Alvvays

Jangle All the Way

Dec 03, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J
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"I don't really have any fear of using the P-word," declares Molly Rankin, vocalist for Toronto-based quintet Alvvays. Over the past few years, the band has grown accustomed to being described as a "jangle-pop" act, but rather than swat away the descriptors, Rankin openly embraces them. "I don't really know when 'pop' became badmaybe in the '90s or something, when people were like, 'No more dancing, just swaying!'"

Alvvays makes music for both the dancers and the swayers, and pop is just one of the band's many savvy tools. Rankin first channeled her love of bands such as Oasis and The Magnetic Fields into a self-taught endeavor when she picked up a guitar in the tenth grade. Years later, she would meet and team up with guitarist Alec O'Hanley to carry Rankin's folk outlines into a full-fledged band effort. "Alec was really like the Phil Spector of the situation," she says. "I'll present my idea and hook and he'll just go, 'Okay, cut this, paste this.'"

In the early years, Alvvays was considered Rankin's project. While they originally recorded under her name, the band made the pertinent decision to conceive a moniker of their own during their trip to folktronica veteran Chad VanGaalen's Yoko Eno studio in Calgary, Alberta last year. "If you go under your name, you're subject to a lot of singer/songwriter connotations that you don't necessarily want," Rankin explains. "Chad was like, 'You guys are like a band now, it's not a Molly thing anymore,' and I thought he was very right."

For those wondering, the abnormal spelling was indeed a subsequent alteration because, as Rankin points out, the association to, "you know, the feminine product of the same name." The correlation never reached the famous brand, but Rankin swapped the W for the Vs just in case.

The band, who has now all migrated from their homes in the East Coast to the bustling Toronto music scene, is rounded out with members Brian Murphy, Phil MacIsaac, and Rankin's childhood friend Kerri MacLellan, who together undoubtedly contribute to the band's fuller sound of sun-soaked indie pop.  

VanGaalen's influence on the band goes beyond just an assertion of identity. His "older brother" mentorship also helped Alvvays craft their first self-titled album, released via Polyvinyl. "I had heard the [VanGaalen-produced Women record, Public Strain] and thought it would be cool to work with him, but we obviously sound very different from Women."

"Chad didn't overhaul our sound and make us weird," Rankin says. The songs on Alvvays indeed bear little similarity to the now-disbanded Calgary noise-rockers Women. Instead, the band borrowed desired effects and elements and infused them into their already formed throwback pop foundations, a stomping ground

established by other nostalgic acts such as Camera Obscura and Teenage Fanclub. "I wanted some of Chad's guitar sounds and they're definitely on there, like walls of cascading, distorted reverb guitars, but no droning noises or anything."

After all, Rankin must maintain the music's decisive messages through its strong pop sensibilities. "We weren't going for a huge hit," she continues. "They're just really observational songs about my pretty pathetic humor, effusive words, stream of consciousness stuff." Rankin divulges some more stories about her recording experience before returning once more to the basis of their sound and affirms, "But yes, these are pop songs."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's September/October print issue (Issue 51).]

www.alvvays.com

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