'We've Come a Long Way': Alvvays Discuss Dreamy But Grounded New Album 'Antisocialites'

Arden Wray


'Antisocialites' comes out on Friday (Sept. 8).

Back in 2014, Alvvays released their self-titled debut album, featuring “Archie, Marry Me.” That song went on to become one of the most memorable indie-pop songs of that summer, going to No. 1 on the American College Radio chart and even being covered by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.

That first album encapsulates the woes of coming to terms with adulthood. Beyond “Archie, Marry Me”, each song represents an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, nostalgia, a longing for commitment and stability. With anthemic songs that serve as a perfect antidote for heartache, it’s no surprise that the group's sophomore album, Antisocialites, out Friday (Sept. 8) on Polyvinyl, carries a breakup theme.

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What’s different this time is that the songs’ tone is not nearly as morose. Instead, frontwoman Molly Rankin turns this heartbreak narrative into dreamy, energetic, fuzz-pop songs about moving forward after being in chaotic relationships. 

Rather than intentionally focusing on having a more upbeat pop album this time around, the band wanted to go for a more cohesive record, but pop is one of Rankin’s main strengths as a musician: “I think I’ve always been a poppy writer," she explains. "I’m not good at drawing out songs and jamming and prog kind of stuff. It’s not what my instincts are."

Rankin does enjoy threading dark narratives into pop, however. She confesses she enjoys hearing songs on the radio that say “things you don’t typically say on the radio.” This formula has proven to appeal listeners of all genres, from Lil Uzi Vert’s chart topping hit “XO Tour Llif3” to Lorde’s “Green Light.” “I’m certainly not afraid to say something dark underneath a sparkly pop song,” Rankin says.

Discussing the album's “Your Type,” Rankin says, “Going through your 20s, I guess you do encounter those types of people that are just sort of self-destructive, including myself, so this song could a little bit be about me. It's sort of just an imaginary thing, unfortunately.” She jokes, “I don't have any really juicy stories about people throwing up in the Louvre.” 

Rankin assures that her personal life is quite mundane, so many of the instances written about are imagined scenarios. “It’s a very dramatic version of myself,” Rankin says. “There's a bit of vicarious living going on there in the songs. I think my feelings usually resonate in the songs, but the lyrical content is just sort of observational vicarious subject matter that I entertain in my own imagination to make things more exciting."

The album’s breakup theme is not literal, but rather a metaphor for her questioning of the band’s future. “For a while I wasn't exactly sure if touring and music and everything was something that I should continue on doing," says Rankin. "I think I was probably just a little bit tired after traveling for a couple of years, but also I think I was just really entertained by the drawing from that whole part of my life that I'm not experiencing."

The theme holds similarities to Polyvinyl labelmates Deerhoof’s 2012 album Breakup Song -- an energetic, danceable record that uses a relationship breakup as a metaphor for the band’s own relationship with each other. While Deerhoof have been around for over two decades, Alvvays are now in the first phase past starting out, where fans begin to demand more and there are certain expectations set.

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The band's music has attracted many international fans, including a large U.K. fanbase. Given Rankin’s Celtic background and love for shoegaze and jangly pop British bands such as Jesus and Mary Chain, The Smiths and Camera Obscura, it makes perfect sense. Alvvays attracted the attention of Jesus and Mary Chain, who invited Rankin to perform their classic “Just Like Honey” onstage at Australia’s Spectrum Now festival, as well as a couple of other tour dates when Alvvays opened for them. Rankin’s interaction with the band may have been limited, but it sparked her imagination when Jim Reid shook her hand and smiled as they said goodbye, inspiring the album's “Lollipop (Ode to Jim).”

In the past two years, Rankin has gone from working menial gigs, including scrubbing toilets at one point, to being a full-time musician. She’s not yet fully optimistic that she’ll never have to return to having a day job, but for now, she’s able to live out her dreams of doing what she loves.

“I’ve had many [day jobs] on our journey to get here, which is still in the working-class indie rock world, but it's definitely a bonus,” she says.  “Anytime I'm just sitting in the van griping about something, I remind myself that I spent a lot of time mopping floors and picking up people's plates and getting talked down to by people in restaurants, or cleaning toilets.” 

It may seem like Alvvays are just starting to flourish as musicians, but given their background, it’s no surprise that they’ve been able to attract so much attention after their debut album. Rankin grew up in a multi-award winning Celtic musical family, The Rankin Family, joining them on tour and experiencing her first glimpse into the life of being a professional musician.  She recorded her own solo EP in 2010 with the help of O’Hanley, which was mostly shared online but was never officially released.

Meanwhile, O’Hanley was previously in another Canadian indie band called Two Hours Traffic. “I never really fit all that well in [my family’s band], because it was very much their thing, and they excelled greatly at it and I was a lot younger and was drawn to different things,” says Rankin. “They've been really supportive of me and my weird direction, and I think the world that I exist in is so different from where they came from, but I do have a lot of memories of my father touring and seeing a lot of gear, growing up with instruments, and playing music all the time. I don't really know anything else.” 

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When asked where she sees the band within the next five years, Rankin jokes that she could be working at Subway, or maybe as a receptionist, but it seems like those days of grinding are long gone. Alvvays have survived through the challenges, using those weaknesses as strengths in Antisocialites, just like her own unreliable narrator does in the songs.

“I think that everyone in our band now has owned their role,” she says. “We all work really hard to make sure that we are pulling our weight sonically, and I think we've come a long way. We really try to improve how we perform and contribute to the band, and we've learned to sort of let things roll off our shoulders, or let things go. I think we're a little bit older and we have more perspective.”


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