After being thrust into the spotlight by their 2009 debut album Hometowns, The Rural Alberta Advantage has enjoyed a steady ascent to prominence. Eight years later, the band has three hit albums and several charting singles to its name, and now look forward to some new material.
The three musicians are part way through recording the new record, which they describe as a throwback to their pre-fame origins. Currently, the band is recording in Toronto with Leon Taheny—a longtime friend and co-producer of The RAA’s last record Mended With Gold.
“We’ve tried working with a couple of other producers but I think there was something about people wanting to maybe change us or put their little stamp on us,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Nils Edenloff. “I think Leon understands us, and what we feel is us.”
During the recording process, The RAA does not cut corners. Average bands may pump out a couple radio-friendly hits and hit cruise control for the rest of the record. This is never an option of Edenloff and his bandmates.
“With our writing, we try to put everything we can into a song so all of the songs stand up, as opposed to ‘Oh, this is going to be a single and this is going to be filler,’” he says.
As a break from the monotony of recording, The RAA has embarked on an intimate West Coast tour. As they’ve become more successful, it has been harder for the trio to play in Alberta as much as they used to. During the tour they’ll be performing a new, particularly meaningful song, “Beacon Hill,” that was inspired by the tragic Fort McMurray wildfires.
Edenloff had lived in Fort McMurray for some time and still has family there to this day. Before the wildfires occurred he had no overt desire to return to the community, but while rehearsing with bandmate Paul Banwatt he received a “surreal” text message.
After learning of the disaster, Edenloff immediately reevaluated his personal relationship with his former home. “Beacon Hill” captures Edenloff questioning who he was in the past and if he would really be able to escape his old self in Fort McMurray.
“The opportunities to go see Fort McMurray had dwindled and, I don’t know, at that point if I would have the chance to go back to Fort McMurray again,” Edenloff says of his initial reaction. “The idea that a place might not be there for you to go back to is unsettling.”
The RAA’s upcoming show at The Needle will be one of its last before heading into the studio to finish the fourth album. Edenloff believes their live show is a “cathartic” experience and likens it to walking a tightrope, with the three of them on edge at all times.
“For three people making a bunch of noise on stage, it’s far bigger than maybe the optics would appear.”