When you’re a band who every day pledges allegiance to the tenets of loud, guitar-driven, three-chord rock and roll, what seems most important is finding ways to keep that sound fresh and interesting. With their recently released third full-length album, Interior Light, Young Rival has done just that.
It’s the Hamilton, Ontario trio’s first effort since 2012’s Stay Young, and the interim years brought not only some new sonic guidance in the form of producer — and fellow Hamiltonian — Graham Walsh (METZ, Alvvays), but also a move to a new label, Paper Bag Records.
A clue to Young Rival’s evolution is Interior Light's psychedelic cover art. As a band built on a solid foundation of mid-Sixties maximum r&b, a la The Who, The Kinks and The Yardbirds, it’s almost as if Young Rival has made a leap from black and white to technicolor similar to what their heroes did when the acid kicked in around 1967. That’s not to say the band has undergone a full paisley makeover, but rather, taken a journey to the centre of their collective mind — on top of remaining true to another great rock ‘n roll tradition of producing an “experimental” third album. The results are often surprisingly daring, but never stray too far from Young Rival’s knack for writing short, sharp and hooky tunes, fuelled by singer/guitarist Aron D’Alesio’s commanding presence and keen lyrical observations rooted in contemporary themes.
Drummer Noah Fralick took some time to reflect on all this before Young Rival’s last shows of the year, Thursday at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern, and a hometown blowout on Friday at The Casbah in Hamilton. They return to the road in late January with more Ontario dates before heading to Europe. Go to www.youngrival.com for more details.
What sets this new album apart from your previous work?
We made this record exactly the way we wanted to make it. There was no intention of writing for radio or for anything beyond the standards that we set for ourselves as a band.
What were the biggest challenges making this record and how did you overcome them?
This record took a long time to make. We spent more or less a year writing it and there were some dark days. As a band you go through these awful periods of self-doubt followed by total pride when you finally catch your stride. Writing songs has never been a challenge for us, but it took us some time to really hone in on the kind of songs and record that we wanted to make. Once we wrote “Interior Light” [the title track], everything else just started to fall into place and take shape in a way that it never had for us before.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
It changes every so often, but “Living Like You Should” [from Interior Light] is a standout to me. As the title suggests, it’s a song that reflects on the uncertainty of doing what it is that we do — being in a band, playing shows, traveling, etc. — but even though the song has some melancholy, there’s also a sense of affirmation that lies within it. I think Aron really hit the nail on the head in writing that one, and the production vibe that Graham Walsh brought to it matched the sentiment perfectly. We recorded that song in one take and that’s the version you hear on the record.
What has been your most memorable experience while touring in Canada?
Meeting a man named Old Geo in Whitewood, Saskatchewan, about an hour east of Regina, and getting a tour of his 17-bedroom mansion from the 1880s, his museum, and the miniature pioneer village that he’s built on his property. He lives in literally the middle of nowhere, and is a passionate collector and expert of Canadian prairie history. He remains one of the most self-actualized people I’ve ever met. I’m actually making a documentary on him.
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned on how to survive as an indie band, and what advice would you give?
You have to love it. If you don’t love it — namely if you don’t love playing — then stop immediately. You should only try to build a career as an indie musician if it’s what you have to do. And never have a plan B; if you’re a musician taking part-time classes in accounting, chances are you’ll become an accountant.