Author: Arielle Castillo
The Rural Alberta Advantage, or the RAA for short, hails from the bustling metropolis of Toronto, but the members' more pastoral upbringings inform every aspect of the band. The rural Alberta in question is the home province of the band's main songwriter and singer, Nils Edenloff. Writing the band's debut, 'Hometowns,' Edenloff mined memories of his childhood, creating a wistful slab of raw indie rock. The trio's recently released follow-up, 'Departing,' travels similar territory but serves as a final bookend to these themes. Spinner recently chatted with keyboardist-vocalist Amy Cole, who explained the band's background and where it's going next.The band itself is from Toronto. So what's the story behind the name?Actually, "the Alberta advantage" was a provincial slogan. It was about industry and oil and gas and natural resources. As far as the Rural Alberta Advantage, for Nils, what it really means, I guess, is that he got to grow up in that part of Canada, and the memories he had there. That's really what our music is about.Where are you from?I'm from Port Colborne, Ontario, which is actually a smaller town than the one he's from. I wasn't really exposed to much music growing up there. Once I got to high school, it was a little better, because friends would pass around CDs and stuff like that.Mostly I heard new bands through the channel Much Music. They had a show called 'The Wedge,' and that was where the unsigned or the underground indie bands' videos were played. They played a lot of Hayden; he's a Canadian artist who was really influential. They also played a lot of the Halifax bands, like Eric's Trip, and also Sloan, of course. They recently brought that show back, and we got to be on it two weeks ago, which was a dream come true.What took you to Toronto?School. I was studying radio and television at Ryerson University. That's where I met the people that I was in my first band with, which grew into the RAA. Paul and Nils and I did not go to school together, but the people who I was in that band with knew them, and it went from there.In that first band, I was the lead singer, and it was kind of an indie-pop country-ish band. Paul was the drummer. It didn't sound like the RAA at all.So how did that group turn into the RAA?It was through an open-mic night that we used to all hang out at, at a pub called the Winchester. Me and the lead guitarist-songwriter in that band, the first band, started hosting the night. Then since Paul was the drummer, he started coming. Then Nils was the best friend of the guy who was in the other band with me, so we started hanging out and playing together. Nobody would ever come to this open-mic night except the four of us, basically, and that's how we started playing together.You mentioned that the band sounded nothing like your old band. How did the new sound come about?It happened very naturally, because Nils had had the songs on 'Hometowns' for a long time. It was basically us just building off these songs that already existed. They started out as folk songs, basically. Paul brought this style of drumming he had and Nils just let him go for it, then I would add whatever needed to be added at the time. We didn't really talk at all about what it would sound like.'Hometowns' was aggressively nostalgic. How important do those themes of childhood memories remain in your new material?They are still just as important. The themes of 'Departing' are the same as 'Hometowns.' It was meant to be that way. Some of the songs were written at the same time as the 'Hometowns' songs were, but they weren't ready to go when we were recording the first time around. This was meant to be a companion to the first record and sort of end these themes. It's not going to be like this again, because it would be crazy to keep mining the themes over and over, but it's very important to complete the thoughts. But absolutely, there are a ton of Alberta references and specific things Nils thought about growing up.You played at SXSW for the first time in 2009 and then shortly after landed a deal with Saddle Creek. Would you trace that specifically to your playing at the festival?Yes, SXSW was huge for us. We got signed at SXSW by Saddle Creek. We played a show opening for Grizzly Bear at the Central Presbyterian Church, and it was the most amazing show for us. We were so excited, then the next day, we were playing a day party, and Saddle Creek showed up and said they'd been at the show and liked it and wanted to sign us. We're one of those bands that you hear about, but it actually did happen to us and it was amazing. We'll always love SXSW, and we're excited to play it again.