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The Lamb

Alvvays Interview

Nov 05, 2017


We interviewed Singer Molly Rankin and guitarist Alec O’Hanley from Alvvays before their show at First Avenue on November 2. Read the full interview below!

How did moving to Toronto change your perspective on the band or what the band could be?

Molly: When I made the first EP it was sort of just me throwing things against the wall and kind of genre hopping. Then when we went to Calgary and made the first record. We then discovered we were more of a band thing than a solo thing. Toronto certainly opened doors as far as not having to drive 17 hours to play a show. So that’s pretty much all it’s done is just made us more central.

You’ve performed and released several songs that aren’t included on the new record, Antisocialites. Are you playing new songs on this tour?

Alec: We had 3 or 4 b-sides that we mixed and mastered. They came out in various tertiary market releases. There’s a song called “Pecking Order” that was on a Japanese release. Kind of a jangly ode to R.E.M. or something equivalent. There are other cans that we kick farther down the road if we don’t get documentation correct, then we’re apt just file it away and revisit it at a later time.

What is the value, in your opinion, of road testing songs before recording them?

Molly: I think that’s it’s good to work on new things and try them out just to keep everyone excited. Another part of why we’re playing new songs is that we’ve toured the United States a few times and Canada. We’ve made a few laps and you just don’t want to play the same set every time you come to a city. We were asked to play all of these substantial festival slots with like a thirty to thirty-four minute record. You can’t really get away with that.

Alec: It was sheer necessity. If a big festival booker is asking for a fifty minute set and your record is only half an hour long. Covers will only get you so far.

The writing process for this record began a few years ago. Was the recording process also kind of sporadic?

Molly: We don’t spend months in a studio. I think over the years we’ve collected enough things to be able to do substantial overdubbing in our basement. We did two weeks in Los Angeles. We got most of the skeletal parts of the songs and realized that we still had quite a bit more to do to make the songs sing.

Alec: It’s difficult going into a brand new room with a brand new person behind the brand new board you’ve never used. Gauging whether or not it’s the sound that’s in your brain. It’s often not until we get home that we realize what we have to work on exactly. It’s an expensive way to learn how to engineer, but that is often what we end up doing and we ended up mixing a good chunk of this record ourselves. We like to take the time to get things right. I don’t think there’s shame in that. There’s a lot of bands that we really revere, like The Feelies for instance, who are notoriously particular. So we think of ourselves in that camp.

Molly: And we didn’t really have anybody breathing down our necks either, which helps.

Is the overdubbing process something that you’ve always done?

Alec: A little bit. Definitely more extensive on this new record. We probably tracked probably at least a third of the record in our basement or in studios in Toronto. On the first record we may have overdubbed a couple guitar lines and a synth or something. We did all the vocals in Toronto. We did learn how to surgically mix on our last record, because the dude who we recorded with dumped it from tape to computer too hot and it had all of this unflattering clipping going on, so we had to make some hard decisions, but our record ended up sounding a certain way as a result and we were lucky that people responded to that.

Considering the success of the first record, did you feel like Antisocialites had to sound a specific way?

Alec: We had found our sound, more or less. I thought so, anyway. We’re not prone to diminishing our earlier work in order prop up our current effort. We wanted the new record to sound basically like a sibling to the first record. We didn’t want to fix something that wasn’t broken in terms of writing. Writing was a bit of a different process; we did experiment more.

Molly: Yeah, when you make your first record you’ve had the songs forever. You’ve had your whole life to make your first record. Whereas, you have two years to make your second. And if you’re touring, in some cases, then like two months. I like that they can sit side by side with one another. Fidelity’s changed; part of what I feel like closed doors for us on the first record was not necessarily as prevalent on this one.

Alec: We kind of pulled back the veil slightly. For Antisocialites, Molly wrote a third of the record in a week and a half out in an old schoolhouse on Toronto Island. And that retreat approach wasn’t something we’d tried before so that’s something we may revisit.

Is there anyone or anything that’s been inspiring you lately?

Molly: I’ve always been inspired by outside. We haven’t necessarily been outside all that much within the last five weeks. But for me the weather and the sky and the ocean is my main inspiration. Listening to a new band you’ve never heard before do something interesting is always exciting.

Alec: There’s a new band Omni who we met in Seattle.

Molly: They’re playing here! I saw their poster outside.

Alec: They’re from Atlanta, their first record and their new record sound great. The new Parquet Courts record with Daniele Luppi and John Maus and the Ariel Pink records sound really nice too. Those are the wells we go back to again and again. And Jay Som and Nap Eyes. The people that we tour with. We were so humbled that Jay Som wanted to come out and play with us. So they would be a source of inspiration too.