Hello and welcome to a special Alvvays-themed edition of DiS Does Singles.
What does that mean? Well, to celebrate their song 'Next Of Kin' winning Single of the Week, we had a chat with their frontwoman Molly Rankin. Read on for story of how she almost died, that time she wore a fat suit on stage and some other slightly less dramatic tales.
We've also snuck in three extra tracks from Sleater-Kinney, Dutch Uncles and Drake. They were simply too good to miss out.
Single of the Week
Next Of Kin (Transgressive)
It’s easy to slot Alvvays into a neat lineage that starts in 1980s Glasgow and ends when teenagers with self-esteem issues stop buying vinyl. Easy, but overly convenient.
The Toronto-based five-piece are very much their own band and have the songwriting chops to prove it. They can do downbeat without being dour, funny without being distracting and pen melodies that send you swooning in approval. We can scarcely believe their self-titled debut album was originally snuck out on cassette for a music festival.
‘Next Of Kin’ follows on from ‘Adult Diversion’ and ‘Archie, Marry Me’ as Alvvays’ latest single, and it’s every bit as stupendous as those predecessors. An ode to both depression and the joys of jangling guitar, the track nags at your heartstrings - submerging them in the world of its protagonist. In this reality, young love is only good for fatalities.
“If I'd known you couldn't swim we would have never gone in,” promises frontwoman Molly Rankin.
It’s her teasing wordplay that elevates the track from pleasant indie fare to a full-on whodunit mystery. Was the tragedy in the river the fault of its perilous current, a boyfriend who longed for escape or the girl who let him go? Whatever the case, there’s not a happy ending in sight.
Except for Alvvays themselves. They’re a band who deserve your undying attention.
Interview: Molly Rankin, Alvvays
You made a solo EP, She, in 2010. How long after that did you get together with guitarist Alec O'Hanley and form Alvvays?
Alec had always been around. He was producing the EP or helping me record it from the beginning, but he was in two or three other bands [including The Danks].
Time went by, he did a lot of touring with those bands and wanted to move on. I was ready to move to a more central place like Toronto or Montreal, so we did that and brought a couple of our friends who were also really tired of living in these crazy island outposts in the winter. So we all decided to move up to Toronto together and went to record a full-length, which would presumably be under my name. Then when we got there we realised it was more of a band thing.
How did the album come about?
We recorded it to tape in two weeks and then we got home and got all of the files from Chad VanGaalen. Then we were sort of like ‘oh god’, we have to change a lot of the skeletal components of this record. That was a bit daunting and it took us a long time because we still do have day jobs. Just trying to fund that, we didn’t have a label or an agent. At that stage, when you don't have an agent, you can’t get shows because you don’t play shows. It’s the chicken and the egg kind of thing.
We really wanted to play this festival called SappyFest in New Brunswick. It’s just known for being this amazing community festival where it’s all about experience and there's no corporate motive. We needed something to sell, so we just put the whole record on a cassette. Then we figured people wouldn’t just funnel it online immediately.
So how did the record eventually get a proper release?
We were sitting on the egg for a while. Also, we were working on becoming comfortable together on stage so we played a lot of low key shows and were sorting everything out before the record actually got released. There was a lot of pressure to get the record out because it’s really hard to accomplish anything when you don’t have a record. We just kept on annoying everyone around us and waiting and waiting and continuing have everything the way we wanted before it got thrust onto the internet.
You sound as though you’re quite wary of the internet?
It’s more when you’re a new band, you have to be careful. The first few things you put out there. They become the things that are referred to and it becomes this game of telephone, where the first thing you say is completely different to what you become. I don’t read a lot of reviews anymore but when I did it was the same thing every time.
I read someone say, ‘The internet is the end of forgetting’, and that’s very true.
Were you ever worried the record might get lost?
Well that’s something that happens with a lot of Canadian records. Especially if you live in an obscure place. You’re not really available to hop on a last-minute thing, or around to get the coverage you need to go further with it. In Canadian music a lot of music gets released and then a week later it just dissolves.
You grew up on an island called Cape Breton. What was that like?
I had a very beautiful childhood. Kerri [MacLellan - keyboards] who’s also in the band, we lived next door to each other. It didn’t feel that remote at the time because we had everything we needed, but the closest movie theatre would have been like an hour and twenty minutes drive away. That would only show one movie. The next theatre would be two or three hours, so we never went unless it was some bizarre family location. And the record stores didn’t really exist. You’d go to Walmart to get your summer lawn chairs and CDs at the same time.
The boys [Alec O'Hanley, Brian Murphy - bass, Phil MacIsaac - drums] lived on Prince Edward Island, but that one is a lot more developed through Anne of Green Gables and their potato industry - there’s a lot more funding from tourism there. With Cape Breton it’s a lot more wild and remote and isolated.
We heard you went to theatre school. What was that like?
When I was in Grade 11 we did our adaptation of the Mamma Mia musical and it was the first thing I’d ever done. I was Sophie and wore a fat suit - it was so much fun. I was like the desperate chubby friend, which came very naturally to me. Then we did another one in Grade 12 and then I went to university for theatre for a year and a half. It didn’t stick. I was pretty overwhelmed when I got there. I’m more of an introverted type of person. Easily intimidated. I’ll sit in the back of the class and never really want to put myself out there.
