WRBB caught up with Molly Rankin, frontwoman of Toronto stalwarts Alvvays, before their show at Paradise Rock Club to discuss hermitry, producing on the fly, and why you should be eating pizza while spinning their new record.
[three_fourth]Starting the Alvvays discography off with an album so critically acclaimed must have been exciting — and such a remarkable affirmation of the work and progress you made to get to the self-titled. I wanted to ask you about your mindset in approaching this new album. I know you all were workshopping songs and even had some in the live rotation very early on, but what was it like to sit down and start crafting them as “an album?”
Molly: Some of the songs were written while we were still touring the self-titled record, so we had some of it finished. I went away, sort of in solitude, to write the remainder of the record, and I really just wanted to keep doing what I had done before with Alec – just focus on making catchy melodies and pop songs that can bounce around in your brain. You know, use words that were exciting to roll off the tongue, and I think that’s still there in our current record now. I feel pretty good about it!
The album seems to maintain a wonderfully cohesive and dream-like state, where the wall of sound and song structure is emotionally palpable throughout. There are so many little hidden idiosyncrasies and layers that I wanted to ask what your thought process was in production. The bridges to a couple songs almost seem to have classical influence.
Alec is probably a bit more into that stuff, but yeah. I mean, we started in LA. We started tracking and doing bass and drums – more of the skeletal elements. When we got back home, we realized we didn’t have everything we needed, so Alec really learned how to record things and I was sort of helping. We were going through this growth where we were learning about reamping and how to EQ bass and drums – we did a lot of the mixing ourselves. It was fun to go through that, but at the same time, it’s not really something we knew how to do. At some points, we would hit a wall in our knowledge of how to accomplish what we wanted to hear, but I think eventually we got all the little bits to pop through and serve their purposes for the songs.
Do you feel like you’re closer to Antisocialites than the last because you had to learn on the fly, as you were producing?
They’re kind of like children to me. I feel pretty connected to both of them – it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the debut record. I do feel, when I listen to the songs, I know where each part came from. I had a little bit more of an understanding of how things got to where they sounded like. That was sort of the case with the first record, too. We were sort of given the sessions and had to get them to where we wanted them to be ourselves in Toronto – just sort of something that inevitably happens to us.
In “Hey,” you introduce this character, Molly Mayhem. I know that the narrative of Antisocialites is based on true sentiments, as you mentioned its “vicarious” nature – do find that using an alter-ego or character has any effect on your headspace when you write songs?
Sort of in a method acting way? Sometimes – I mean, it’s fun to play those songs live and channel that energy. Certainly in my teens I probably was a little more reckless, but now being more of an old lady who stays inside a lot, it’s fun to live vicariously through the songs and exciting situations and journeys that I can travel through myself that otherwise wouldn’t be available to me in the real world.
Do you see that continuing through to the next release? Maybe explore an entirely different world?
I haven’t really thought about the next record. Good question. I think people are asking me about that before the record even came out, so I’m kind of ready for that. Records can be a bit disposable in that sense, but I think I’ll just continue to do what I’m doing. I don’t feel any reason to depart from that.
In lieu of recent events, I wanted to get your opinion on the treatment of female frontwoman in the music industry and how the community as a whole can work to mitigate further behavior during live shows and in the media.
I think I tend to write romantic narratives. I don’t think that should ever be construed as an invitation for unwanted advances – I don’t think that’s a fair cognitive leap to make. It’s a rare event things like that happen to us on stage, and now I have to talk about it. He doesn’t really have to talk about it. I don’t really want to make promotional hay out of the situation, I just think that a foundation of respect for people that you’re surrounded by and surrounded with is a necessary thing. If you don’t understand how to be a reasonable human, or behave reasonably, then maybe you shouldn’t go to shows.
How would you want people to approach listening to your album? Where would they be or what would they be doing? Do you have a food/drink to pair with it?
I’m usually outside when I listen to records. I’m generally walking through the city with headphones on – by myself, in my own world. It just seems to make my surrounding that much more vivid and exciting to me. If you want to listen to it around friends, that’s fine, too. That’s just how I experience a lot of my music is when I’m by myself. Now that it’s fall…food or drink…I’m a big fan of pizza, so I recommend pizza.
We don’t have enough of that unfortunately, but that would be nice to get some!
Well, maybe you can open up your own pizza shop…Take matters into your own hands.
And play your album over the speakers!
Listen to Antiosocialites here: