She was just sitting down to write a letter, she says. RVIVR guitarist and vocalist Erica Freas laughs when I say that no one writes letters anymore, that I wish someone would write me a letter.
“Well, if you write one, you’ll probably get one back,” she says. A long way from home, Olympia’s RVIVR sends letters — heartfelt ones disguised as songs — back and forth across the country into packed house shows and punk rock crowds. And every now and then, someone hears what they’re saying. And they give a letter back to RVIVR.
“We were in Kansas City and this guy came up crying — just a little bit crying — and he said it was so good to see someone being positive because there’s so much negativity in punk,” Freas says. “That made me feel amazing. He was being like, ‘Thank you for coming here and bringing that experience to me,’ and him coming up and telling me closed the circle.”
In some senses, the four-piece punk outfit is that friend you wish would write you letters — the one who understands you, who wants to know how you are and tells you that you are loved. They get what it’s like to be different — to be you.
But their songs are also manifestos, ballads spelling out their what they believe and the ethics they hold themselves to.
“There’s a lot of intention in the lyrics we’re making,” she says.
“We’re not like getting up every night and being like, ‘You need to be thinking the way we’re thinking.’ Not a party line or anything like that.”
They’re punks, Freas says. That’s easy to pick out from hearing only a few seconds of their Replacements-esque pop-punk songs. But their music expresses precisely what that label means to them.
“I was just reading an anthology of the first zine in New York in the ’70s called Punk. And it was kind of, like, joking about itself and how punk was overused back then and didn’t mean anything,” she says. “Someone wrote in and was like, ‘What do you mean punk?’ So when I say punk, we might have really different ideas of what that means.
“I feel like my version — what it means to me — it’s an ethic I can expect from other people… like that certain things aren’t going to be tolerated like sexism and bigotry.”
Freas says RVIVR’s main goal is a no-brainer: They want to rock.
But what they choose to rock about — what they are most naturally inclined to rock about — is pretty different than so many other punk bands.
“Collectively we have a really strong inclination toward social justice work, and that influences the lyric-writing,” she says. “Most of us spend time volunteering for social justice issues or making sure conversations about social justice — issues like homelessness and class issues and equality, whether that’s in the form for queers or for women — are happening.
“We have intention, but we don’t have an agenda,” she continues.
“We want to go around and play the music that makes us feel good and that we’re really proud of.”
RVIVR plays with Slow Mutants, Hospital Floors, Jazz and Vex at the Cretin Hop on Wednesday, June 9, at 7 pm. Tickets: $6. Call: 327-7195.