Alvvays on “Antisocialites”

More Songs About Parties and Punks

Sep 05, 2017 Photography by Arden Wray Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear
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The Undertones sang "it's not so easy knowing we'll be heard" and "a lot less time, but a lot more care" on "More Songs About Chocolate and Girls," the opening track of their second album, 1980's Hypnotised. They were talking about the difference between writing and recording 1979's self-titled debut as opposed to their sophomore album. When asked if this was also the case when writing and recording Antisocialites, the sophomore album by Toronto five-piece Alvvays, frontwoman Molly Rankin says she prefers the band's current situation.

"When we made our first record, you do have that luxury of no one caring, but it's also a problem," she says. "We didn't have very much support. I think I had two jobs, maybe a third job, when we were recording and mastering that record. With this record, we have three labels, the Canadian privilege of being eligible of government funding."

The increased resources helped Alvvays better attain the production quality they were aiming for this time around. "On the first record, we hit the tape too hard and there's a lot of digital distortion," explains Rankin. "Thus, it sounds like you're listening to our band through a pillow and this one is a little more clear and the veil has been slightly lifted. I still like vocal effects and they're fun to play with, but I'm less self-conscious about bearing my voice."

One of the themes of Antisocialites, especially pertinent for an indie band gaining popularity, is the difference between their roots and their pop aspirations. This is evident on "Plimsoll Punks," which was inspired by Rankin's love of the Television Personalities classic "Part Time Punks." "In a way, there's a lot of focus on authenticity in music sometimes and having the freedom to grow and reinvent yourself is part of the freedom to grow as a musician or any kind of artist," she says. "I'm just intrigued by the idea of punk and what people define it as. I think it's a really tired way of validating something depending on how people voice their opinions. I just really like to write pop songs and I don't really care what genre that is."

Her background factors into this as well. Rankin grew up on an island on the very eastern tip of Nova Scotia. "I feel like coming from Cape Breton, I only listened to fiddle and Celtic music and whatever was on the radio and I've gone through a lot of stages of growth and change. I'm making the music I'm making now, but that might change in five years."

The band toured behind their debut for several years, delaying the writing and recording of their sophomore album, but Rankin says there were other factors drawing out the process too. "I'm not the most prolific writer," she admits. "I don't really force it, but we did tour for too long on that record and we could've toured longer. No one will tell you to stop touring. You just have to start refusing to do shows so you'll have time to make something new and we kind of learned that the hard way. It also takes us a long time to record. We're quite particular. It may not sound that way, but it takes a lot of time for us to get to the point where we're comfortable with how it sounds."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Summer 2017 Issue (July/August/September 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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