in Baton Rouge and Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans.
“With this approach, every show just gets better,” Gibson said. “We just opened for the Struts (a rising British rock band) at Howlin’ Wolf. It was sold out. Instead of playing all the time for 40, 50 people, I’d rather play for 600 people who like music I like.”
Apropos for LVVRS, Gibson, bassist Zac Lyons (previously in Oh, Rhien) and drummer Brenon Wilson formed LVVRS on Valentine’s Day 2018. Gibson hopes LVVRS can bring rock back into mainstream music. “There’s not much rock ‘n’ roll in the Top 40,” he said. “But I believe in rock ‘n’ roll. It’s important to me to bring rock ‘n’ roll back to the younger audience.”
With the latter goal in mind, LVVRS performs Gibson’s original songs and carefully selected covers using the conventional rock instruments of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.
“There’s more life in our songs in comparison to computer-made songs, modern pop songs,” he said. “The music breathes more. And people are coming back to that. I see it starting to bubble up. I want to be there when it does.”
From Texas to Florida, LVVRS has played in every Gulf Coast state. The regional reaction to the band encouraged Gibson.
“I wasn’t sure how people would react to some of our music,” he said. “But it resonates with people. That’s what this is all about for me. My dream is to inspire people the way I was inspired. If my music inspires a kid to pick up a guitar, then I’ve succeeded.”
Gibson picked up a guitar at 11. He founded his first band, Tandem, at 17. Tandem continued until he auditioned in New Orleans for the 2015 season of “American Idol.” With Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban judging, Gibson was cut early, during the show’s “Hollywood Week.”
“I would never do it again,” he pledged. “But it was a cool experience. I especially enjoyed Harry Connick Jr. You could tell he cared about people’s passion for music. Maybe the other two did, too, but Harry invested more of himself into it. It was great talking to him and he gave me some good advice.”
After “American Idol,” Gibson briefly pursued a solo career before, burned out and discouraged, he dropped out of music to attend ULL. But college and the full-time construction work he did weren’t for him.
“I missed music so much,” Gibson said. “So much. And I never stopped writing songs. In that time, I wrote 200 songs. But I wouldn’t show them to anybody. Then about mid-2017, I had a big group of songs that I felt confident about. I was ready to get this back together and do it the right way.”
LVVRS has a dozen new songs ready to release. They’ll be issued in 2019 via singles and an EP.
“The cool thing about the songs is that none of them sound alike,” Gibson said. “They all have different vibes. One song, ‘Iconic,’ you can hear a tinge of Green Day in it. It’s a rock song. And we have some Marvin Gaye–esque music. Artistically, there’s no limit on what I’ll do. But as long as it’s me, you know it’s rock ‘n’ roll.”