Saddle Creek | The Rural Alberta Advantage | Reviews



Author: Jenny Francois
10/10/2009 | | | Feature
The Toronto based Rural Alberta Advantage is a three-piece outfit comprising of singer-guitarist Nils Edenloff, multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole and drummer Paul Banwatt. Their music may strike as a lost post folk Neutral Milk Hotel album but listen carefully and you will find RAA's unique and raucous sound born out of small town prairies and crushing despair. From their early DIY beginnings to their stellar live shows, Edenloff believe his bands formation might have been kismet, "I think at the very beginning we realize there was something special between the three of us playing together." Signed to Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek label, after their appearance at SXSW in Austin, Texas earlier this year, RAA is keen to be on your best of list.

IN*TANDEM chatted with Nils Edenloff as the band made its way to New York (see photos and videos of their 10/17 show at the Bowery Ballroom).

IN*TANDEM: Let's start from the beginning how did RAA form? How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Nils Edenloff: Well, Paul and Amy use to play in another band with a friend of mine. So that friend of mine, we went to high school in Alberta, and upon moving to Toronto he started a band with Paul and Amy. Throughout the course of them being in a band, the four of us was sort of hosting an open mic night in Toronto. It was a pretty depressing open mic night. We were all like no one would show up. After a while, this other friend of ours and Amy were sort of like "we're kind of done with this. We need a break." Then we were like "we like the bar tab they give us and we like playing music." So we continued on with it. And that's more or less how the band sort of got its first start I guess. Paul and I were tons getting material ready for an open mic night that no one would come to. I guess the whole idea from the band hasn't strayed much from the original set up where there's a lot of percussion and the guitar tries to fill out some of the sound as possible with some added distortions and stuff. I guess that's really sort of how the band got started. That was a while a go that was back in 2005.

After we were doing open mic night, we played a couple of shows here and there. We'd have five people in the band. We'd have Paul and I so he was sort of a little loosey-goosey initially. It was about 2006 when Amy started playing with us and the three of us started working as sort of a unit. I guess really that's how the band sort of started. After we played our first show together it felt special as a band.

IN*TANDEM: Let's talk about your debut album Hometowns, how did the recording process come about?
NE: We've been playing together for a while and a friend of ours introduced us to this producer from Toronto named Roger Leavens. He basically owns a studio during the day and at night he'll sort of work his way to indie bands he enjoys. This friend of ours introduced us to Roger and we started recording the album. It was sort of a long process. We'd record in the evening when he had time. That would be one evening a week and sometimes it wasn't every week. It was sort of a long drawn out process. In the end, there were good and bad points to it I guess. It was good because we had time to reflect on a lot of stuff. I guess at the same time it was bad because we had time to reflect on a lot of stuff. [laughs] You kind of drive yourself crazy obsessing over certain things but in the end we're really happy with the way everything turned out.

Read the full Q+A after the jump.

IN*TANDEM: How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
NE: I think we've grown and definitely have gotten a little bit tighter and sort of realize and sort of gotten familiar with each other's strength and grown together. I don't know. I think at the very beginning we realize there was something special between the three of us playing together. I believe we sort of like grown in a way. It's hard to put your finger on the specific things that have changed–maybe for people outside who hasn't seen us in a while. They'll be like, "Oh man, those guys have tightened up or grown." I guess when you are in the inside and looking out, it's sort of like all the steps happen in a gradual pace and you don't realize how you're growing in a way.

IN*TANDEM: You've been out on tour a lot, are there things you always take with you?
NE: Well I think we always got the iPod. We listen to a lot of public radio and stuff. Well I think we always got the iPod. We listen to a lot of radio and stuff. I'm not sure if there's anything specific that I personally bring. [asks the same question to Paul and Amy] Our computers and books. I guess we do a lot of chatting in the band. Paul and Amy are super into crosswords right now. They bring crosswords everywhere. I'm bad at words. [laughs]

IN*TANDEM: What is the latest book you are reading right now?
NE: I'm personally reading The New Kings of Nonfiction by Ira Glass. It's pretty awesome. Paul just finished his Dexter book and Amy was reading The Book of Tells. It's all about body language. So we're an egghead bunch. [laughs]

IN*TANDEM: Of your songs which are your favorite to perform and why?
NE: We've been playing the songs so much but there are always little parts in between the songs that I really enjoy. I really enjoy playing Edmonton there's something about it. Maybe because it's about my hometown. It's something special to me. [asks the band] Amy enjoy playing – for a while we weren't playing "The Deadroads" in the set but now she enjoys playing that. We've been playing a new song that Paul really enjoys. Right now we're going by the title "North Star" I like old stuff but they like new stuff.

IN*TANDEM: Have you recorded any new tracks at all?
NE: We have been fairly busy touring in stuff. I don't think any of us really realized how hard it would be to actually write on the road. Any new stuff that we've recorded has been in sessions and stuff but we're slowly sort of working towards getting stuff ready. We have some songs that are like almost there. You go through the tweaking process We have a couple of songs that we're playing in the set like two different songs we've been playing now, "yeah those are good. Those could ready to record fairly shortly." We are working towards a new album when we do get the time. We just didn't know how incredibly hard to write on the road.

IN*TANDEM: What other music have you been listening to recently?
NE: I think when we're in the vehicle, there's a lot of scanning of the radio. I know that Paul is a big talk radio fan. We listen to a lot of This American Life and those sorts of things. In terms of albums that we've been listening to, we just finished playing with The Love Language and their album is really awesome. We listen to it a lot and the same thing with The Antlers. That's a really great album we listen to. Yeah, usually
We scan around but nothing particular that we listen to every day. We listen to a lot a lot of classic rock.

IN*TANDEM: You mentioned This American Life, are you kind of bummed that the television version might be off the air?
NE: So they aren't going to do a third season of it on Showtime?

IN*TANDEM: They (Ira Glass and his team) don't want to continue it anymore.
NE: Oh man. That sucks. I haven't seen the second season yet but it was such a beautiful thing but at the same time there's something also special about the radio stuff that's hard to translate into TV. Either way as long as they don't stop doing the radio stuff I won't fault them for feeling the TV stuff is overwhelming and a lot of work.


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