A few years ago Nils Edenloff's brother emailed him about visiting the homestead, the land they grew up on, in the wilds of rural Alberta, Canada. He worded it in such a way as a means to show he was hoping to recapture something there, a call-back, a memory place, a feeling of home, in some way to create an advantage to his life and sense of purpose in the world. He called it The Rural Alberta Advantage and in doing so, sparked a name for a project Nils was putting together with his musician folk at the time, Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt. They formed officially as the Rural Alberta Advantage or, RAA for those on the cusp of coolness, in 2006 and have released albums that have garnered them Juno awards and the honour of being long listed for the Polaris Prize. Amy took a step back in September of this year but when I sat down with the band, this was already the new normal as Robin Hatch has stepped into the role of backing vocals, keyboard and bass pedal.
Here's the thing about RAA: they will not stop until you're dancing. By this I mean they will get a crowd going or literally play new songs on stage (how they wrote one of their top acclaimed albums in fact) until those tapping toes become dancing fools and all that's left is a sweaty group of smiling festival goers who don't want them to leave the stage, ever. They are incredibly soft spoken in real life, so different from their on stage act had I not known the band members already I would have asked for ID when they quietly stepped into my studio and took their seats across from me, each checking in politely with one another on who might like which craft beer for the interview.
Robin, in particular, is incredibly quiet and the kind of gentle soul you would never had pegged for a raucous live act. But that's the great thing about talking to a band after a performance, the juxtaposition is often writ large this way - you truly see and feel the 'performer' leave the musician and in that transition you see the two worlds of writer/artist and performer collide in such a brilliant and almost poetic fashion, it’s intoxicating. The craft beers helped of course :) but Robin's singing voice is loud - brass even, stunningly perfect like she never aged beyond 12 (and looks about that age now by the way, 'a slip of a girl' is what came to mind when I shook her tiny talented hand) and her speaking voice is lower, so very much quieter and her laugh, silent. That beautiful type of laugh that's horrid for podcasting but incredibly endearing where her whole body shakes and she looks down into her lap, shoulders forward while the band each decides who is going to tell what story. It helps she’s also been part of Sheezer, that’s an all female Weezer cover band, as the name might suggest and damnit I love that concept.
We talk books. At once one of my favourite subjects and luckily, theirs too. We trade backstage stories from the festival, we laugh, we talk about Alberta and how little time the band members have actually spent there considering their namesake. They tell lovely, warm, funny stories - each of them taking turns like well behaved kids who swear a lot. They thank me and pose for a photo politely, they exit the studio and quietly head backstage, past the crowd still sweating from the unstoppable dancing fever beset upon them by this very band not a half hour before. The crowd looks up, almost in unison, and the roar their very presence illicits sends shivers down my recently very calmed spine. They are loved. Their stage show is absolutely one of their biggest selling features and the beauty of how quiet, reserved and kind they are backstage leaves me with a thrill so deep inside I don't have a name for it yet.
Thank you Rural Alberta Advantage, thank you Nils' brother for writing an email 11 years ago and playing whatever small a part in making this band happen - it has truly become something incredible. This music has created in me a way to form a memory place, has provided a feeling of home though I’ve never been home in Alberta and has broken in a lot of heels from dancing so hard.
Look for their upcoming album in 2017, hints were played recently at their Brooklyn NY shows including one I play for you at the top of the show, called White Lights. If this is any indication of what their new album is going to sound like I am already interested and waiting, hydrating, for their next show where I plan fully to dance until I drop.
Band Members: Nils Edenloff, Paul Banwatt, Robin Hatch