I often feel as if I was born into the wrong generation, and I know I’m not the only one who probably feels this way. I’ve been waiting for the next Led Zeppelin-sounding band to come along for as long as I can remember, and fortunately, this week, they were dropped right into my lap. Meet RIVAL SONS, an L.A. based band who digs hard into the roots of classic rock and roll. Since June 2008 they have been writing and performing original music inspired by Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the White Stripes. Since I’ve been let down by music before, my opinion was hopeful, but almost doubtful, that I would hear anything which resembled the wonderful music created in the 1970’s. Even as a musician, I myself have tried to create something organic from my favorite classic rock influences. I knew such creation could be done but I wasn’t sure if anyone actually knew how to produce it. Luckily, along came RIVAL SONS.
After listening to their hit song “Torture” as well as other tracks on their EP, I was finally convinced that the love of rock and roll is still alive, and RIVAL SONS deserves some hardcore recognition for bringing it back. Every song is empowered with electrifying bluesy guitars, bass driven rhythms, “rock your face off” drumming, and wailing vocals similar to Robert Plant and Axel Rose. I can imagine watching them live and seeing every person in the crowd jumping around and going wild, which I know is what singer Jay Buchanan says it’s all about.
It didn’t take long before the quartet—comprised of Jay Buchanan (vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), Robin Everhart (bass), and Michael Miley (drums)—was signed to Earache Records. Soon they were opening for bands such as AC/DC, Kid Rock, and Alice Cooper . They recently performed at festivals such as SXSW and Canadian Music Week, and will be appearing at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL. They’ve already recorded one full length album, “Before the Fire,” and have another coming out in July entitled “Pressure and Time.” They also just finished a tour supporting their EP, released this past January, and are planning to head back on the road this summer with Judas Priest and Queensryche.
I read an interview with Jay Buchanan and was intrigued by his dirty, practical sense of style. We can see why he obviously fits into the band so well. These boys are all about playing rock and roll, and playing it “dirty.” All songwriters out there know what it’s like to work for hours, days, months, or years on a song. By the time you butcher it down, your excitement diminishes from “omg dude check out this track” to “well, I wrote it like a year ago. Kinda tired of it.” Not the case for RIVAL SONS. Throwing the bad takes and keeping the good, RIVAL SONS recorded their entire EP in only one day. I assume their approach is the more raw it is, the better, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s all about capturing the moment. This is probably the reason both RIVAL SONS and I are fans of Jack White–another factor that immediately attracted me to this band. Who cares about a mistake here or there? When playing your guitar or singing a song makes you feel like an amazing, sexy, badass, rock and roll superstar–you’re SMART to record it. This is what people pay for, and this is what makes a band great. My friends, this IS the product created by RIVAL SONS. One album, one take, one shot: lets rock!
Guitarist Scott Holiday recently took the time to introduce RIVAL SONS to the New Music Monkey world. Alongside some fun personal questions, Scott gives us some insight about the bands new album, the intricacies of songwriting, and what’s it’s like to be living a life of pure rock and roll.
Check out RIVAL SONS at:
“We are not a rock band. We are a rock and roll band.”
An Interview with Scott Holiday from RIVAL SONS
1. Congrats to releasing your new Rival Sons EP this past January! What makes your new EP different from your last album, Before The Fire?
S: well, thank you kindly.
most notably, jay was not in the band when we wrote the 1st record- Before the Fire. I wrote most of the lyrics along with some help from the producer Dave Cobb. Along with the songs I brought in, we also did a lot of writing as we recorded. On the EP we had been together with jay and playing those songs live..except for Sacred Tongue- which me and jay wrote and recorded in a about an hour. Another difference is that as live sounding and raw Before the Fire is, the EP is even more raw and very much a live performance…wait till you hear our new record “Pressure & Time” (out this July)..we really took the best of our 2 previous releases to give you a dirty, unadulterated, off the cuff “maximum soul-rock’n’roll” punch in the face!
