The Rural Alberta Advantage: “We’re bringing bar band energy wherever we’re playing.” (3/27 at The Foundry)

“I think we’re a bar band and we always kinda will be.  We’re bringing bar band energy wherever we’re playing,” says Paul Banwatt, drummer for Canadian indie rock outfit...

“I think we’re a bar band and we always kinda will be.  We’re bringing bar band energy wherever we’re playing,” says Paul Banwatt, drummer for Canadian indie rock outfit The Rural Alberta Advantage in a recent phone chat (During an interview last year, vocalist/guitarist Nils Edenloff echoed an alarmingly similar sentiment: “We thrive as a grubby bar band!  That’s where we feel most at home!”)  And while the band’s last two stops in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection (where Banwatt has family and regularly enjoys Philly cheesesteaks, despite the fact that he stopped eating red meat 15 years ago: “I have one exception in the entire universe, and it’s Philly cheesesteaks!”) had them at Boot & Saddle and Johnny Brenda’s (“That last show at Johnny Brenda’s was the highlight of our last tour,” Banwatt admits.), their March 27th show will have them playing The Foundry, their biggest area show since their last stop at The Church in 2014 (which introduced us to July Talk, who opened the show).

The Rural Alberta Advantage have been touring the states since early February and, according to Banwatt, it’s been going really well: “Honestly, it’s been amazing.  Audiences have really been coming out, which is great, and every city we’ve been to has been really, really fun.”  The dates are in support of The Rise & The Fall, their fifth full-length, which dropped last October on Saddle Creek (but whose first six tracks can be found on The Rise EP, which has been out since March of 2022).  Banwatt tells me that fans have been loving the new album, which he says he suspects has at least something to do with the return of co-founding member Amy Cole, who left the band in 2016, prior to 2017’s fourth full-length, The Wild, but returned in early 2018: “The response has been really heartwarming, and it’s not surprising, because we had Amy back for this record, and she brings a lot to the table in terms of our sound and the way we perform it.”

This January The Rural Alberta Advantage released a live music video for “FSHG,” the final track on The Rise & The Fall, which was recorded live off the floor at All Day Coconut in Toronto in April of 2023 and largely captured on the band’s phones.  “Nils has been playing around with the melody of that song for a really long time, but it all came together in the songwriting,” Banwatt tells me of the track, before going on to explain, “A lot of our songs start like that, like folky campfire songs.  Every song we have is rooted in an acoustic folk song.”  And he suggests that this process more or less dates back to the band’s 2008 debut, Hometowns: “I think our sound evolves more than it changes.  What excites us keeps shifting and evolving over time…  I wanna say our songwriting is getting better and more deliberate, though.”

And the band have always had a knack for bringing back fan favorites for their current set, regardless of the new music they’re touring.  “I love when I go to a show and a band plays across their catalogue.  I always hate it when they play like the whole new record and then maybe one older song.  So, we try to keep a nice mix, a good dose of every record,” explains Banwatt.  He also suggests that longtime fans might be able to expect a few surprises at The Foundry: “We’ve got five albums now, which gives us more freedom in terms of putting a setlist together.  And we’re trying to go back and pull in some tunes we haven’t played in a long time after we took requests on Instagram.”  However, he admits that there’s one thing that’s key to every performance from The Rural Alberta Advantage: “There’s kind of a common thread: We like to keep them high energy.  Like, we could never have more than two slow songs in a row [laughs], we’re like, ‘Let’s get back to the rock!’”

This current batch of dates wraps a few nights after the band’s stop at The Foundry, and Banwatt admits that there might be some more shows in the near future (“Maybe playing some festivals this summer, and maybe get out there and play this record another time.”), but tells me that they’re quite anxious to get back to work on new music: “We’re gonna start writing again.  We take a long time with that, if people can’t already tell [laughs], so we want to get that process started as soon as possible.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.