Kindness contains eleven songs about everything from leaving a long-time lover in the parking lot of a roadside motel to a quirky little song about attending another “Shitty Party” and feeling awkward and uncool. “Van Dyke Brown” is Paul Simon incarnate while “Mama Take Your Time” echoes Bob Dylan and “New Beliefs” is what The Beatles would sound like in 2018. Of course, as can be ascertained from Kindness’s title, perhaps the best way to describe the band’s songwriting state of mind while making the album can be found in the lyrics of their song “Born in the Right Country”:
“Can you really blame me/ built on a system where some must fail/ so you can break through it if you’ve got the right skin/ born in the right country/ Can I really blame you/ we’re built on the dreams we feed to the poor/ so that you can break through if you got the right name or the right god or you’re born in the right country…”
The song “The Feeling of Freedom” describes how for Americans “the feeling of freedom is still in the sight of a gun” while “War is Kind” explains to a child why they're an orphan now. This is not a political album, however. Think of Kindness as a Polaroid picture of the band members’ emotions when they realized that music was not just something they do, but what they do.
For Whyless, 2017 meant Halli Anderson (vocals/violin) moved to Oregon, across the country from Asheville, North Carolina where the band originated. This meant they began “to work in a more structured fashion with definite on times and off times. This defined how [they] wrote this record—in concise, limited sessions of full-immersion.” For Ryan O’Keefe (vocals/guitar), it meant finally letting go and finding the bands' biggest success to date. For Alex McWalters (drums) it meant entering a master’s program and for front man Shearin it meant getting engaged and buying a house. Kindness, A Rebel is a picture of a band that became adults and realized what was pulling them apart was actually bringing them closer together.
Ultimately, the recording is not just about River Whyless’s band members. Instead, we are all mourning a president, we all left a lover at some Motel 6 and we all had to form new beliefs to help make sense of the loss of our old ones. Finally, we all had to realize that in the words of e.e. cummings, “I breathe-