Reviews

Hometowns

Author: Kevin Farr
08/25/2009 | Culturebully.com | www.culturebully.com | Feature
It was a little before noon on the West Coast when I placed a call to Nils Edenloff of the Rural Alberta Advantage. "Sorry if we break up a bit, we're crossing the border soon," he said. "We're heading into the Midwest to (continue) hitting all the major U.S. spots."

The Rural Alberta Advantage recently completed their first West Coast tour in support of Hometowns, which was re-released on Saddle Creek Records, and they are now on the first leg of their Midwest tour. The band's ongoing tour schedule can be viewed here.

The band was picked up by Saddle Creek after their SXSW showcase, which Edenloff stated, "I had to have it spelled out for me when they said they we're interested in re-releasing the album. I was like, so, you want to do what? Put out our album?"

In speaking to Edenloff for a few minutes it became easy to identify his sense his honesty and integrity. Furthermore his humility seemed genuine when he discussed his outlook on the band's recent success and their signing to Saddle Creek. "We've all been happily surprised with everything. We've stuck to our roots and focused on our sound. So it's really nice that people take notice. We feel very lucky and fortunate. We didn't have a business plan or strategy or anything."

In today's indie music scene business models (complete with market strategy and web-based 2.0 marketing concepts) have seemingly prevailed as the dominant means of becoming successful. Granted, for a band to succeed they should understand that there is a business behind the scene that allows it to function, yet for some bands the business model has usurped the music in importance. The RAA doesn't seem to suffer from that concept.

According to Edenloff it all started with an open mic night which garnered very little response at the time, but was the catalyst for their current sound. As he put it, "There's luck involved… and like they say if you put enough practice and work into something good will come of it." And since then they have spent a lot time crafting their sound, which is evident if you listen to their album, attend a show, or watch any number of live performances flying around the net. (One such performance is that of a stripped down set in NYC's Central Park.)

Edenloff continued by conveying a sense of harmony and organicness that seems to dominate the band's dynamics, camaraderie, and bond. A great deal of bands fall victim to ego-driven writing, inevitably leading them to the depths of indie rock obscurity, but the RAA seem to understand how important the connection and bond between its members are to their ability to write songs. Perhaps it's that sense of connection to each other that has helped propel them to the forefront of the indie musical landscape recently. Edenloff continued, "We're all friends and we started making music as friends without thinking about making it."

The Rural Alberta Advantage is a return to the formula of focusing on their sound first and writing complete, richly layered, lyrically tight music that feels good. As Edenloff so succinctly put it, "We've practiced a lot," and the practice shows in the connection people have with the RAA's sound. Hometowns poses a musicianship and intelligence that separates the band from wave after wave of mediocre contemporaries shamelessly self-promoting vacant albums and wildly touring across the country.

"We didn't plan the album out… we all naturally feel into our roles… we understand our strengths… and we labored over our sound."

I for one thank them for their laborious work ethic. In the first thirty seconds of Hometowns, when Paul Banwatt's frenetic drumming melds with Edenloff's emotive lyrics, it's easy to become lost in a sound that is unique and conjures up thoughts of people and places we've lost, and an acknowledgment of people and places found along the way. Then when Amy Cole's ethereal vocals are tracked in the background and the keys begin supporting Edenloff's intense strumming, a cinematic effect takes over; reminding you that good music always prevails.
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