Formed in 2006, Toronto-based indie-rock band The Rural Alberta Advantage are now three critically adored records deep in a career that has taken them from one corner of North America to the other.
The group’s latest effort, Mended With Gold, released this past September, comes on the heels of widespread acclaim from the likes of Spin Magazine, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and many others.
Performing at the Tide & Boar Ballroom on Tuesday Mar. 24, Rural Alberta Advantage drummer Paul Banwatt says they set about the creation of Mended With Gold in a manner that differed from its predecessors.
“The mistake we made with our previous record (2011’s Departing) is that we didn’t give ourselves enough time to fully flesh out the songs. That was something we sought to avoid with our latest record,” Banwatt says.
The Rural Alberta Advantage extensively road-tested the material that would appear on Mended With Gold. While the band had played previously unrecorded songs live in the past, they fine-tuned the material based on the feedback of their trusted live sound engineer, Matt Lederman, while also leaning upon their own intuitions as to what would best serve the song.
“I think we got all of the songs from Mended With Gold out to audiences in one form or another before we actually recorded the tracks. At the time we were road testing the songs, we would record ourselves performing them each night, which we could then listen to in order to see what could be improved upon. But then we also had the benefit of being able to gauge audience reaction and really take that into account as well.”
Asked if the group was feeling any pressure to capitalize on the accolades that had been sent their way with previous albums while they were writing Mended With Gold, Banwatt says the pressures were more internal than external.
“We have always felt pressure in a way but not from any external forces,” he says. “We never want to put our name on something that we aren’t proud of. That’s where the pressure comes from. Additionally, however, we are fortunate to have a lot of people that are taking time and resources to help us be successful. We would never want to leave them disappointed, either.”
By no fault of theirs, The Rural Alberta Advantage has been a Canadian musical anomaly of sorts. Rather than building up their name and reputation here at home, like countless others before them have done, American audiences were among the first to give their ears to the band.
And while Canadian audiences often look to our neighbours to the south to validate the success of our citizens, Banwatt feels the way their career has unfolded thus far has actually proven to be a good thing.
“We were fortunate to have had some press early in our career that came from the United States. Some of the first people that wrote about us were bloggers who saw us on a tour of the American East Coast that we did in 2008 and 2009. Seeing a Canadian band getting American press I think in turn encouraged audiences here at home to seek us out.”
Their American success has come at a steep price, however. Especially if you count yourself as someone who has been patiently awaiting the group’s return to the East Coast. Banwatt jokingly admits the significant amount of time that has passed since their last appearance in the region is giving him some trepidation about the group’s imminent return to Atlantic Canada.
“We are definitely looking forward to getting back to the East Coast. We’ve taken a lot of well-deserved guff from our fans for not having come to Atlantic Canada for such a long time. Hopefully we will be able to make amends with everyone and won’t have to worry about beer bottles flying at us while on stage,” Banwatt laughs.
What: The Rural Alberta Advantage with special guest Kalle Mattson
When: Tuesday Mar. 24, 9 p.m.
Where: The Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $18. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com/music or by phone at (506) 857-9118.