.Preview: Alvvays to Play the Catalyst

Molly Rankin, the guitarist and lead singer for Canada’s breakout dream-pop band Alvvays doesn’t mind that the group’s most beloved single, “Archie, Marry Me” has been so thoroughly misunderstood.

Most fans and critics, including me, hear a song that embraces domestic life in the face of youth and rebellion—or at least hear the singer pleading with a lover who expressed “contempt for matrimony” to give marriage a shot. The music’s wispy, distorted ’90s indie-pop sound fits this interpretation.

But in fact, its intended meaning was the exact opposite. The earworm chorus: “Hey, hey, marry me, Archie” was written ironically.

“I was at an age of seeing some of our friends leaping into cubicles and marriage, and I was afraid of that. I value being in the moment, staying up late and enjoying my youth. It was never about a plea to be wed,” Rankin says. “I kind of like the other life it’s taken on. I’m happy that people gleaned different things from it.”

The video for “Archie, Marry Me,” which was released in 2014, is approaching 4 million views on YouTube. It’s the kind of poppy song that gets stuck in your head, but doesn’t wear out its welcome when it gets there. I’ve probably listened to it 50 times myself.

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Despite its success, however, the band didn’t catch fire overnight. When Alvvays recorded the song, they weren’t even a band yet—it was a solo project for Rankin, with the other members “helping out.”

It was the producer that saw that there was something special about what they were doing. “When he had signed on for the project, he thought I was a singer-songwriter, and then when we showed up it was a lot more than that,” says Rankin. “He was like, ‘you guys should have told me you were a band.’ We took that advice.”

It took a while to find a label interested in releasing their debut album. One night, opening for Yuck in New York, they met some people from Polyvinyl Records who were interested.

It was another three years before they released a follow-up album, Antisocialites, which came out last September.

“The first record grew and kept growing. So we had to keep on playing shows due to that growth, which was a very gradual thing,” Rankin says.

It seems to me that the sound of the new record is a little less hazy and distortion-filled, and a little softer and morose than Alvvays’ debut—but Rankin disagrees.

“I feel like the second record is more distorted, and has a little bit more energy,” she says, although she doesn’t mind my interpretation. “That’s cool, because it’s a subjective thing.”

However you hear the album, the content is darker. She refers to it as a “fantasy breakup album,” a loose concept album documenting the various aspects related to a break up. The fantasy part is that it’s not based on her life.

“The record goes through a lot of the different stages: separation, self-preservation, and hitting one’s stride after the fact. It was fun to follow a little bit of that arc, because there were so many aspects to separation and being with somebody,” Rankin says. “I’m not very good at writing about my own life. I like lonely solitary characters. I typically read books that have that sort of premise.”

There are still catchy hooks that permeate every corner of these songs, and soften the melancholy vibe. Rankin writes not as personal catharsis, but rather as an opportunity to spin stories the way a novelist would.

“I’m very intrigued by space and tuning out and creating my own little planet,” she says. “With everything going on in the world right now, I think it’s also channeled a little bit of that escapism.”

Alvvays plays at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. 429-4135.


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