Alvvays On Their 'Coveted Memories' With Aus Act That They'll Treasure Forever

6 December 2023 | 1:58 pm | Anthony Carew

As Canadian indie rock band Alvvays make their way across Australia, lead singer Molly Rankin reflects on their previous trips down under and the impact of their 2022 album, 'Blue Rev'.


Alvvays (Credit: Eleanor Petry)

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When Canadian indie-pop outfit Alvvays released their third LP, Blue Rev, in October of 2022, they had no idea that their world was about to change. “I didn't actually know that people would react to the album in the way that they did, and I certainly didn't expect it,” says Alvvays songwriter Molly Rankin.

But Blue Rev met with universal acclaim, was all over end-of-year lists, and even earned the band an unlikely Grammy nomination, with the jam Belinda Says getting a Best Alternative Music Performance nod at the upcoming 66th Grammy Awards.

For a band that had begun over a decade prior with “no money to even get dinner” when on tour, it felt like the culmination of years of hard work and steady growth, but also the kind of thing to remain sceptical of.

“All of that stuff is temporary and can go away at any time,” Rankin considers. “So, you have to be… not suspicious, but realistic. And not put all of your stock in that buzz.”

“So, I don’t buy into it. I am still very hard on myself and think that there's constantly room to get better. It's such a nice bonus to have people excited about the songs, especially when you're touring in a bunch of different countries. Everything else is just icing.”

Speaking to Rankin, the idea that she is hard on herself and her songwriting comes up recurringly. “I don't think anyone is harder on my output than me,” she offers. “I just feel like I'm my hardest and most vicious critic.”

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That was a large reason why Alvvays took so long, making Blue Rev, the LP arriving five years after their 2017 LP Antisocialites. In both writing and recording, Rankin and her creative collaborator, guitarist Alec O’Hanley, pursue the new and elusive, trying to live up to grand goals.

“I never thought we’d actually finish the album,” says Rankin. “We're so hard on ourselves when we're shaping the songs and finishing them. I think that chasing a demo or the feeling of a demo, trying to elevate something beyond that, is a really big challenge for both Alec and I. Making sure that we're not just repeating the same album and the same song over again, trying to evolve, but still touch on all of the things that you love.”

Rankin describes the “filtration process” of working through ideas as “really vicious”. “I need a melody that feels new to me and feels like it's shifting or moving in this satisfying way. And if it doesn't, I just either forget it or just let it die.”

That sense of movement or shift comes from playing with classic pop structures, creating a frisson as songs shift from verses to choruses. “That can be a melodic shift, or sometimes it can just be this guttural shift,” Rankin says. “Just a feeling of elevation and feeling touched by something. Sometimes that's just a lyric. [I need] to have those different parts make you feel something.

“Of course, I don't write only for myself, but I know that if I'm okay with it, then I can just have to have faith in that. If a song gets through the demo phase and I'm feeling good about it in the final phase, it's good enough to be released.”

Rankin wonders if this characteristic of being so hard on herself —“this is kind of spiralling into therapy, maybe”— comes from her musical upbringing. She grew up playing fiddle under the mentorship of her father, John, a folk musician who led the band The Rankin Family in the ‘90s. “He was really driven and very meticulous about the way that I played the fiddle, and I played very similarly to him,” she says. “[Maybe] that's part of where that comes from, that fine-tooth combing.”

Amidst all the fine-tooth combing of structure and production, there is one element that is more mysterious, and more open to interpretation or chance: the lyrics. Rankin’s words tend to be “vague storylines” told from a perspective outside of hers. “Some of them have this really direct meaning, but others are more abstract and nebulous,” she offers.

This leaves them open to interpretation from listeners, though Rankin rolls her eyes at those whose interpretations claim to be definitive or concrete. “A lot of people think that they know what everything [means] and what's behind the stories of the songs. When, really, they are just like strange fragments of dreams and visions and little pictures and movies that I pieced together. Nothing is about a boy I met when I was 19. There’s never really been a realistic event like that in all my songs.

“A lot of people think that certain songs are about, like, the death of my father and that kind of thing. If I think about that too much, it's just baffling to me. I feel like I've been pretty clear that there isn't really much reality in all of the little stories, but that's what happens when you put something out into the world. People just make it about whatever they want it to be about. It's hard to be surprised by the authoritative opinions based on nothing that surface on the internet.”

The older a song gets, Rankin says, the more mysterious it can seem to her as she finds herself farther removed from when she wrote it. “We still play a lot of the old stuff in our sets, and sometimes we'll unearth a song we haven't played in years, and singing those lyrics feels alien to me,” she says.

Her memories are clearer when —on the event of the band’s third visit to these shores— it comes to recalling Alvvays’ first tour to Australia in 2016. There were rowdy shows in Brisbane, rough waves at the beach, and shows supporting The Jesus & Mary Chain, where Rankin would join them on stage to sing Just Like Honey.

But the band’s most treasured time came at their Sydney show on that tour, where they got Simon Holmes and Mark Temple from The Hummingbirds to join them on stage for their classic ’80s jangler Alimony, one of the first songs Alvvays ever learnt to play together as a band.

“That was just such an exciting moment for us, that they would come on stage with us, and we’d get to play that song with them,” Rankin recalls. “And they showed up with all of these really beautiful seven-inches that they pressed. Those are coveted items and coveted memories that I have and will treasure forever.”

Alvvays are currently touring across Australia. You can find tickets via the Handsome Tours and Meredith Music Festival websites.



Tuesday, 5 December - The Roundhouse, Sydney (Eora)
Friday, 8 December - Princess Theatre, Brisbane (Meanjin)
Saturday, 9 December - Meredith Music Festival, Meredith (Wadawurrung)
Tuesday, 12 December - The Forum, Melbourne (Naarm)
Wednesday, 13 December - Northcote Theatre, Melbourne (Naarm)
Thursday, 14 December - Metro City, Perth (Boorloo)
Saturday, 16 December - Powerstation, Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau)