Interview: Alvvays: “It was like, ‘Why I am writing folk songs?’”

Alvvays: “It was like, ‘Why I am writing folk songs?’”

Molly Rankin’s Alvvays is one giant gamble that shows every sign of paying off.

Despite talking in the early hours of her Toronto morning, the lead singer of indie upstarts Alvvays, Molly Rankin, sounds admirably enthusiastic. It’s more impressive given the band have only just recently returned to their native Canada after a intense jaunt across the pond, with a notable stop at this year’s Great Escape Festival in Brighton. 

Speaking as summer begins - a season in lieu to her band’s debut album - Rankin claims to be “pretty dependent on my surroundings and lighting and the sun and y’know, the state of trees”. The recording process for their forthcoming debut album had the band relocate to Calgary at the “tail end of winter”. She remains good-humoured despite admitting that “it was just a really bleak place to be,” and sardonically laughs when mentioning that they “[stayed] with my brother and he broke his leg the day we got there.”

It wasn’t all portentous doom and gloom in Calgary however, because “Chad [VanGaalen, their producer], escapes all that somehow, and he has his own world - he’s pretty hands off, he basically did the engineering, and would only step in if he thought we were wasting our time on something, or step in if he thought that something should be different, but I think that, rightfully so, he wasn’t really going to interfere structurally.”

As a band, Alvvays immediately followed Rankin’s own forays into a solo career; making what she confessedly called “pop-folk” that was “a little bit singer-songwriter-y”. The transitional process was helped along in part due to her own listening habits. “It became a band because I listen to bands, and I don’t really listen to singer-songwriters. It was like, ‘Why I am writing folk songs? I don’t even…’” 

And despite each of the five-piece being involved in projects in the past, Rankin was nonchalant about the prospect of people potentially seeing her earlier work, “Maybe [I would have been embarrassed] like a year ago or something. I’m trying to have this “life is short” vibe these days”. 

In fact, there’s only one song that she seems to be remotely embarrassed by, and it’s one that she has little control over: “I recorded a song when I was like 18 with my family [country/folk group The Rankin Family] and it’s this hilarious radio song and I haven’t listened to it in a really long time, but if I did, I would probably throw up. It’s somehow this really hilarious success, an airline used it or something… it’s the most successful thing I’ve ever done, but I was 18, and it’s just a heinous song.”

“It was just a really bleak place to be.”

Molly Rankin

Of course, with the power of the Internet, once you put something out there it’s never really gone. “The end of forgetting is the internet… Oh yeah, I know, [Girls creator] Lena Dunham was saying that people are posting old poems that she wrote when she was 15 or something and it’s just like, ‘Uh, alright,’” - it’s hard not to agree that it’s definitely a generational thing, haunted by the fact that we, as Rankin eloquently puts it, “[found] our way through internet etiquette, we were in the midst of all of that development and now we have to watch our parents…‘Fuck! You don’t know how to do anything! You don’t start a conversation underneath someone’s picture!’”

Linking this to her own, forthright lyricism is easy to ascertain, blogging and text speak bundling down into having “no filter… it’s very direct, there’s not a whole lot of literary devices being used to coat anything, it’s just a bit observational”. The lyrics of “Adult Diversion” in particular are strikingly real, and where Rankin sings ‘If I should fall, act as though it never happened’, when in amongst a song about drinking ‘one more cocktail’, the listener cannot help but relate. “I guess there’s the literal meaning of that and then there’s sort of like, if I put myself out there and it doesn’t work out…then let’s say this never went on.” It’s almost as if she describes the spontaneity of both the record and the band itself; so Alvvays is a gamble, and it’s one that looks set to pay off.

Alvvays’ self-titled debut album is out now on Transgressive. They play a DIY Presents gig on 5th August with Gengahr. 

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