THE RURAL ALBERTA ADVANTAGE
The RAA’s percussive folk songs about hometowns and heartbreak have taken the trio of Amy Cole, Paul Banwatt and Nils Edenloff from humble recognition amongst indie rock die-hards as “Canada’s best unsigned band” to sold-out tours and devoted fans around the world with featured coverage from Spin Magazine, Pitchfork, The New York Times and Rolling Stone all taking note. The band has been nominated for two 2012 Juno Awards, long listed for the 2011 Polaris Award, awarded the Galaxie Rising Star for Recording of the Year at the 2010 Indie Awards and the CBC Music Prize for Best Independent Artist in 2014. Their fourth album, The Wild, is out now.
SAID THE WHALE
Long before Vancouver’s Said The Whale became a JUNO Award-winning, radio chart-topping indie rock band, it was an exploratory songwriting experiment led by high school friends Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester. Now, a decade since their 2007 formation, they have taken the project back to its freeform roots while simultaneously venturing forward into uncharted art-pop territory.
As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide, the band’s fifth studio album, marks a return to the group’s formative philosophies. Set for release on March 31, 2017 via Hidden Pony Records, Said The Whale recorded their latest batch of songs in various Vancouver studios, with We Are The City’s Cayne McKenzie serving as producer; helping to reconfigure song textures, soaking scratch vocals in effects and stitching back together song fragments into completed tracks. The sessions were briefly interrupted by the birth of Tyler’s son, and Jaycelyn, newly married, had to record some of her parts while on her extended honeymoon in Southeast Asia.
“(As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide) is a return to how Tyler and I used to make music,” notes Ben, “which is just experimenting with anything and everything. We started out using Casio keyboards and drumbeats on our computers, and then we turned into a rock band. This is a return to being free to make anything.”
Through all the years, the racked up international tour miles, and internal change the band has weathered, this new record remains true to the spirit of Said The Whale’s classic work. At its core, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide is a singer-songwriter record, guided by introspective lyrics and arresting, alchemical group harmonies. “This is our most personal, earnest record for sure,” Tyler says. “Even the upbeat songs are lamenting and sad.”
The first single from the album will be released in early January 2017. Additional album news, music and visuals will be forthcoming in the new year.
SAM COFFEY AND THE IRON LUNGS
Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs are a power pop band from Toronto. Formed by Coffey, a former mechanic’s apprentice from Kitchener, Ontario, with its members collected from various Ontario small towns, they rapidly ingratiated themselves with Toronto’s punk scene. The band released a stream of DIY singles before signing to Oakland punk/garage rock label Southpaw Records (Ty Segall, Young Guv) for their Gates of Hell LP in 2014, which received praise from outlets like Pitchfork, Spin and Noisey. Touring extensively and playing with bands like Redd Kross, Black Lips, Screaming Females and The FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs have become regulars in DIY venues up and down the East Coast.
The band have been working on their follow up for almost two years, and in that time have developed from the lo-fi aesthetic of their earlier releases to recording for the first time in a real studio. Working with producer Alex Bonenfant (METZ, Crystal Castles) these songs embrace Coffey’s abiding love for, and near encyclopedic knowledge of 70s glam and power pop in the interest of evolving past their garage roots to make what Coffey calls “downtown music.” This potent brand of guitar pop draws influence from a broad swath of the genre’s history, including acts like Big Star, Dwight Twilley, Cheap Trick, Teenage Fanclub, Kiss, The Undertones and The Exploding Hearts. It’s a sound that at once revels in a rough and anarchic feel, best exemplified by Coffey’s impassioned wail of a singing voice, while displaying a deft and at times sophisticated approach to songwriting and arrangement. The Iron Lungs employ harmonized leads, call and response backing vocals and a seemingly endless supply of shout along choruses, as Coffey empathetically presents a collection of nostalgia-tinged dramas about teenage suburban isolation and escape rooted in an unshakeable belief in the transformative power of guitar music. It’s an ambitious record, and one where obvious care has been taken to refine every element of the finished product. It’s an ambition that even on the 9+ minute epic medley that makes up most of the record’s second side, never crosses over into pretension, perhaps because it clearly comes from an place total sincerity. As Coffey puts it, “honestly, I just wanna rock.”