I could tell my conversation with Joel Bravo – lead singer of the Albertans – was going to be a bit different than the standard back-and-forth Q&A. While not a local to this province, Bravo displays a kind, eccentric, open demeanour — not too unlike that identity for which Albertans feel great pride.
I caught up with Bravo as he finished his birthday breakfast in Arizona with some family. “Thanks! Great birthday, so far,” he replies after I open with birthday greetings. “I slept on the roof last night under the stars, so that was nice.”
Forming as a seven-piece in 2008, the Albertans split time between Vancouver and New York, catching praise from both scenes while trying to find a sound and place of their own. After releasing the energetic and shifting indie rock LP, New Age, in 2011, the band reformed into a tighter four-piece and spent the next two years off and on, crafting their latest release, Dangerous Anything.
“It’s a pretty dark record, but it’s not meant to be purposely depressing or anything like that,” says Bravo as he begins to describe the inner-workings of the album. “Every single song is supposed to be at night. It’s the only recurrent theme on the record.”
It’s a stark contrast from their previous full-length. Where New Age felt warm, upbeat and almost frantic in spots, Dangerous Anything feels cool, tranquil and measured.
As he begins to speak a little more in-depth about the songs, something about the song, “L-Friend,” sparks a thought that he can’t let pass us by. “That song is actually really… I’ll talk about that song really quickly.” He apologizes as I encourage him to stretch the thought. “It has a very specific genesis, but as I wrote it, it just became into the simplest conversation you could have with somebody. If you listen to the lyrics they’re just really, really simple.”
He goes on to explain that “L-Friend” is based on the idea of two people’s quick interaction after taking the barbiturate Luminal, which explains the song’s sedative feel and tempo. “I don’t think it gets that much attention, it’s slow but it kind of sets the pace of the record. There’s like no lyrics at the beginning and you kind of have to adjust your internal clock to kind of get with it, which I think is cool. And that wasn’t really on purpose, it just happened with the band while we were all together.
“A lot of the record was written before we even went into the studio, but then it just completely unfolded upon us. Whatever it is, I think it’s different and it’s representative of a sound that can’t necessarily be referenced easily. We didn’t try to, but it just turned out that whatever we made is something that’s – I think – the first thing we’ve made that’s uniquely our own.”
Before our conversation got side-tracked into careers, libraries and the CBC, I asked him about the significance of the band’s name. After explaining the formation of the band during a visit to Alberta, he offers some clarity, “There’s a great word for it,” as he takes a second to think about it, “‘Cosmogony.’ It has more substance related to its origin than anything else. It just was who we were in the beginning and that’s OK for us, but Alberta’s a fascinating place still, obviously.”
Catch the Albertans at Broken City (Calgary) on September 13, at the Artery (Edmonton) on September 15 and at Park Theatre (Winnipeg) on September 17.
By Cory JonesAB, Alberta