By Nick Laugher
CALGARY — This year, armed with a serene blend of hazy dream pop and plaintive, low-key, twee indie rock, Alvvays delivered a self-titled debut that’s both gorgeously understated and wildly beguiling. Initially self-released, indie heavy hitters Polyvinyl recently gave it a lavish rerelease and opened the floodgates for a mountain of praise for the record’s stoic beauty and rabidly catchy hooks.
“It’s funny, because it kind of comes in waves,” says singer Molly Rankin of all the attention the record’s received in the press.
“Honestly, we never thought that anyone outside of Toronto would really care about it. I mean like Pitchfork really liking it was crazy to us, we were all like, ‘Well… that happened!’ and then Rolling Stone talked about it and… well, I mean that will buy us like at least eight months of being able to put off our MCATs and stuff, you know? With our parents, it’s like that’s the only name they really recognize, so it’s got huge pull.”
Alvvays evolved organically from what was initially a solo project for Rankin, working with friend and long-time collaborator Alec O’Hanley. She recorded an EP under her own name that can now be found online, even though Rankin says that it was never her intention to release it.
“I pressed a bunch of copies and I left them in my trunk and gave them to people. But, it suddenly became this, like, ‘official’ recording and it wasn’t supposed to be at all,” she says with a laugh. “A bunch of guys in P.E.I. came out to help me record, but Alec was the one who was like, ‘If you want, I can help you make this sound like something more than full-blown folk.’ So, the stuff we were writing started becoming more band oriented.”
After they’d honed and sharpened the new material, Rankin decided on a whim to shoot an email to Calgary’s prolific music man, Chad VanGaalen, to see if he’d help produce their debut LP.
“A while back, my brother was living in Calgary and I was living in P.E.I., and he’d always send me Chad’s records, so I became a fan over the course of a couple years. Then later, I got that Women record, Public Strain, that he produced and we had plans to record in the upcoming months, so I just figured I’d email him and ask if he’d produce our record! Simple as that,” she says.
Alvvays is a very organically developing entity, taking things moment by moment as they come. You definitely get the sense that Rankin and the rest of the band aren’t meticulously planning and dissecting every moment – they’re just having a hell of a time making gorgeous music and seeing what happens. It’s that kind of wonderfully reckless abandon and playfulness that’s helped the band garner a pretty sizeable following in a relatively short period of time. Fresh off of a successful jaunt into the U.K., Rankin was surprised at how much of a following the band had across the pond.
“It was really cool, things happen way quicker over there,” she says. “Our show in London was sold out, which was really weird and cool for us. It’s so funny how it works though. Your face is on all these tiny magazines and newspapers, but you’re still paying four pounds for a street falafel,” she says, laughing.
As for what’s on the horizon, Rankin says they’re already getting hounded at shows for new material, but she doesn’t feel very pressured or anxious about delivering a follow-up right now.
“It’s never been my approach to sit down and wrack my brain over it. It’s just something happens to me rather than something I happen to seek out,” she says.
“Though, having said that, you really absolutely have to work at it… or you’ll end up taking like five years to write an album.”
Catch Alvvays on tour with Fucked Up at the Pawn Shop (Edmonton) on September 20th, at Republik (Calgary) on September 21st and at the West End Cultural Centre (Winnipeg) on September 23rd.AB, Alberta, Alvvays, Manitoba, MB, Pawn Shop, Republik, West End Cultural Centre