Rival Sons, descendants of the Seventies

With Rival Sons, everything evokes the 70s, from the music itself to the production and the crazy pace of album releases. Head Down is therefore a title that highlights this approach and this spontaneity. The band is particularly proud of their working rhythm: “We will keep up with this rhythm. We aim to release one album a year”. Let’s mark our calendars, then. We talked to guitarist Scott Holiday, who confirmed some musicians are definitely fed up with current productions. He mentioned his intense disappointment at the remastered version of Pearl Jam’s Ten, in 2009, which, according to him, “didn’t need that”.

Rival Sons are neither pro- nor anti-religion – they’re not even politically committed –, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say or denounce. For them, it was therefore important to talk about the colonization of American territories at the expense of Native American peoples. We also talked about the very interesting video for the song “Keep On Swinging”, which, without going as far as condemning the Catholic religion, seems to denounce religious exaltation – a sometimes scary attitude.

The band’s potential was already obvious to us from their records and stage performances. Many people seem to agree, which has allowed them to tour with prestigious bands, from Evanescence to Judas Priest, and to convince highly different audiences every time. Scott Holiday admits that this success is due to a happy yet coincidental mix of different factors, but he nevertheless tries to give some advice to young musicians. That could very well be linked to a certain moustache…

« For the most part politics and religion can stay clear of our rock’n’roll. »

Note: Due to some technical problems, a part of the recording of this interview has been lost, consequently, it doesn’t appear in the transcription below.

Scott Holiday (guitars) : … It’s not so much a matter of religions, it’s just historical you know, like the entitlement that the white men gave themselves to come over and dominate the Natives. I don’t see it that much the religious aspect, more just the social and human aspect. It’s totally frightening.

Do you think that defining too much what is wrong and what is good is dangerous, like we can see in the video?

Yeah, you’re referring to “Keep On Swinging”… People are probably gonna look too deep or look like we’re making some religious statement with that video, but we absolutely are not. Personally I think for the most part politics and religion can stay clear of our rock’n’roll, you know? It’s a fun song video that gives it a general kind of uplifting feeling. We were going for that more than any direct Christian statement, or any anti or pro-religious statement. We don’t wanna push any kind of religious value onto anybody. It’s about playing rock’n’roll, not about any kind of religious stuff.

There are snakes on this video, but also on the artwork. Is it for you the perfect incarnation of fear?

[Laughs] Yes it is. The album cover had its own kind of mood with the snakes. A lot of time snakes have a very positive symbolism. Snakes can symbolize change, protection, guardians, and obviously they can also have negative connotations, like temptation. The snakes in the video were more part of the director’s treatment. I think it was merely coincidental, I don’t even think he’d seen the album cover when he came up this idea. When we heard his idea about the band and the snakes in the church, we thought: “That’s really interesting, it’s really fun, it’ll look great, the symbolism is great.” I think he liked the symbolism of this, the heaviness that surrounds, and that Christianity is interesting and visually obviously very exciting to him.

« It’s like planets aligning. You have to have the music together, your band has to be good, you have to work together, you have to work with a good label and that’s just really the beginning, there’s so many moving parts… »

Wasn’t it too scary to film this video with those snakes?

No [laughs]. None of us are afraid of snakes, so no. We were not fearful of the snakes and we were able to tame the serpents, so there was no fear.

OK. Somehow, this video reminds me the one Soundgarden did for the song ‘Black Hole Sun’. Was it an influence for you?

No. I love that video, I think it is amazing. They probably spent a million dollars more than we did on that video [laughs], but that’s probably their best video. But I didn’t write the thing and I actually didn’t think of it as having similarities. Their video is more about some total destruction, and a really strange apocalyptic kind of thing. Ours is much more simple. The thing with the church and the baptism is maybe slightly similar, but theirs is more apocalyptic. It’s not as much as an influence but I love that video and that band.

There is a connexion between two songs on your new album, ‘Manifest Destiny Pt. 1’ and ‘Pt. 2’. What’s the story behind them?

Yeah, we were talking about that a bit earlier. Jay [Buchanan, vocals] wrote that song – lyrically anyway – inspired by a journalist named John O’Sullivan who came with those term. He’s from the 19th century and it was basically about the white man on a cavalry coming across the United States, setting a camp and basically building up a new life. It seems very innocent, very exciting and very romantic, and the term itself is very romantic; “Manifest Destiny” is a fantastic campaign. But in reality, what we all learned and what History says is that there was going to be a lot of blood shed, because people already lived there, and essentially they were going thought and take over on the Native Americans and Native Indians who had been here for hundreds and hundreds of years, maybe thousands of years, whatever. Their whole life was there, they were really in tune with this land and took care of it very nicely. They were very harmonious and then you know, white men came through to set up and claim that land. There was a lot of war and blood shed and sadness.

You toured with Evanescence in 2011 and 2012. Evanescence is a pretty modern band. How was your old school style perceived by their fans?

You know what? Amazingly! Their fans were fantastic, and every night we played with that band we got a wonderful reception. Every night we got a really killer reception. I would have thought we would have been less well received, and it was actually really nice, that actually really worked out. We met great fans with the band and I think we made a lot of new ones.

 » You have to play live as much as you can because is this day and age, that’s really where an audience is gonna be found and that’s where you’re going to plan your career. »

You’re a pretty young band and you’re already successful. You’re touring with big bands like Evanescence, Judas Priest, Black Stone Cherry and you’re playing at the most important festivals in the world. How do you explain that and what advices could you give young musicians?

Well you know, it takes so many things to align at one time. It’s like planets aligning. You have to have the music together, your band has to be good, you have to work together, you have to work with a good label and that’s just really the beginning, there’s so many moving parts… I can’t really explain how that’s happening, it’s very magical. People hear about our band and then want to help us and have the opportunity to do that. The advice I’d like to give young bands is: make sure you really love what you’re doing because the only expression I can think about that is “eating crow”, which means having the best of time at the beginning but then you’re not paid, you might not get the best flat, you might not get the best gig, there’s a lot of hardship involved… But if you love it, then that’s what you have to do, you have to follow through. Make sure you love what you do, be pretty uncompromising in how you want to deliver it if you believe in it, and play. You have to play live as much as you can because is this day and age, that’s really where an audience is gonna be found and that’s where you’re going to plan your career.

You noticed that on Facebook, there is a fan page for your mustache. How do you feel about it, considering that you shaved a part of it?

I did, I was actually about to grow it back on for a minute and then the fan page popped up, and then I shaved it off again, it’s so ridiculous [laughs]. I actually laughed. Somebody created that fan page for my mustache, not me, and I think it’s pretty hilarious, I don’t know! [laughs]

Actually that’s Facebook, because we’ve already seen some crazy Facebook fan pages like one for Scott Ian’s beard, one for Luca Turilli’s Mullet…

… And now my mustache. Yeah, I told our PR that the mustache page has probably more likes than my own page, but that was quite funny.

Interview conducted by phone on September, 11th, 2012
Transcription: Chloé

Rival Sons’ official website : www.rivalsons.com

Album Head Down released on September, 17th, 2012 via Earache Records

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