Alvvays’ new album, “Blue Rev” set a new benchmark for the genre of power pop, said Pitchfork in their glowing review of the Toronto band’s third album. And they are right, “Blue Rev” shimmers at 14 songs and a tight 39 minutes. The album took over five years, and in this interview Rankin reminds us that the process took so long for our benefit. She also reveals a song she can’t stop listening to from fellow Canadian artist and the unique recording process of “Blue Rev” that included a wheel barrel and a ferry to an island.
The reception for Blue Rev has been incredible. How did it feel to have Pitchfork name “Belinda Says” as their #1 song of the year?
I thought I had misread it. I mean, it’s neat.
From the beginning to me that song always seemed like the best song on the record. Thematically I felt like it really was central to what the album was about. But also it has the right combination of things I like in a song. And also the feeling of taking the risk of starting over in a new place is this really terrifying leap of faith that I have taken many times and it was neat to inject that into a narrative and translate that feeling into music.
That song is also in conversation with Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place on Earth.” How did you decide to have that reference in there?
That was Alec’s Idea. But I love to throw references to other musicians or little cultural tidbits into songs. That song is such an anthem and has been an anthem for so many people. I also really love the idea of someone blasting that song in their car in the way that you really connect to an artist.
I heard that Belinda Carlisle recognized or heard it for the first time. What was her reaction?
We had just done a thing on TV and I kind of forget the broad reach of that. I had forgotten that that was such a huge deal until I had all these people writing me that I hadn’t talked to in years about it. It does seem like a significant thing to a lot of people. And I guess she’d seen it and realized that she was the cherry on top of the sludgy-guitar-woozy-sundae.
And what did she say?
She said that she saw it and that she liked the song. Which is very nice. Not a necessary thing for her to do by any means.
Speaking of references to songs and people there is a reference to the lead singer of the band Television. Why title the song “Tom Verlaine?”
We’ve blasted Television for years and have a lot of admiration for those riffs and hooks. They are such a timeless sounding group. My impression is that Tom Verlaine can maybe be quite prickly. So I thought it would be cool if he were just sort of sitting on the hood of a car sort of brooding.
Also, he has a song called “Always” so why not reciprocate?
Are you still in Toronto?
During our interview for the last album we talked about you getting on a ferry and going out to Toronto island to write and record. Did you do that on this album too?
Yea, Kerrie and Alec will help me load a PA onto a wagon and help me lug it out to Toronto Island. They have been very supportive in lugging. But yeah I do take a lot of gear with me to a rental place that is close to water and just try to just be alone for a while.
There is a lot of hustle and bustle and things to be done when you are in your primary residence and it’s hard to escape all that.
It was five years between albums. What takes the longest to do in that process?
Getting enough songs that I feel should be on an album takes a while. I like every song to have some type of hook and emotional lift that I’m on the hunt for and thinking an idea is worth pursuing takes a while and a lot of the time something just doesn’t make the cut.
What’s the last song you couldn’t stop listening to?
One song I listen to on repeat is the Buffalo Springfield song, “Expecting to Fly”
What about it speaks to you?
It’s just so profoundly sad.
It’s really off-kilter. Like, the time signature changes and the panning of the drums is really bizarre. I think that was when things started becoming stereo so there was a lot of creative panning happening. And then Neil’s voice is just—kind of—unmatched.
Do you remember hearing it for the first time?
Yeah. It was one of those eureka moments. You know when you hear a song and it just changes you?
It’s the best feeling.
What’s the picture on the album cover?
The picture is of my parents and I getting off of a boat. It was taken by my aunt who is a great photographer. I was rifling through an old envelope of photos and saw that and sort of felt like it was something significant.