Canadian Musician - January/February 2023 - Page 34

Break-Ins , Floods & Revelations Alvvays ’ Bumpy Road to Making Their Latest Masterpiece By Kevin Young


In titling their newest release Blue Rev , Alvvays singer / primary songwriter Molly Rankin has said that it was a nod to something she ( and likely keyboardist Kerri MacLellan and guitarist Alec O ’ Hanley ), used to drink as a teenager – a kind of combo depressant / stimulant that tended to get hauled around in backpacks as road pops for hockey games , graveyard hangs , and dances .

For those unfamiliar with Blue Rev the drink , it ’ s a blue , vodka-based , early 2000s-era , ‘ club-tested ’ beverage containing Guarano – a South American plant sometimes referred to as “ herbal speed .” Likely , it was an acquired taste , but for Rankin , it ’ s a touchstone , a tangible reminder of growing up in Judique , NS , the kind of thing that ’ s so specific to a time and place that the name alone sets a vivid parade of emotions and , assumingly , fond memories in motion .
There are , however , some things about the lead-up to recording Blue Rev – some bumps along the way – that the band recalls less
fondly ; notably the theft of a large amount of the early recordings and demos they ’ d made for the album , which , naturally , we took up with Rankin and O ’ Hanley , shortly after Alvvays returned to Toronto following a U . S . tour in late November 2022 .
“ We ’ ve been in the U . S . for the entirety of fall ,” Rankin says . “ It ’ s been great ; the shows have been well-attended , and we ’ ve avoided any cold weather , so it seemed like an extended summer .” With a run in South America beginning roughly a week after we spoke , it ’ s fair to say that has continued .
It ’ s been five years since the release of Alvvay ’ s sophomore effort , Antisocialites . When the band went to L . A . to start a new record with Calgary-born producer Shawn Everett ( Kacey Musgraves , The War on Drugs ), they took a new approach to capture the foundations of Blue Rev .
Before getting into the process and their views on how the “ bumps in the way ” impacted the result , however , it ’ s worth taking a look back at how Rankin and the band first caught the attention of the music industry – partly because it ’ s a good story , and partly because it speaks to just how undeniably compelling and dedicated they ’ ve been from the start and how important it is to take a chance on getting your music into the right hands whenever it presents itself .
Rankin did just that in 2010 , with a solo record entitled She – a project O ’ Hanley helped with , and that ignited the interest of Hollerado frontman / Royal Mountain Records Founder Menno Versteeg .
In a recent interview with CM ’ s Editor-in-Chief , Michael Raine , Versteeg recalled Rankin giving him a demo the day after a Hollerado gig on PEI . The band returned to the venue in the morning because they ’ d been offered a free breakfast . Their waitress ( Rankin ) gave them a demo . “ We left . We put it in , and usually , the demos we listened to were so bad they go out the window or in the garbage at the next gas station ,” Versteeg says , “ but this one was amazing .”