You wrote a fair bit of the album in a farmhouse. Tell us about that?
I moved over to PEI for a few years and was a waitress at this pub. Alec and I both lived in a really crazy old farmhouse for close to a year. We wrote a bunch of songs there, but we couldn’t really live there anymore because there was close to six feet of snow and our lane was 400 metres long. You couldn’t get anywhere. We almost died one night, actually.
How did that happen?
We’d gotten back from somewhere and when we got there the whole place was covered in snow. The lane was completely entrenched so we had no choice. The drive out to the farmhouse was so dangerous we couldn’t have turned back. So we grabbed a bunch of stuff, walked through the snow and it probably took close to an hour but Alec made it into the house like forty minutes before I did.
So he just left you there?
It’s so funny for all of our friends. Because they know that if anything went awry then I would inevitably be left behind. We moved out shortly after that snow, but we wrote ‘Archie, Marry Me’ in that house and a couple of other songs the record. The fall was very beautiful.
How do you write your lyrics?
I have so many notepads. I get really excited about notebooks and I’ll write two pages in them and then it’s over. I don’t really write that often. I’m not the person who goes to the park and writes prose. It just has to happen naturally or if it doesn’t I’ll scribble it down in the studio before we do vocal takes.
I don’t really like a lot of victimised things. I find a lot of random observational stuff can give you more of a visual. I was trying to think of weird little scenarios in my brain that aren’t autobiographical. I did a little bit of that in high school. It’s not for me. I like being slightly disconnected.
The album is very funny. What attracts you to that melodrama?
It [the album] is lighthearted in a lonely Daniel Clowes character kind of way. A lot of people think I’m putting myself out there to be married. Like begging to be married.
’Next Of Kin’ stars a depressed character. That’s a theme throughout the record?
I think my general demeanor is more of a depressed, subdued creature. I’m not an eternal optimist. I’m very much affected by the state of the world and the state of human beings, so it’s probably subconsciously channelling into the songs.
Age is another constant across Alvvays’ songs. Is growing older something you worry about?
I am very excited to get older. But this weird phase that we’re all in, even if I’m not affected by it, about becoming a legitimate member of society. It definitely is happening around me and that becomes stressful in your own network of people that surround you. This transitional phase that everyone is going or feels that they have to go through. You hit 30 and you have to become someone.
We suppose you get to skip that one by being in a band.
I know. I feel like I should be a pharmacist.
In ‘Party Police’ you sing “We could find comfort in debauchery.” What is your idea of debauchery?
It’s sort of a glutinous term, but it’s more being lost in happiness. I was thinking more of a ‘love drunk’ where you’re oblivious to your surroundings. But also very drunk.
Best of the rest
Bury Our Friends (Sub Pop)
Surprise! Sleater-Kinney are really, properly back. There’s even a world tour and everything.
‘Bury Our Friends’ was first snuck into the world as a mystery seven-inch included in the alt-rock trio’s recent retrospective box set, Start Together. It’s since been released for free download and confirmed as the lead single from a brand new 10-track studio album called No Cities to Love. This was produced by longtime collaborator John Goodmanson and will be the band’s first album in a decade since 2005’s The Woods.
So those are the Sleater-Kinney reformation facts. Have Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss come good again?
In short: yes. In a Portlandia GIF:
If you still haven’t listened to the damned thing, it’s a reassuringly shouty stomp along with one hell of a squalid guitar lick. “Exhume our idols. Bury our friends,” commands Tucker. “We're wild and weary but we won't give in.”
In n Out (Memphis Industries)
It’s about time Dutch Uncles had their crack at the indie big time, and what better way to engineer this than an unashamedly literal sex jam. ‘In n Out’ is exactly what you’d take it for, so we’re completely onboard with the Marple quintet’s resurgent thirst for filth.
The first taste from O Shudder, due February 2015, is a streamlined version of last year’s ‘Bellio’ and ‘Flexxin’ that expertly writhes in time to lusty throbs of bass and synth. We’d say it’s a surprisingly perverse turn from the band, but we’ve seen frontman Duncan Wallis thrust his hips on stage. This one was a long time coming.
Heat Of The Moment (OVO)
Awards ceremony host and lint rolling supremo Drake put out three new songs at the weekend. Obviously, the sad one is the best one.
Playlist: Best of 2014... so far
Also released this week
Archean Soundtrack - Apex (Ditto Music) Attaque - Future Earth (Bad Life) DZ Deathrays - Gina Works At Hearts (I OH YOU) Earth Experiment - People (It’s Time To Change) (Phonogreen Music) Flight Brigade - Sirens (self-released) Gengahr - Powder (Transgressive) Goldie Thorn - Down Town Time (Cabana Records) How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart? (Weird World) Lily & Madeleine - Rabbit (Asthmatic Kitty Records) Secret Motorbikes - Missing (New Year Records) The Starkins - The Night (self-released) The Ting Tings - Do It Again (PIAS)