Toronto’s The Rural Alberta Advantage have always held a special place in my heart. They were one of the first acts that I ever properly “covered” as a “music critic” and I still have the self-released DIY edition of their debut LP, Hometowns… in addition to the “official” version re-released by Saddle Creek. I first characterized them as, “a poetically hungover Pixies.” They’ve been together for nearly a decade and established a reputation for churning out what could-be folk or roots rock, transformed into chaotic and rambunctious indie pop… all while keeping existential turmoil at the heart of their lyricism and inspiration.
The Rural Alberta Advantage, or RAA, are comprised of singer/songwriter Nils Edenloff, percussionist Paul Banwatt, and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole. Since the release of their first LP in 2008 they released a follow-up, Departing, in 2011, and this September saw the release of their third LP, Mended With Gold. The album sees the band continuing to explore their roots-rock-based indie pop sounds that are both anthemic, yet very chaotically punk in execution. The album also has the band taking their collaboration process to a new level. I recently got a chance to chat with Paul Banwatt, who tells me that while he feels as though the sound of the album is still very much classic RAA, that the process behind creating these songs is an evolution of sorts.
“It’s definitely still us. I wouldn’t say it’s a giant departure, but it’s also a step forward. I’ve always felt like our albums didn’t sound as big as our live show and people would tell us that, but I think we did that with this record. It was probably our most collaborative effort. We always all contributed but, for this one, we really came together and all had input on everything everyone was doing.”
The Rural Alberta Advantage are currently on the road and will be playing The First Unitarian Church next Wednesday, November 12th. The band has become known for their shows, which have been critically characterized as some of the most impressive live experiences of the 21st century, and Paul tells me that after a substantial break from touring that they’re certainly taking a more calculated approach to their shows, but that you can expect all of the excitement that has gained them their reputation.
“We’ve never done anything like this before. We set aside a couple months to just get our live show ready to go because we want it to be a really good show and it really does feel great that people even remember us after three years, which it has been since the last time we’ve really toured. And it’s funny because we play an hour set, but it’s twenty songs in that hour. We’ll probably push the new album a bit, but we like to mix it up and play a bit of everything.”
Despite hailing from Canada, The Rural Alberta Advantage have a fairly prominent history in The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, playing exceptionally memorable, high-energy shows at Kung Fu Necktie in 2009 and 2010, and the best DIY basement show of 2011 at the Church, so I ask Paul his thoughts on Philthy and he tells me that not only have they enjoyed playing shows in the 215, but that the city has a personal connection for him, which makes visits all that much more special: “Philadelphia is one of my favorite places. I have a bunch of family there, so Philly is one of my favorite places to play because I get to play in front of my family. And also, I don’t eat beef anymore, but I have one exception and that’s a Philly cheesesteak, a real one, and it’s funny because since I don’t eat beef, I take it really hard, but it’s so worth it.”