As by now it is impossible for you to not know, Cleveland Bachelor, along with our good pals at Music Saves, is promoting the upcoming Rural Alberta Advantage show as our January Show of the Month. Like usual, I’ve been trying to bring you a little bit about the bands that’ll be appearing onstage and, luckily for me (and for you, too, by the way), The RAA frontman Nils Edenloff took some time to talk with me the night before he left his Toronto home base for some shows in the Philly/NYC/Jersey area. Over the course of the conversation we talked about the band’s album, Hometowns, how the band plans to start the decade, the genesis of that nifty band name and more. Check it out.
1) What have you been listening to lately? Any different from what influenced you on Hometowns?
Recently – like in the last year – I’ve really been listening to The Antlers. Hospice is such a good album, one of those albums where you hear this beauty to it and then, when you listen deeper, you hear this tremendous sadness. Other than The Antlers, I’ve also listened to a lot of folks doing the singer-songwriter thing, mostly music where the melody is pushed to the front, where the melody is what you are listening to. I always have a soft spot for that kind of music, and I think the music in Hometowns and everything I write going forward will always start in a way that can eventually be stripped down to its open mic element.
2) What’s the plan for 2010?
We are doing some touring in January, which ends in Cleveland, and then in February, we are touring across Canada. The tour actually ends in Victoria, but during that we actually play the Olympics in Vancouver, a big cultural Olympiad we are involved in. You know, we’ve being training hard for 4 years. Ha ha.
After that, we’ll do some more touring. We’ve also been writing, and have about 7 songs we’ve been testing on the road. We hope to get back in the studio and put something out late this year or next year. We are really looking forward to getting new stuff out there.
3) One of the things I often wonder about is how a band’s community shaped their development. How has your scene, such as it may be, influenced your art?
The biggest thing with Toronto scene is it is very encouraging. Everyone is really helpful to everyone else. And there are so many different places to play, you don’t need to know everything that is going on. I remember the first time we played out, we played with a band we didn’t know and had never heard of, and they were the same way about us. We talked to them a lot that night and learned they played places we didn’t play, they were friends with other bands we didn’t know and they didn’t know the bands we knew, but we were all doing the same thing. I figured then that there had to be a way to bring everything together, but with so many venues, there is really a lot of room for a lot of bands to exist.
4) I think I could burn a few songs off Hometowns and give them to a friend and they’d come away thinking you guys are a pretty serious, straight-forward rock band. Or I could burn a few different ones and they’d find it more dance-oriented. Is the balance something you guys are conscious of and deal with directly?
I think it goes to the fact that we all come from different places. We are all really over the map. I mean, we are all friends but musically very diverse. Which ends up being really good. I remember being younger and thinking, if I can make an album, I want it to be like a favorite mix tape. Hometowns has that element where it is all over the place, but there is a commonality that makes it all makes sense, with a beginning and an end with an arc to it, just like what a person is doing when they are seriously making a mix tape. I don’t know if it was intentional going in, or something that just sort of happened, but it ended up being what I always wanted.
5) If the God of Rock came to you and said that for your birthday, The Rural Alberta Advantage could headline its dream bill, who would be on it?
You know, the funny thing is, we got a question like this once before, and because we are so diverse, it would up sounding like the most haphazard show ever.
I think I’d personally have to go with bands and musicians I never got a chance to see. I’d definitely include late 60s/early 70s Leonard Cohen. I’d jump at the chance to see him now, but to see him back then would be something. Neutral Milk Hotel is another band I never had a chance to see, but are pretty awesome. Sufjan Stevens put on a really great show I saw once, it was really beautiful and amazing. He’d have to be on there. I’ve not had a chance to see The Flaming Lips yet – I definitely want to see that some day. The last time they played Toronto, I couldn’t go. We were actually playing a show that night, one that marked a really positive step forward for the band, so it was bittersweet. It was a good night for the band, but it would’ve been cool to see.
Also, Gordon Downie, the lead singer for The Tragically Hip, has put out a couple solo records, and I really really would love to see him do some solo stuff live once. I think those albums are the most beautiful Canadian music I’ve heard.
6) You’ve been doing a fair amount of touring lately. What is the band’s favorite song(s) to play live right now?
It’s weird. It will always change from city to city and show to show, and it depends on the audience reaction. In some cities, some people just freak out for something that in another city doesn’t generate as much excitement. I personally always enjoy playing “Edmonton,” but sometimes we get people freaking out when we play “In the Summertime” or “Luciana.” It always seems to surprise us when a certain songs goes over well, more so than anything going over bad. A lot of times, people will sing along, but usually it is to the quiet songs, which can actually really make it challenging for us on stage. The first time we got that feeling when people sing along to the songs and it really turned us on was the first time we were playing in Alberta and it felt like there was a deep sense of pride and belief in the songs, rather than just people digging a song. I grew up outside Alberta, and while I’d played in a band in high school, we just played basements. This was the first time I’d played the city with The Rural Alberta Advantage, and to come together for the first time in that city, despite being together for four years already, was really an incredible experience. And then to hear the people in the audience love our songs, that was just great.
7) That reminds me. I’m sure I can find this on google somewhere, but where did the band get its name, The Rural Alberta Advantage?
The name is actually based off an old Alberta provincial slogan, “The Alberta Advantage.” It is now defunct, but was ever-present when I was growing up. We were always hearing about the economic opportunities of Alberta, which mostly revolved around the oil sands industry. After I moved to Toronto, I got an email from brother one day about how he was hanging out on our farm, enjoying the “rural Alberta advantage” and in one moment it totally changed my memory of the phrase. It became a flashback to memories of quieter and more beautiful places in the province and to the fond memories I had growing up there. And, I think it is appropriate, because the music reflects those memories.
8) Do you have any memorable Cleveland experiences you can share?
Last time, everyone was really nice to us and it was a really good experience. Actually, we had kind of had a rough time because we played previous night in Bloomington Indiana and accidentally left our keyboard there. We were kind of rattled, though after a while we found a replacement. But then we realized that wouldn’t work out, so we ended up borrowing one, from the opening band, I think. It was really stressful and, really, a big deal. When you have three people in a band and one is missing an instrument, that’s like 30% of the band down. This time, we are looking forward to a different experience. I hope it will be much less nerve-wracking this time.
To meet Nils and the rest of his Rural Alberta Advantage bandmates, be sure to hit the Beachland on Sunday night. Doors open at 8, and opening acts The Octagon and The Buried Wires do their thing beginning at 8:30. Tickets are $10 at the door, but can be purchased through Saturday at Music Saves for $8, which also comes free with some band swag.