Toronto's indie-pop hopefuls Alvvays are onstage at Visions, performing to a packed crowd at Oval Space. The lights go up, the guitars come on, and...
The sound goes out. The band’s kit – purchased in Canada – has flooded the circuits, blowing the stage.
“We do it every time we come here,” laughs singer Molly Rankin. “At least three times now!”
“We have this nice Indian fellow back in Canada,” adds guitarist Alec O’Hanley. “He assures me that the converters are fine. Sure enough, we blow up the stage again.”
It’s this vein of self-deprecating humour, of refusing to take themselves seriously, which makes Alvvays such a joy. The band’s debut album (review) is packed with joyous melodies, rhythmic about-turns and whimsical asides, a bracing blast of energy which arrives coated in maple syrup.
“It was going to be a pop-art project with an emphasis on the pop,” explains Molly. “We don’t really know how to do pastiches that well. We knew it was going to be in the jangle-zone, more or less. Pop’s definitely our comfort zone.”
In terms of influences, Alvvays readily cite Scotland’s indie-pop linage. “We love The Vaselines,” enthuses Alec. “Love those Scottish bands like Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub, obviously. ‘Bandwagonesque’ is probably our number one.”
As a curious aside, the band’s Celtic connections extend still further: Molly is a scion of the renowned Rankin Family, one of the biggest names in Canadian folk rock. “I also have this… like, really natural country twang,” she admits. “I think Alec was like: 'Why do you sing in a country twang?' So then it sort of fizzled out. That was like a way out of doing it.”
Recorded with Chad VanGaalen, the band’s debut album seems to have been a joyous process. “He’s got a skateboard half-pipe underneath his studio in his backyard. He was pretty cool to work with – a definite bro,” Alec explains. “But studios are tricky. We record in the basement as much as we can, to have something to fall back on.”
In true music industry style, the group’s big break came at SXSW. “I felt really bitter about the whole showcase thing – like, you drive for two days and then you play all this sponsored shit,” admits Molly. “It feels like nothing comes to fruition.”
“Somehow, this year, something really great happened. There were only about eight people at our shows but each person seemed to do something for us,” she continues. “They looked like excavator operators but they were all record company executives! It’s insane. The whole thing is hilarious. We’re such slobs!”
With their dry wit and warm demeanour, it’s clear that Alvvays isn’t some cooler-than-thou Williamsburg project. The band members present themselves with a refreshing honesty which is hugely engaging. “I think it’s just gut instinct,” explains Molly. “There’s no sense in humouring yourself, or indulging yourself, you just have to be objective. That applies to the studio, to everything you put forth visually.”
“Objectivity. Without being scientific about all this,” adds Alec. “It does pay off to turn the microscope on yourself.”
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WHAT: Gorgeous, almost ludicrously infectious indie-pop
GET 3 SONGS: 'Archie, Marry Me', 'Next Of Kin', 'Red Planet'
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Alvvays' self-titled debut album is out now via Transgressive.