2. What was your approach to songwriting while in the studio recording the EP? Were all the songs written from scratch?
S: the EP songs were great for us because; A- it was the first material we worked on with Jay newly joined in the band, and B- we weren’t writing for an album, but more just to work and have new songs to play live. By the time we went in the studio to record them there’s was no writing left to be done…we just basically recorded in a live setting and captured it. Sleepwalker was the first song the band wrote (very much) together…everyone contributed parts and input…whereas, I had the idea for Get What’s Coming and Radio (although, significant groove idea sprouted from the rhythm section for Radio), and jay had the idea for Torture and Soul….and Sacred Tongue, me and jay did write that one on the spot in the studio…very inspired moment.
3. Obviously there is a huge level of trust between the band members. What keeps the music coming? Is it because you are always together?
S: more or less, we all understand what we’re aiming at…and everyone knows each guy can aptly kick ass all over a track. This is how musicians can trust each other. We ARE together a lot…but that mostly just makes us want to punch each other. Yet, while touring we keep it very loose on stage and stretch out as much as we can…changing things up nightly, and this also builds a lot of fluidity and trust in the music. As soon as we’re off stage though…back to fisticuffs.
4. Seems like Rival Sons is all about capturing the moment. I think your raw mindset is what links musicians like us to Jack White. He’s one of my favorites. What are some songs of his that you like most?
S: yeah..we want it to be as unfiltered, unadulterated and visceral as possible. there’s types of music that require an extradordinary amount of thought…I dont think rock & roll, (or blues, or punk, or soul, or anything like these styles) is that. its like a conversation…you can tell if someone is actually talking to you…or if they’re just giving you their discertation..or its a rehearsed conversation. if its too worked out you feel like your being fed bullshit. Jack absolutely nails it. With him I’d have to pick something from each project he’s done..I’m terrible for “favorites lists” but for today lets say; Ball and a Biscuit from the White Stripes, Level with the Raconteurs, and Hang You From The Heavens with the Dead Weather.
5. Do you have a favorite Rival Sons song?
S: its really impossible to pick my favorite child in the family…I like different ones on different days..for different reasons. to play along, I’ll pick 1 track from each record..just for todays ‘favorites list’. :: I like On My Way (from Before the Fire) because its my own song (lyrics and music), and was totally inspired..plus I really dig jays performance on the record…which is the first time I ever heard him sing it, and he did it in 1 take (!). I like Soul (from the EP) because it seems to separate us from a lot of bands. and from our up coming record (Pressure & Time) I’ll go with the title track Pressure and Time…which is a very live studio take (might be the first take). a very minimalist simple riff that gets right to the point…and the guitar solo is as dirty and raw as it gets.
6. Your lives are obviously so consumed by music. What are some of the other things that you guys are into when you’re not writing music?
S: Jay is a professional level vegan cook. Robin is a disc golf champion. Miley is a self taught chemist, and I’m a professional stuntman with a penchant for driving muscle cars through fire rings.
7. Are your recording sessions done in 100% sobriety?
S: what do mean by “sobriety” ?
8. Hahaha! Which beverage of choice is always stocked in your fridge?
S: grape kool aid…better known to some as “grape drink”.
9. Do you have any interesting pre-recording rituals?
S: We really try to keep things very visceral and off the cuff…so we don’t do much premeditation or anything like that..for Pressure & Time we didn’t even write… Just came off a 4 week tour and entered the studio the day after we got home. personally, I like to go through a bunch of riffs and song ideas before our sessions…not too much tho..just a reminder of stuff to tap into.
10. Which recording session was the most memorable for you and/or the band?
S: Since we move so quickly in the studio it’s all a bit of a blur. All our sessions have been fun, trying, and exciting in different ways….but, i gotta say, this last session (for Pressure& Time) was really interesting..and we came away with some new stuff we didn’t really expect..just coming right off tour into the studio kept it quite alive and urgent.
11. What’s the songwriting process? Is there a particular band member who does most of the songwriting, or do you write them together?
