Nils Edenloff, Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt make up the Canadian band The Rural Alberta Advantage. We had a chance to sit down and chat with them on the eve of their sold out show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City (you can read about that show here). It’s clear that they are a family and talking with them gave great insight into their journey from an open mic night in Toronto to their current tour.
How was this record different from Hometowns and Departing and what was the recording process like?
Nils: I think with this record we definitely tried to do our best to achieve some of the aspects of the live show. We are all definitely happy with the first two records but sometimes we would be talking to people after the show and even looking at the shows ourselves, and I don’t think those records achieved some of the sonic qualities of our live show. That was definitely something we wanted to focus on this time so that’s why we brought in our front of house guy, Matthew Lederman, he helped produce the record and tweaked some of the songs to get some of the sounds that maybe we hadn’t explored on the previous two records. He has been touring with us for 3 years so I think he has heard some of our stuff more than we have to a certain degree. That was definitely something we wanted to do, get a more collaborative effort going into it, and have a better sense of the what the songs were before we actually got into the studio. It was more tweaking the performances than fleshing out the parts, those were the main things we focused on.
Parker: You touched on this but the record really did a good job of capturing your live sound, can you elaborate anymore on the process of having Matt involved in the recording process?
N: Definitely, that was exactly what we wanted. It was funny because when we first started talking with Matt and the first day we went into the studio, we said sometimes we hear our songs on the radio in Toronto and they sound tiny in comparison to other bands so we wanted to make them sound bigger. When we were recording Departing and Hometowns we weren’t recording with some of the live equipment we have now. We would always have low bass-end tones and with Departing we were playing bigger rooms so Amy started playing bass parts with her foot pedals, with her Taurus, and I think that got incorporated more into the writing and recording. Those sorts of sonic aspects were maybe an afterthought before when we were writing stuff and we really focused on them with this record.
Amy: Yea, I just want to mention our other producer, Leon Taheny, we went to his studio, it’s called Candle in Toronto, and he’s incredible. He has such a great vision in terms of sounds and what it takes to make a song sound exciting and explode. I couldn’t believe the stuff he could do while we still had Matt there to help us achieve the live feel. I think having them come together was great way to make the record still sound like us, but bigger than it ever has.
Parker: Do you each have a favorite song off the new record?
Paul: “On the Rocks,” it does the best job of capturing a lot of the different things we do all in one song. There are quiet moments and these really big moments and a lot of emotion. I like it the most in terms of reflecting who we really are as a band.
A: “Not Love or Death” for kind of the same reasons, I feel like that song captures a lot of who we are and I love it a lot.
N: Mine would be “To Be Scared” because it has more of the intimate qualities and folksy roots that are kind of the heart of the record. It has a vulnerability to it and sometimes I think we kind of shy away from those moments because it’s fun playing bigger songs like “On the Rocks.” It’s good that we are feeling more comfortable playing those quiet songs now and we’re broadening our range with this record and the songs we are performing live.
A: My favorite show so far has probably been San Diego because we have never played there before. We walk into this tiny bar and it was such a weird feeling to be somewhere so unfamiliar, and I’m thinking “Are people going to show up tonight? I don’t know” and then it was amazing. The crowd that was right up in our faces and they all knew the words and were singing for the entire show, it was unbelievable just to go to a town that we have never been to not expecting anything and get that kind of response. Anytime we go somewhere new and people show up and they know all the words it sticks with you and that was something special to me for that reason.
P: We had a pretty fun Halloween in the middle of Utah (laughing), we went to a bar called Toadz with a “z” and it was a unique experience.
N: I think we spent a full hour on an arcade game that night, you know one of those punching games with the punching bag that falls down. I swear to God there was about an hour of just punching that went down.
P: I bought a round of shots and several beers for 12 people and it was $30.
N: It was Utah, they were half beers.
P: That was an interesting night.
Parker: Did you guys dress up?
P: I was the rapper Stitches, just Google him (laughing).
A: I was a sexy Finn from Adventure Time.
N: I was a banana.
Parker: This is from a previous interview but I read some comments on the theme of this record being the idea that when something is broken and its going through that repair process, that it’s important to take pride in the repair process rather than hiding it as a blemish. Can you touch on a point in the band’s history where things were difficult and now you look back on it and are glad you went through it?
N: I was about to say that, with every song there is a certain amount of deconstructing it and blowing it up to create something that has character and uniqueness, that is better than it once was before. Something we always prided ourselves on is the feeling that a song is never done until we feel really happy with it and in that sense if we’d been struggling with songs we never completely scrapped them. Aspects were reincorporated to the song but we don’t start over. “On the Rocks” was a guitar song before, “45/33” was a keyboard song for a bit, “Vulcan, AB” was a guitar song, if something’s not working we do our best to try to find the merits in them and rework them until we are happy. There are always things we are struggling with and we are trying to rejigger them and incorporate them into the song. That being said, being in a band is like having family, as much as you love them there are always things that you fight over and fight for because you are passionate about them. We are always butting heads in the best way possible because we always feel passionately about the songs in question.
Parker: Last question, is there a question that has never been asked to you in an interview but you have always wanted to answer?
N: (Laughing) Oh man!
P: It’s the second part that makes it difficult. There are a lot of questions we have never been asked. I have a question though.
N: Uh oh, you were looking straight at me when you said that.
P: What is a rough and tumble suburb? What is that? It sounds weird.
N: You’ve always wanted that question to be answered so answer it.
P: I’ve always wondered what it meant. So off the last record it comes up a couple times, and we used to have a song that was called Rough and Tumble.
N: It never was, they (the record company) just decided to call it that because they didn’t have a name for it. I had a name for it, they just called it that.
P: Ohhh and it ended up becoming “Good Night,” What does that mean?
N: It’s got a good visual draw. With lots of thoughts I have the image they evoke is kind of nonsensical but with “rough and tumble” it’s like being young and not knowing what you are doing. You’re fumbling around and you’re just young and learning.
P: I kind of switched that into a question that I wanted answered
N: Ok, my question is what is your favorite aspect of Nils, Paul?
N: Or what is your least favorite aspect?
P: Weirdly enough they might be the same thing…
Interview done and written by Parker Hooper
OurVinyl | Contributor