Alvvays Return To The Maritimes For Victory Lap

Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez

Canadian indie-pop band Alvvays are coming back to the Maritimes for a bit of a victory lap.

Over the course of the last two years, the group – comprised of native Maritimers Molly Rankin, Alec O’Hanley, Kerri MacLellan, Brian Murphy and Phil MacIsaac – has literally toured the world on the strength of their self-titled debut record.

Performing at the Tide & Boar Ballroom tonight, Alvvays – pronounced “Always,” in case you were wondering – seemingly came out of nowhere to ride an impressive wave of critical acclaim, including a four-star review from Rolling Stone. The group also ascended to top the U.S. college radio charts.

Guitarist Alec O’Hanley notes that, as cliché as it may sound, the attention given to the group over the last two years has proven to be a surprise.

“The attention has definitely caught us off guard,” he says. “You always kind of hope for it, but in the bigger scheme of things, it happens so rarely. On top of that, there was no shtick for us to resort to; we couldn’t trick people into liking our music. We just popped the record out and people responded.”

Admittedly, O’Hanley says the response outside of Canada has, in some ways, exceeded the success they have seen in their home country.

“We aren’t a band that gets a lot of airplay. We love Canada, but there is also something really special about being able to go to London, England, play a 2000-seat theatre and know it won’t be empty,” he laughs.

“There is still a bit of reservation about the band in some circles, but we’ve also learned you can’t spend your time worrying about what the arbitrary arbiters deem as being relevant. If you start thinking about that stuff, it would probably drive you insane before long.”

Before they had begun playing under the name Alvvays, the bulk of the group had performed with vocalist Molly Rankin to support She, her 2010 solo debut EP. O’Hanley previously played with Charlottetown pop group Two Hours Traffic, recording a number of efforts with the band before ultimately leaving the group in 2011.

Since day one, the group has strived for musical simplicity, something that O’Hanley acknowledges is amply reflected on the nine songs featured on their debut release.

“We have never been a band that gets hung up on the little things. We opt for tunes over tones,” he notes. “We aren’t really a band that knows how to go about making a slick, glossy kind of record. We are a band writing pop songs; it would be foolish to not present them in a way that did them justice and ultimately served the songs first and foremost.”

Early in the group’s career, after a particularly notorious winter, the band made the decision to make Toronto their homebase, as opposed to staying on Prince Edward Island. O’Hanley says that both Halifax and Montreal were also on the table as potential home cities for the group, and while they certainly miss some aspects of calling Atlantic Canada their home, Toronto is a good place for them to hang their hats for now.

“We certainly miss the saltwater on the East Coast. We are all huge beach bums and used to spend a lot of time at a beach on the north shore of the island. At the time we were working to find a label to work with for the release of our record, Toronto ended up winning out, as it seemed like a reasonable city where we could get a lot done. What Toronto lacks in P.E.I.-like beaches is gained in an overall more reasonable climate.”

Having more time to enjoy Toronto’s “reasonable climate” is forthcoming for the group. With only approximately 15 shows on their schedule following their Thursday night performance in Moncton, O’Hanley confirms the band will begin setting their sights on making their sophomore record.

“We have been testing out new material on audiences, but it is going to be really nice to be able to start working those recording muscles again once things calm down. We are getting pretty anxious to sink our teeth into writing new songs.”

What: Alvvays with special guest Mardeen
When: Thursday Oct. 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $18. Advance tickets are available online at tideandboar.com/music