Herald’s Q&A: Rural Alberta Advantage

Acclaimed Canadian indie rockers The Rural Alberta Advantage return to Newfoundland on October 20th. We caught up with frontman Nils Edenloff for our latest Q&A


It took you guys quite a long while to finally make it out here to Newfoundland and Labrador. Your first appearance here was 2015, a full seven years after the release of your debut record. 

We were super happy to make it happen finally. It’s unfair with what happens to the east coast in that it’s so hard to get out there, especially Newfoundland. You really have to make it an effort. I think we realized that we’re the ones driving the ship here. We had to say look guys, we’re a Canadian band and we want to play in every province and we haven’t played in Newfoundland before. It doesn’t seem right.

You just got to let people know that it is something that you want to happen. I think we’re getting better at feeling it out and saying ‘we want to go back to Newfoundland.’ It was a great time at The Rock House last time. I’m pretty sure both shows were sold out last time. We played two shows on two nights. It’s a great way to start the tour.

 You guys are releasing your fourth studio album The Wild on October 13th. At this stage of the game, has the writing/recording process become second nature?

Yes and no. I always find writing and recording such a tortuous process. I wrap up so much anxiety in it that it’s such a stressful time for me and I don’t see that changing ever. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get comfortable where it’s like oh yeah this song… I feel like I just put so much of myself into it. It’s a great release to have it all wrapped up. I don’t know if that sort of aspect is going to change. I think maybe we’re just a little more comfortable rolling with things as they occur.

It was definitely a learning curve going into the studio with (new member Robin Hatch) The first songs we ever had written and recorded with her were Beacon Hill and White Lights. I was happy with how things turned out. It was a good start to the recording process.

 There’s been a lot of talk of how change, and a lack of control of change, are predominant themes on the record. Do you find that a major theme can dictate the shape of the record? Or do the songs speak for themselves?

It’s more the latter. The songs sort of dictate the flow. It’s one of those things where as I’m working on a song it’s not like it’s ever set up like ‘you know what? Fort McMurray, Beacon Hill, they need a song right now!’ It’s one of those things where I’ve always got things on my mind, as I’m writing it starts out as a free association thing. As I’m honing in it’s like yeah, I’m really feeling or thinking about this a lot. Sometimes it’s obvious what’s on my mind, but that’s where the ideas really gel from I guess.

I think it’s also one of those things where we’ve been doing this awhile, far longer than I ever expected we’d get a chance to do, and we’re getting old too. It’s one of those things where you reach this point and realize how lucky you are and where you are and the changes that you’re making sort of touching people – going out and playing these shows and meeting people. I think those are things that were coming up on the record.

 You lived in Fort McMurray for many years. It’s been said that Beacon Hill is inspired by the tragic wild-fires. I’d imagine a great deal of artistic catharsis came from that tragic event.

Oh yeah 100 per cent. As we were starting off the writing process I remember my mom and step-dad, who were still living up (Fort McMurray) at the time, they were visiting. It was like oh yeah the weather is looking great, we’re going to take the bikes out when we get back home to Fort McMurray and it’s going to be awesome. It’s like a Tuesday night when we’re packing up and I’m looking at my phone and I get all of these alerts of Fort McMurray being evacuated and it just happened out of nowhere.

It was one of those things. It’s one of my hometowns, Edmonton and Fort McMurray are my home. The idea that something from my childhood might not be there, might disappear, it wasn’t something I ever expected I would have to grapple with or prepare for. A city doesn’t go up in smoke, but it just seemed like when this was all unfolding that there was that definite potential. Yeah, it was obviously something where music is a therapeutic thing and it was something on my mind as words were being formed for different songs. It’s where we got Beacon Hill.

With Juno nominations and Polars Prize longlist to your credit is there a certain expectation for critical success?

I think I’d be lying if I said to you that you can completely block that sort of stuff out. Anyone is sensitive to something that they’re creating. That being said I try my best to put myself in the headspace. When we were recording our first record Hometown, at the time we didn’t know what we were doing. No one knew about us. There was nothing left to lose and it was just all risks. It’s harder to do that when you sort of know what you’ve achieved. At the end of the day I think we’re just sort of doing this for ourselves. It seems really selfish, but I like to think with the music that we’re making, if it wasn’t for the band being there, if we didn’t have chances to play in places like Newfoundland that I’d still be pouring my heart out in a different way writing in my bedroom or something.

Music has always been therapy for me for things that I’ve needed to get things off my chest. Those things are nice, acclaim and great reviews and people liking it, but it’s hard to chase something that you don’t really know, something intangible. It’s hard to strive to say oh I’d love to have these awards, but it’s not who we are. If it happens great, but if it happens it’s because we’ve made something we’re really proud of.

 For those checking out your sophomore appearance on the island, what can they expect?

We try our best to make the shows a really emotional experience. That’s who we are ultimately. Our music is very personal and emotional and hopefully someone walks away feeling touched and that’s what we try to do. It’s loud, it’s rocky, primal I guess. Paul is an amazing force to watch on drums.

I don’t know. I’ve always had trouble pegging down our music or what to expect, because we are really an amalgamation of three people coming from very different  perspectives.  I think if you were to write it down it wouldn’t really make sense, all of the backgrounds. Something works, something personal that works between the three of us. I don’t know, an emotional experience, lets say that.

For tickets to The Rural Alberta Advantage on Oct.20th at Club One in St. John’s visit theraa.com or mightypop.ca

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