S: Generally, songs start with me or jay bringing them to the band. If they’re not totally in a finished state, we play them as a band and everyone contributes a little where it’s needed. We have also collaborated pretty heavily writing with our producer Dave Cobb…who can either contribute a small part or get us moving altogether in a particular direction. We’re fortunate to have some different perspectives and influences in the band that play off each other pretty well.
12. What’s the most important thing when deciphering which songs to throw and which ones to include on an album?
S: It’s pretty apparent..pretty quickly whats worth keeping around. We’re all about “kill your darlings”. There’s enough mediocrity in rock n roll right now…we see it and don’t like it…so, when something feels unmoving, overworked, overproduced, not grooving, or uninspired in any way at all..we drop it like a hot rock. Since our sessions are so quick-moving, we’ll generally drop things early on..we’ll just be able to tell. The good ones jump out pretty quickly too…usually a keeper is something we’ll capture live in 2 or 3 takes. You can just hear, very quickly, something sounding like a record..loose, but tight…a little danger in there..inspired performances. The final step is just seeing how all the songs work for one another, and contrast each other.
13. If you could only use one sentence to get someone to listen to your EP, what would you say?
S: “If u listen to this record your life will become insanely better..instantly!” Or..”one million dollars awarded to every listener!”..or..”Remember rock n roll?”..lastly, and slightly more seriously, “if you are disenchanted by the current state of rock n roll, this record might make you feel good”.
14. What was everyone doing before the band got together?
S: me, miley, and robin were already playing together…that’s when we originally recorded the record Before the Fire for EMI. Jay had a solo project when I met him…and still does actually…that’s what he was doing.
15. Where are all the band members originally from?
S: I’m from Huntington Beach, CA..with a healthy 2 years of high school in a desert town called Hesperia..before returning back to Huntington.
Jay is from a little mountain town called Wrightwood.
Miley from Seal Beach..
Robin from Canada.
16. So, what kind of music do you listen to nowadays?
S: Lots and lots of stuff.. And all of us listen to a pretty wide variety. At the moment the tour van is stocked with a lot of soul music…a 6 disc Motown collection..the complete stax recordings…James brown, al green, Bobby Womack, Jackie wilson… As far as newer music; we all dig jack whites stuff, I really like the newest black keys record, pj Harveys new one is pretty cool, black angels are pretty great too…too many others to go on about.
17. Opening up for AC/DC must have been a blast! Tell me about your experiences with the show!
S: One amazing thing for us is…we heard the way we were chosen for the show was by getting the thumbs up from angus and malcom. They’re a couple of my favorites..so that just rules. The show itself was fantastic. Sold out arena…just us and them. We had to genuinely win the audience over…and I think we did..there’s some videos on the interwebs..we get some nice ac/dc fan love. And watching those guys absolutely kill it side stage was great! They’re all like…5 foot or less…and exploding with energy. I took notes.
18. What kind of work is really put into living a rock and roll life? Any pressures you wanna talk about?
S: its definitely a labor of love. We love recording, and we love touring..but, it’s feast or famine monetarily…mostly famine at our stage of the game. And u can forget about too much life at home…trading for a very gypsy type of lifestyle…cowboys and indians..bank robbers. This is the hand we’re dealt tho…nobody in this band is gonna wake up tomorrow and decide to become an accountant or whatever. This our dharma..our prescribed calling. It is our life duty to give the rock & roll to the fine fine people who desire it
19. What are future plans for Rival Sons?
S: we’ll be touring the states till June, then we’ll be doing Europe all summer…including a jaunt supporting judas priest and a bunch of great festivals. Our new record PRESSURE & TIME drops in June in Europe and July here in the states. We’ll tour on it all year. We have plans to be back in the studio by the end of the year to have another record out early 2012. Tour-record-tour-record-etc…this is what we do. All the other stuff…we just take it as it comes. We just wanna give folks the rock n roll they deserve 😉