Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jul 7th 2009 1:25PM by Drew Berner
You Oughta Know is your weekly introduction to a wide range of Canadian artists who are either about to blow up ... or really oughta.
Patience is a rare virtue in today's music industry. Labels want their bands to blow up instantaneously, while artists, desperate to cash that first royalty check, see no reason to wait. But for not-so-newcomers the Rural Alberta Advantage, patience may be exactly what kept them from imploding under the pressure of being labeled one of Canada's best unsigned bands.
The group began playing as a unit in Toronto in 2005 -- despite their name, only singer/guitarist/de facto bandleader Nils Edenloff hails from Alberta.
"This band didn't really start out as being a band," Edenloff says. "We spent a lot of nights hosting a failing open-mic night together and became really good friends that way." Since their open-mic events were less-than-successful, they had plenty of time write their own music and test it on an audience.
"At the time, we were really depressed," keyboardist-singer Amy Cole says. "But in reality, [the event's failure] was a blessing in disguise because we got to spend all this time working on material that eventually became what the songs are now."
Those songs, a collection of appropriately rural snapshots of Western Canada, became their independently produced and distributed record 'Hometowns.' The album, though painstakingly crafted, sounds effortless and spontaneous -- its songs blend folksy guitar strumming, danceable beats and tales of love and loss, all set against the picturesque backdrop of Edenloff's Alberta roots.
Though many bands might describe four years of playing small-town bars and toiling at day jobs as grueling, RAA saw it as a necessary growth process. They used the time to carefully cultivate their songs, reworking each piece until it fit perfectly.
The band signed with indie heavyweight Saddle Creek in May, which has just given 'Hometowns' a proper release on July 7. The band insists its slow burn was entirely intentional -- it fielded offers from other labels but chose to put out 'Hometowns' on their own and build a fan base through touring and word-of-mouth.
"We didn't want to hurry anything, and it was cool that we could remain unsigned and still get the support of people enjoying the music," Cole says. "We didn't want to sign before it was right because we were having a really good time being unsigned."
They joked that their upcoming album release party -- July 30 at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern -- would be redundant for longtime fans since the record has been available via their Web site and shows since late 2008. So drummer Paul Banwatt redubbed it a "shrink wrap party" to celebrate the first time the release would be sold sheathed in plastic -- a sign they've finally made it as a band.
The group's tipping point came during the 2009 South by Southwest music festival, where they opened for Grizzly Bear at an Austin church. That show was the buzz of the festival, earning them accolades from indie-music tastemakers -- but the band was more pleased that reps from Saddle Creek attended the show, which drummer Paul Banwatt says solidified their relationship with the band.
"They made an effort to see us," says Banwatt, whose other band, Woodhands, was also at SXSW. "They stood in a stupid line to see us at this church and we didn't even know that till later. They got in the regular way because they showed up early. They could have told us and we could have gotten them in, so it meant something to me."
The Omaha, Neb.-based Saddle Creek have a roster rich with Canadian talent -- including Sebastian Grainger, Tokyo Police Club and Land of Talk -- though Edenloff insists it's merely coincidence.
"I think it's something that we pay more attention to than they do," says Edenloff. "It seems like they're ideologically aligned with us. If I didn't know they were from Omaha, I'd swear they were from some place in Toronto."