Bursting forth from the dusty Albertan earth like a greasy crude-oil geyser, The Rural Alberta Advantage are lavishing us sad-sack southern Ontarians with their hearty country-rock, plastered with toothy grins a county mile long. Tyrone Warner emailed a list of questions to the band, and was a little disappointed that the band members (maybe wisely) dodged his question about the possible sovereign future of Alberta.
Tell me, how did Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff meet and become The Rural Alberta Advantage?
Paul: We all hosted an open stage at The Winchester in Cabbagetown, and that led to us forming The RAA. Nobody ever came to our night, and now that place is a Tim Horton's. I'm not saying it was our fault. I'm just saying it's a pretty big coincidence. I mean, the place was around for 120 years, but less than one year with us.... We have no regrets though. We'll close as many venues as it takes.
Does your band sing songs about Alberta because that's home? Or do you see yourselves as kind of Western evangelists? Or is it a mix of the two?
Nils: I'd say that it's probably a healthy mix of both. Though it isn't always the case, the majority of the songs tend to be based around my experiences and memories from growing up in Alberta. In a way I guess they are homesick love songs. I moved to Toronto a couple of years ago, as did several of my close friends from high school, and it was funny how being from Alberta was something we really took pride in. It took being away from it to remember all the things that we loved about growing up there. It's one of those things where I left with the best of intentions and though I may never move back to Alberta, I'm always going to have a soft spot for it.
What kind of things have you experienced in Toronto that seem completely foreign compared to life in Alberta?
N: When I was growing up in Alberta there were two points of every year that I loved more than anything else. It was the first frost, usually in late September, and the winter thaw, around April. There is a certain feeling and smell in the air during both those times that I've never been able to experience in Toronto. I think it might have to do with the fact that back home it's more a smooth progression in and out of winter where as in Toronto it seems like it can't make up its mind whether it's going to be winter or summer.
Despite being a staunch nationalist, I kind of think that in a couple of hundred years, Canada will blow apart into a whole bunch of smaller countries. Starting with Newfoundland, of course, followed by Quebec then Alberta'¦ do you think Alberta will eventually be a sovereign state, or would you say their people are directly tied into the fabric of what we now know as Canada?
Alright, enough with the heavy questions about sovereignty'¦ What do you think about the recent groundswell in popularity in country music sounds in indie rock these days?
N: It can be both good and bad. Regardless of where music is going to go from here I know that I'm always going to end up going back to listen to something like Bonnie '˜Prince' Billy or M Ward. I've personally always been a fan of quieter songs that allow for space and a lot of the classic instrumentation in country music usually allows for that. However to add a sound just to have it is the wrong approach and like anything else if it's not done tastefully it's going to sound terrible.
Right now the band sounds like it's anchored somewhere between an angry, drunken country sound and an up-with-everyone community type spirit. What makes this dynamic in the band so important?
Amy: I think it's important to us to make music that, though Alberta-centric, is still inclusive to those not fortunate enough to have been born and raised there, myself included. And we're not angry drunks - we just get a little excitable.
What does this band want to accomplish? How will you know when that's happened?
N: Hopefully at the end of the day we'll have provided everyone with a solid Alberta experience. As for when that is going to happen, that would be telling... but hopefully it'll be clear to everyone.
By Tyrone Warner