An interview with Alvvays

Ever since the gloriously dreamy lo-fi subversive surf pop of Alvvays debut single ‘Archie, Marry Me’ washed over my ears, I’ve been in love. I obsessed over that song and the self titled album that shortly followed. I was chuffed when I got the chance to finally catch them live this month and even happier that it meant I got to chat to frontwoman Molly Rankin before the gig. Here’s what she had to say:

How’s it going?
Yeah, great thanks.

So you’ve just started your UK tour. How’s it going so far?
Good. We’re still early into it; this is only our third show.

How have the audiences been so far?
Yeah, great. We’re pretty lucky. We’ve done The Great Escape, we’ve done a few sporadic date and we also toured with Real Estate, where we were playing to really full rooms. This time around it’s been good too.  We’ve been lucky coming over here with crowds. Maybe it falls on the right day of the week.

It seems like the closer it is to the weekend, the rowdier the crowds are. Everyone is very polite here. We have a nice wide demographic of crowds, like old dudes, young people, young couples.

alvvayscoverYou’re on tour to promote your debut album, which came out last year. How do you feel about that record now that it’s been out for a while?
It’s funny because I hadn’t anticipated the year end list thing. We were just off doing our thing, we had finished the tour, then all this weird “year end” stuff started popping up, which we were oblivious to. I didn’t know that that was a “thing.” So it seems like there’s a resurgence of interest for us to tour, sort of, because those lists help get you in front of a wider audience. We don’t mind playing those songs again. Although, some of these places we’ve never played before. We never played Manchester before, so that was exciting for us. We’re going to Scotland. Italy!

So it’s opened the band up to a whole new audience?
Kind of, yeah. It’s a factor that I never even really thought about.

It did feature in a lot of end of year lists, both album and tracks. Were you expecting any of that, or did it all come out of the blue?
No! We thought we might be on a couple of Canadian lists but we were actually on more United States and UK lists than in Canada.  The internet helps. I don’t actually know, maybe we sound slightly jangle Scottish/British to people in the UK, or evoke some era that we weren’t really involved in but really love.

Who are your influences then? There’s kind of a post-Britpop and early 80’s feel to the album. I noticed you posted on Instagram that you’d been down to Salford Lads Club in Manchester, so there obviously must be a Smiths connection.
I ruined that picture! There was a huge black cat running by as our driver – we’ve never had a driver before by the way – was taking the photo, I couldn’t help just shout “LOOK AT THAT CAT” and as soon as I did that, it ran off. It was a beautiful bunch of events happening at once that encapsulates that photo.

obligatory pilgrimage

A photo posted by Alvvays (@alvvaysband) on Jan 21, 2015 at 12:31pm PST

I know it’ll feel like a while ago now, but can you tell me a bit about the recording and production of your debut album. You worked with Chad VanGaalen to produce it. How did you decide on working with him? How much did his input influence what we hear on the record?
I’m not sure he changed the way we sounded. We came with the songs pretty much ready to record and that’s sort of what he wanted to do anyway. He wanted to record it like a Smiths record or something, where it’s very much what we sound like live, so we gave ourselves a bit of slack in a way that we don’t have to recreate much on stage, due to the album being pretty run and gun. It took us a while once we got back from Chad to fix things and cater it to the way we wanted it to be. Some of the drums were a little bit weird. We were still figuring out the band when we took the album to Chad. Chad thought that we were recording a solo album of mine, and so did we, sort of, but then we got there he was just like “you guys are a band! You never told me you were a band!” So that was different to recording a singer/songwriter type thing.

You did do a few solo things before Alvvays. What’s the difference in performing as part of a band to on your own and what was that transition like?
The first recording I made -the only recording I made, which was never really released, it just kind of disappeared – we just did it for fun and we just did it in two days. So every song sounds like a different genre, or a different band, basically. It was sort of this variety pack of sounds, whereas Alvvays sound quite cohesive and like us. But yea, there’s some country stuff on that EP, some Roy Orbison old pop.

So how did it go from being a solo thing to Alvvays? Was it something that just naturally happened?
Yeah, the songs sounded more band based and less just me telling stories. We just realised that it was easier for me to have a band name then just have all these people pigeonhole you for having an acoustic guitar and singing love songs, like all those connotations that go with singer songwriters. It wasn’t all that preconceived but it has been like a little silver lining.

Like a happy accident. What do you hope listeners will extract from your sound? Do you think the context of your work changes within the environment that you listen to it?
Well, the album came out in the summer, so everyone said it was a summer record but I wrote all of the songs in the winter, so to me it’s more of a winter record. But now people are saying it’s a winter record, kind of like a cold, sad winter record. I think that it makes more sense to me in the winter.

I think it’s that juxtaposition between those summery, jangly melodies and the wintery, more melancholic lyrics which kind of give the feeling of both.
Yeah, hopefully it’s not just a seasonal thing though!

If the world was about to end, what would be the last song you’d listen to?
Probably ‘Is This Music?’ by Teenage Fanclub.

Cool. Are they one of the bands that influenced you?
Yeah. I had sort of said that I wanted someone to bring a little CD player to my funeral and just press play at the end.

Sorry I didn’t mean to bring the party down with that question.
I’m not afraid of death!

Which of your songs would win in a fight?
Probably Archie, Marry Me. That seems to be the heavy weight song on the record, probably the most self-assured song on the record. We have some new songs that are a little bit more aggressive. Aggressive in our way, not hard core by any means. Those might stand a little bit more time in the Roman gladiator situation.

I thought to finish we could play a little game, Alvvays or Novvays. I’ll ask you a question and you have to reply yes or no with the appropriate answer. So Alvvays or Novvays. For example, if I were to ask Archie, Marry Me?

So if I were to ask you if you’d stand under Rihanna’s umbrella?
Er… novvays? I don’t know what that is though. Is that a British thing?

I just meant Rihanna’s song umbrella .
Oh! I thought you said Mary Anna’s Umbrella. I love that song! We actually watched that video the other day. Really bad video, but then it didn’t need to be a good one when the songs that good. Okay, let’s revert to Alvvays on that one.

Okay, I’ll just make a note of that. Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, floating through the wind?

Do you believe in life after love?

Would you dance if I asked you to dance?

Would cry, if you saw me cry?

Would you run and never look back?

Would you save my soul tonight?
This is hilarious. Novvays. I’m a very self-serving human.

Well, that’s the best way to be sometimes, look after number one. Molly from Alvvays, thank you very much.

Interview by George Shaw

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