With their first new album in five years and an extensive tour underway, members of Canadian dreampop band Alvvays are living the rock and roll dream.
“We’re thrilled to be together in a tin can for the next six weeks because that’s how healthy relationships work,” singer Molly Rankin quipped on Zoom from Toronto shortly before the band hit the big time. embarks on its US tour, which began last Friday in Chicago. .
Prior to this, the band had just returned from a small series of UK release week shows in support of their third album “Blue Rev”, which dropped October 7 on Polyvinyl, and is now underway on their American tour which will conclude on November 18 in Boston. “There are a lot of rolling suitcases,” Rankin noted. “A lot of hasty cuts are being made on what to take and what not to take for the next six weeks.”
But after a five-year gap between the new album and 2017’s critically acclaimed “Antisocialites,” what is six weeks? The delay was largely caused by circumstances beyond the band’s control: in conjunction with the pandemic, during the songwriting process, a thief broke into Rankin’s apartment and stole a recorder filled with of demos, then a basement flood damaged much of the band’s equipment. But Rankin and Alvvays guitarist/co-writer Alec O’Hanley has spent the lockdown working on the new songs – which balance the band’s shimmering, nostalgic undertones with an abrasive, roaring edge.
“We spent a lot of time with our keyboardist Kerri [MacLellan] — she’s my childhood best friend — and when we were allowed to be in the same room together, we would just play demos about three nights a week,” she said. “That’s probably the common thread I think about when working on all the songs through a really tough time in the world – it was really the three of us, trying to figure it out.”
While the songs were being written during the pandemic, the band couldn’t begin creating tracks for “Blue Rev” — named after a Canadian cola booze that Rankin and MacLellan loved growing up — until October. last year in Los Angeles. with six-time Grammy-winning engineer-producer Shawn Everett, who has worked with the Killers, the War on Drugs, Alabama Shakes and many more. He convinced the band to record the album straight to tape, playing its 14 tracks twice during the same studio session.
“With all the different material and ideas we were bringing into Shawn’s studio, it was really nice to have someone who knows where things need to be in a mix, or what a mix needs to feel sold out sometimes,” Rankin said of fellow Canadian Everett’s sharp production. “At the end of the day, we managed to beat all the demos, which I think is a pretty rare feeling for me.”
Rankin says she wasn’t too worried about living up to the affection people have for their previous two records, pointing out (unwisely) people’s ability to bring their own meanings and memories to the music. “There are so many reasons people get attached to albums that are outside of anything I’ve actually done,” she says. “It’s often little moments and periods of their lives that tie into these records that you couldn’t compete with.”
Although with early rave reviews from critics – including unusually high praise from Pitchfork – and generally positive fan reception for “Blue Rev”, the new record is on a fast track to surpassing the band’s previous highs, with lots of nods to their renewed approach. and moments of impressive vocal power from Rankin. While she says she’s never taken vocal lessons, Rankin credits standout moments like the loud outro of “Easy On Your Own?” from the comfort of Everett’s studio and the company of bandmates O’Hanley, MacLellan, drummer Sheridan Riley and new bassist Abbey Blackwell.
“The only way I’ve survived this long musical career is not expecting accolades or success,” she says. “It has been both extremely enjoyable and overwhelming from the start, but I have never been disappointed. I just want everyone in the band to feel like what they’re doing has value and meaning, that they’re comfortable in their lives, and that we all feel like we’re doing something useful together – as ‘summer camp’ as that feels.”
Which isn’t to say she isn’t enjoying the love from fans, the positive press, and most importantly the audiences of their current tour, which has already sold out dates in cities like San Francisco, Atlanta, and Seattle, among others. .
“I had no idea we were such a precious nugget,” she laughs. “But it kinda looks like that now.”