Interview: Rival Sons
"The aesthetic of a band is very important in my eyes, for any band really. We’re certainly enjoying that aesthetic with this band. I get a few suits made for each tour. It wasn’t like that at the beginning. At first I would buy things and have a collection of old stuff that I would bring with me, namely vintage clothes and whatnot"
With each tour lining up after the next, Rival Sons’ searing rise to popularity as a rock n’ roll band has been one unlike any other in today’s treacherous music industry. After having been picked up by Digby Pearson of Earache Records, the band would not take long before hitting the road alongside heavyweight pioneering acts such as Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Eagles of Death Metal and most recently Black Sabbath, harvesting new fans one sold-out show at a time thanks to their electrifying, catchy numbers and incredible live performances. More than a merely successful promotional campaign, one only needs to listen to the band’s self-released debut to understand that these folks owe their success to the airtight musicianship and impeccable songwriting that has defined their sound since the start of their career. Having released their fifth record last year, the band has been touring relentlessly and is currently travelling across North America for the American branch of a very special headlining tour: the Teatro Fiasco tour. We recently caught up with guitarist Scott Holiday to talk about the band’s recent activities as well as his personal knack for sharp outfits and great records.
(((o))): So you’ve recently finished your 13-month touring cycle supporting Black Sabbath on their very last tour. How did that go?
It was fantastic, it was amazing. We were out for a year and it was an unbelievable experience to tour with such a legendary band on their final tour. Inside of a year you can really make a relationship with somebody and we got to know the guys and watch them play every night. It truly was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
(((o))): I got to see you guys perform last year at Hellfest Open Air. You delivered an absolutely smashing set, though I was surprised to later read that Jay was weary of that performance: “We thought they were going to throw piss bottles at us”. Did you share the same sentiment before the gig?
(laughs) Well we’re a rock n’ roll band and we borrow from soul, blues and garage rock, and here we were playing a festival called HELLfest (laughs)! It was quite the intimidating to play that festival and we weren’t sure that they’d accept what we’re doing wholeheartedly. The quote was more of a joke though; Jay really didn’t think that. As a group we will win over any audience by doing what we do but there was certainly some intimidation leading up to the show. (laughs)
A couple of songs into the show, the crowd was with us. The tent was full and the people were immediately with us. The slower numbers were the ones people reacted best to. It was as though they were inundated with so much heavy music during the festival that whenever we’d play a slower song, the lighters would all go up. People were really enjoying it.
(((o))): You’re currently on the road for the North American branch of the Teatro Fiasco tour. What can American fans expect from this tour you’ve put together and how did the idea for it come about?
Well the idea for it came about by me and Jay talking about what kind of act we’d want to open for us that weren’t bands. Although there are a lot of bands that we like and we’ve got friends that we’d love to bring out with us, we wanted to do something really special. We wanted something that was not quite Vaudeville but more of a variety show where we would be the Rock n’ Roll band. We wanted to bring out our good friend Derrick Brown, who does poetry and spoken word. We also wanted to bring our friend Howie Pyro, who’s a DJ who spins only 45 RPM records. He brings out a very exclusive record collection and he plays videos during his sets. The idea was really born out of the idea of doing a show that we’d want to go to and that’s essentially what it is.
(((o))): How did you first come across these two performers?
Howie Pyro has a radio show called Intoxica Radio. Our tour manager Pete Stahl is friends with him and turned me onto Howie’s radio show. I’ve been listening to it for a while now and I’m a huge fan, it’s my favorite radio show. Derrick is a friend of Jay’s. We reached out to both of them to see if they’d do the tour with us and they agreed.
(((o))): Can you tell us more about the choice of the tour name?
This is more of a question for Jay unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you. I liked it when I heard it though, it’s suitable. It’s got this circus vibe to it.
(((o))): The tour made its debut in Europe. Derrick Brown being a spoken word performer, you must have had an interesting reception in some countries that don’t speak English as well.
Obviously it was a bit of a problem in certain areas, in some places more than others. Most of the world understands English though and for the most part it went over very, very well. It’s amazing. It’s a shame that we don’t know more languages in America. Most of Europe has been understanding and it definitely went better than worse. We’ll absolutely be doing it again. We never toured with a “concept”, this one is a little more wrangled in and more organised. I’m sure that we’ll do something similar next time. We’ve already been brainstorming what we’ll be doing next.
(((o))): I’ve heard that you have a suit made for each tour you go on. Was the visual aspect of the band something that you’ve had in mind from the start or is it more of a recent addition?
The aesthetic of a band is very important in my eyes, for any band really. We’re certainly enjoying that aesthetic with this band. I get a few suits made for each tour. It wasn’t like that at the beginning. At first I would buy things and have a collection of old stuff that I would bring with me, namely vintage clothes and whatnot. It just got to the point where we were touring and I didn’t want to keep looking around and creating outfits so I figured I’d have them made for each tour and make it easier on myself. It’s hard to explain how you come up with something like that. I’ve been working with Ray Brown and the relationship just continued.
(((o))): Do you have a specific style in mind according to what kind of tour you’re going on?
There’s a little bit of that. I’ll work with Ray and see what we’re thinking about, we’ll bounce ideas around. We look at pictures and see what we’ve been doing and try and go for something different every time. I don’t just wear just one suit on tour though, I bring a whole gaggle of suits with me. Recently I got this really great, short jacket that’s almost got this western-style mariachi band thing going for it. I don’t think it’s particular to the tour, it’s not “themed” to the Teatro Fiasco tour but rather based on what I’m doing aesthetically myself from tour to tour.
(((o))): I understand you’ve also got quite an impressive record collection. Any notable acquisitions lately?
I got some funky records. I got this Hot Rod compilation that’s all about cars, early rock n’ roll garage songs about car parks and going fast, racing… (laughs). It’s amazing. It’s a little comical but it’s actually really cool. I’ve also been getting some good compilation records of famous singers from the 30’s and 40’s. I also got the Guess Who record with ‘American Woman’ on it, some stuff by The Sonics. I also have pretty good Django Reinhardt collection. I’m always acquiring new stuff also, like the newest A Tribe Called Quest record. I’ve also been listening to Anderson .Paak’s new record a lot!
(((o))): What’s next for the band after this next tour?
We’re writing. We’re about sign a new record deal and we’ll be making a record by the end of the year. We’re doing some summer tours through Europe. We’re playing the Riot Fest in Colorado in July. We’ve just started this tour and this last us until about mid-June. We’re booked with tours until the end of August. After that we’ll start writing for the new record.
(((o))): So I understand you’ve also been writing on the road as well lately. I understand some of your records were written during the studio recording sessions.
Yeah, I’ll write some stuff on the road and make a lot of notes. We don’t quite finish things up on the road but we gather some ideas of what we like. I think we’ll still write records in the studio but we’re also going to be taking a little more time to focus on the writing process this time.
(((o))): To finish things off: could you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?
A record I will return to again and again is the Nuggets Volume One compilation. It’s this compilation of early garage tracks.
One of my favorite movies would be the Godfather and for my favorite book I’ll got for Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.
(((o))): Thank you very much for the interview, and I’ll be seeing you at the Toronto show next week. Any closing words?
Canada is almost like a second home for us. Toronto is one of my favorite towns. I actually date a girl in Toronto right now. It’s a wonderful place and we’re really really looking forward to the show. It’s been sold out for a long time. We love our Canadian fans and the support we get there. I can’t wait to be there!