Alvvays Escape the Canadian Cold with Sunny Synths

Thursday 29th, March 2018 / 07:00
By Jordan Yeager

VANCOUVER – The monotony of a Canadian winter can be exhausting. Dreariness lingers seeming-perpetually, interrupted only by brief months of sunlit respite. So what is there to do? For Molly Rankin, Kerri MacLellan, Alec O’Hanley, Sheridan Riley, and Brian Murphy, the answer was simple — make music. The five bandmates have done just that and are now touring the fruits of their labours from their sophomore offering, Antisocialites.

With Scottish roots running deep through their Nova Scotian foundation, music has long been a part of their lives; Rankin’s family even has a band, The Rankin Family, which has won several awards, including six JUNOs.

“Growing up around Celtic music is a pretty common thing when you live in Cape Breton,” says Rankin. “I think it’s mostly used to pass the time during winter when things get a little bit bleak.”

Alvvays is decidedly pop-centric, with heavy synths and catchy melodies laced throughout dreamy vocals. If you listen carefully, you might hear “a little bit of fiddle personality” within Rankin’s guitar style, hinting back to her formative years in the industry, but for the most part, Antisocialites doesn’t stray far from the precedent set by their debut album. If anything, it’s heavier-hitting and more lively, which is perfect for a band who’s about to keep the party going with their sophomore outing.

Life in Nova Scotia surrounded by the ocean, trees, and rolling hills can’t be all bad, especially when seeking inspiration for lyrics that enable listeners to see the scenes set by your words. “I can be a little bit observational with my lyrics,” says Rankin. “I’m inspired by space and weather and distance and being alone. I like to paint imagery, and it’s easier to be descriptive when you’re talking about, you know, the sunset or the trees or the ocean.”

For someone whose muse is sparked by solitude, Rankin indulges in alone time seldomly. The band’s first album, the self-titled Alvvays, was released in July 2014, and the group has yet to stop touring in the interim.

“After we put out our first record, I didn’t have a lot of time to be alone to write, and that’s usually when I think of ideas,” she says. “It’s good to be active and playing shows, even though playing music is such a miniscule part of being in a band.”

And though sweet seclusion might be Rankin’s first solace for songwriting, she and her band members don’t tire of one another, even after years straight of their presence. Rankin stresses that they’re “all really close friends” and “still hang out a few times a week, even when [they’re] not playing.”

While Rankin and MacLellan grew up making music together throughout childhood and adolescence, they didn’t expect to pursue it into adulthood. Rankin had always been surrounded by music-makers, watching the time, dedication, and labour her family members poured into their Celtic group, and didn’t think the lifestyle fit.

“Witnessing a lot of the hard work and continuous work of what it was like for my father to be in a band, I didn’t think I would follow this path at all,” she laughs. “I just sort of fell into it, and then I pursued it once I realized that it was fulfilling to me, that has always been there and I feel like maybe I was ignoring it.”

Alvvays play the Capital Ballroom (Victoria) on April 3 and the Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver) on April 4.

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