Alberta has engraved itself permanently into Nils Edenloff’s heart and soul. Growing up in northern Alberta, the frontman for the Rural Alberta Advantage has experience with some of the major events and tragedies that have painted the history of the province.
This is evident in songs like “Tornado ‘87” and “Frank, AB,” two of the worst natural disasters in Albertan and maybe even Canadian history. “I was up in northern Alberta with my grandparents when the tornado happened,” begins Edenloff as he begins to reflect his personal experience with what is known as Black Friday to Edmonton locals. “It was the first time away from my parents and family, and this happens, and you don’t know what’s going on.”
The inspiration behind “Frank, AB,” the 1903 landslide in the town of the same name, is more of a historical reflection. With a father who worked in the area as a forest ranger, Edenloff has spent some time feeling the vibes of the town. “When you hear the back-story and everything, and you find out about the fact that there’s still people buried down under there, it sort of has this creepy aspect to it.
“So maybe not directly, but it was definitely part of my memories growing up personally, so, I didn’t just Wiki it,” confirms Edenloff with a slight chuckle.
As time moves on however, Edenloff is finding comfort in his adopted home of Toronto. Moving to the city roughly 10 years ago, he has spent most of that time with the band recording and writing music. “Ten-and-a-half now, I think,” corrects Edenloff, “I definitely am settled here. It’s one of those things where I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing in any other place. It’s so tied to the relationship I have with Paul [Banwatt] and Amy [Cole].
“That being said, all my family still lives back home in Alberta. That’s where I was born, that’s where the formative, ideological years are formed,” reflects Edenloff. “You’re in high school and growing up and making your own decisions and starting to live on your own for the very first time.”
After forming through a series of open-mic nights in 2005 the band has released a pair of records, not only reflecting a strong sense of Edenloff’s experiences growing up, but also themes of moving on. “Those songs were coming out when we were first getting together. I purged a lot of the homesickness, in a way, with those first two records.”
While both albums were produced by Roger Leavens, contained similar content and seemed to flow into one another, Edenloff points out that they weren’t exactly concept records, at least not in the usual sense of the word.
“I always wanted both records to be companion pieces, so I didn’t want them to sound too jarring, too different. I feel like, if anything, we sort of felt more comfortable in our skin on the second record,” explains Edenloff. “I’d be hard pressed to say they were a concept album, more like an encapsulation of the emotions.
“People can take it as a concept album. For me, it’s a diary,” he confesses lightheartedly.
No matter what happens in the future for him and his bandmates, it appears Edenloff is just happy playing music, something to which he has always held strong ties. “I guess I’ve always known since I was really young that music would be an important part of my life, whether if I was on stage as an active participant, or whether or not I was just in the audience observing.
“Regardless of whether or not people wanted to hear it, I’d probably still be writing music, you know, in my bedroom. It’s just one of those things that was always going to be there.”
For Edenloff, Banwatt and Cole, an audience shouldn’t be too hard to find now. With commercial success displayed through a variety of television commercials and a widespread appeal to fans of earnest folk rock, the band has solidified themselves as major players in the Canadian music scene.
The trio has also managed to manufacture a sound that is way bigger than any three people should be able to produce. When asked how it’s created, Edenloff has a pretty straightforward explanation.
“Insecurity, maybe?” Edenloff jokingly responds. “I think it’s always been something we try be conscious of, to try to fill out the sound as much as possible. There’s never a point where there is a lot of downtime in one person, we’re always really active, filling in the parts when need be and letting the rest be the rest.”
He finishes his thought, “And Paul’s kind of a monster on the drum kit, that definitely helps to fill out the sound.”
Their upcoming tour sees RAA in an opening role for Dan Mangan, a position they have rarely seen since their debut LP Hometowns began getting heavy rotation. Edenloff points out a couple other occasions – one with Sam Roberts and one at the Olympics with City & Colour – but assures that the band’s considerable energy and sound will not change as a result. “I don’t think were going to change who we are in any sense, we just sort of put everything of ourselves into the shows and try our best to win people over.
“I think our music and Dan’s music go together nicely. We’re both, sort of, earnest musicians making music from the heart.”
With chapters seemingly closing, it’s apparent that a transition is coming for the band as they look forward to future releases. Although, Edenloff doesn’t commit to completely to closing Alberta as a subject. “I’m not going to say there’s never going to be another reference to Alberta.
“[It’s] always going to be a part of me. I always think it’s going to be there to a certain degree.”
Edenloff also states that the band might be taking some of the new songs on tour with them, adding, “We’ve always found that trying songs out in front of an audience is always the best way to gauge a song and, kind of, tweak it and work it.”
So, if you are interested in getting a taste of the new direction the band will be taking, this upcoming tour might just give you a chance.
According to Rural Alberta Advantage’s website, the November 4 performance at Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall is sold out. However, there still seem to be tickets for Vancouver’s November 9 show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre,
By Cory Jones