Holy River’s latest single, “Spirit Riot,” spotlights the two-years-and-counting struggle of the Yellow Finch Forest Blockade and their work to shut down the Mountain Valley Pipeline. It also rocks.
If you were to travel to the forests of Southwestern Virginia, you’d find a community of people living in the trees there, known as the Yellow Finch Forest Blockade. The blockade is a community of environmental activists fighting against the construction of the Mountain Valley pipeline. And you can see them in “Spirit Riot,” the new music video from duo Laney Sullivan and Jameson Price, who play under the name Holy River.
“It was written about us as human beings, like we are,” Sullivan said. “We’re animals, you know? We are made up of water and earth and all these things, inertia from the earth, which is our food. And so ‘Spirit Riot’ is about our consciousness, realizing that we are killing ourselves by the way that we’re living.”
Holy River are sure to be more familiar to fans of Richmond music under their previous name, Lobo Marino. The new name comes from a 2014 single off their album City Of Light. They changed their name at the beginning of 2020, the dawn of a new decade. “The name change for us marks a personal right of passage with our art and the 2020 portal feels like the perfect time to jump,” they explained on Facebook at the time. However, they also made it clear that they’d still be the same band, playing material from throughout their career — surely a welcome bit of news for longtime fans.
Both Sullivan and Price have been very involved in the fight against two different natural gas pipelines that have been at various phases of construction through Virginia over the past six years. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was cancelled earlier this year, after years of resistance, with the companies involved (including Dominion Energy) citing ongoing legal challenges and mounting costs as primary reasons for the cancellation.
Right now, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is itself two years behind schedule and $2 billion over budget, even as activists continue with actions ranging from the blockade and other direct attempts to block the pipeline to raising a variety of legal challenges. Their goal is ultimately to see the MVP go the same way the ACP did.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was going through areas of Virginia that had a lot more wealth and active participation, in terms of fundraising,” Price said. “Even though the ACP was our gateway into activism, we are now trying to utilize that momentum and that joy of the project going to reallocate funds, reallocate passion, reallocate the same lawyers and the same systems that helped the ACP fail.”
One of the biggest benefits of the blockade, Sullivan explained, is that it creates a lot of extra time. Without that time, she said, illegal actions get pushed through by the companies in charge.
“A lot of times companies will push through projects knowing that they’re going to get citations or fined for not complying with regulatory bodies,” she said. “But those regulatory bodies aren’t fast enough to catch them during active construction. So they’d rather just push it through and then pay fines.”
Yellow Finch’s blockade is celebrating its two-year anniversary, and both Price and Sullivan have had a relationship with the blockade throughout that time.
“That’s mostly like a support role, where we could talk a lot about what they’re doing to share information,” Sullivan said. “[We also] fundraise materials, bring them food, and bring them warm clothes.”
Throughout the past two years, the duo, along with Christopher Risch and Mara Eve Robbins, have been collecting the footage that was ultimately assembled into the “Spirit Riot” video during visits to the Yellow Finch blockade. The footage mixes well with Holy River’s music, which centers around the drones that have long been their specialty but also carries a pulsing rock backbeat over which Sullivan and Price deliver powerful lyrics in a chanting style. “Your iron cranes, your concrete walls, your email suits, your permit cards, your busy eyes, your high rise thrones, your shadow lines, your god of lies — see it coming down.”
“Spirit Riot” comes from Holy River’s latest album, Courage, which was released last month and is available on Bandcamp as a name-your-price download.
Written by Greta Timmins and Marilyn Drew Necci. Top Photo via Holy River/Facebook