Toronto-based Alvvays’ combination of jangly indie pop with infectious, sugary melodies and melancholy noise rock earned the band a devoted following and led to them being one of the flagbears of the ongoing popularity of the C86 sound. They first made a splash with the awkardly pretty single “Archie, Marry Me,” which featured on their assured self titled debut from 2014. Future albums retained the building blocks of their early sound, with 2022s Blue Rev adding in elements of ’90s indie rock and shoegaze.
Vocalist/guitarist Molly Rankin — the daughter of John Morris Rankin from the popular Canadian folk family group the Rankin Family — was joined by childhood neighbor Kerri MacLellan on keyboards, and met guitarist Alec O’Hanley at a show as a teenager before they proceeded to write music together. Rankin self-released a solo EP in 2010 with the help of O’Hanley before bringing the rest of Alvvays together, with Brian Murphy (bass) and Phil MacIsaac (drums) joining the fold. They then toured heavily, supporting the likes of Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Peter Bjorn and John, while busily working on new songs. The band enlisted fellow countryman and musician Chad VanGaalen to record sessions for their debut album at his Calgary studio in 2013, and also worked with Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh and producer John Agnello (Kurt Vile, the Hold Steady). Standout performances at 2014′s SXSW and the Internet hype surrounding their demo of “Adult Diversion” alerted their talents to Polyvinyl Records, who subsequently signed Alvvays and released their self-titled album in 2014. The album became something of a sensation, thanks in part to the popularity of “Archie, Marry Me,” and the band began a whirlwind of touring. As they gained popularity, the concerts became larger and they nabbed slots at Glastonbury in 2015 and Coachella in 2016. Along the way, they began sprinkling new songs into their set, but Rankin finished up writing the album while taking day trips to Toronto Islands to work in isolation in an abandoned schoolroom. When the songs were done, Rankin, MacLellan, and Murphy recorded in Los Angeles, then Rankin and O’Hanley moved the sessions to their basement in Toronto, where they invited a few guests to contribute, including Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake. The resulting album, Antisocialites, was released by Polyvinyl in September of 2017. The group were nominated for two Juno Awards in 2018, one for group of the year, one for Alternative Album of the Year. They won the former, then their luck turned a little sour. First, Rankin’s laptop full of song ideas and demos was stolen; soon after a basement flood ruined much of thier equipment. Add to that list the departure of Murphy and MacIsaac along with the global pandemic that made it hard to rehearse with their new rhytym section of bassist Abbey Blackwell and drummer Sheridan Riley, and it’s a wonder the band didn’t pack it in. On the contrary, they regrouped to work on a new batch of songs with producer Shawn Everett, who had previously worked with acts as diverse as Kacey Musgraves and the War on Drugs. Full of loud guitars, tricky arrnagements, and Rankin’s more insistent vocals, 2022′s Blue Rev saw the band building on the past sound, while giving it a slight glow up in the process. ~ Scott Kerr & Tim Sendra