As the Rural Alberta Advantage travel the highway between Vancouver and Seattle, they can’t help but be amazed at how their lives have turned out. “It’s so surreal,” says keyboardist Amy Cole on the phone from a stretch of B.C. road. “This time last year no one would have predicted that we’d be on a month long tour outside of Ontario.”
It’s true, a lot has happened for this infectious Toronto-based indie rock act since they self-released their debut, Hometowns, early last year. For months the disc went relatively unnoticed, but in November 2008 online music store eMusic featured them as their artist of the month. Soon enough the buzz grew and in May it was announced that the band had singed to Bright Eyes’ label Saddle Creek — the label re-released their album on July 7.
While the trio is thrilled with the attention, they admit that it’s been an overwhelming few months.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” says singer Nils Edenloff, who originally hails from Edmonton. “There is a lot of pressure having come this far and playing for people we never would have gotten a change to play for.”
“But we’re getting a lot of attention right now that not a lot of bands get, so we want to maximize the advantages,” adds Cole.
Fortunately, the RAA should have nothing to worry about. The group’s record is a brilliant collection of contagious indie hooks mixed with rollicking roots, and drummer Paul Banwatt is a monster on the skins. Not only is it incredibly catchy, but the subject matter, which is mostly about Edenloff’s affection for Alberta, is easily relatable to anyone who’s moved from where they grew up to somewhere new.
“We never set out to start an Alberta band and write songs about Alberta,” he says. “But I found myself writing more and more about the province because that’s just what I know, about things that were personal and close.”
Still, playing songs about Alberta sure helps when you actually play the province. Edenloff says that his recent hometown gig “went better than I ever could have hoped for.”
“When we play other places people say, ‘I don’t know Alberta, but I identify with the songs,’” he continues. “When we played Alberta, people said, ‘I understand these songs and they really speak to me.’”
But while most audiences are hearing these songs for the first time, the RAA have been playing them for well over a year. Surprisingly, they haven’t tired of their tunes yet.
“It’s like we’re playing them for the first time when we play for people who haven’t heard them,” says Cole. “That being said we’re trying to work on new material on the road, so when we’re eventually back home we’ll have some material all ready to polish.”