When Canadian indie pop outfit Alvvays came to Phoenix last October, the band performed at Valley Bar. Since then, its fanbase has seen a large popularity boost.
On Monday, April 23, the band will play the Crescent Ballroom. Vocalist Molly Rankin says moving to larger rooms is a trend with Alvvays.
“Things have changed a little bit since the last time we’ve toured the United States,” she says. “The rooms are slightly bigger and we have a little bit more help. We’re going to have a monitor person on this tour, which is comforting for us.”
The show in downtown Phoenix will come after Rankin and her bandmates – guitarist Alec O’Hanley, keyboardist Kerri MacLellan, bassist Brian Murphy and drummer Sheridan Riley – finish their second weekend at Coachella.
“It’s nice to have a soundcheck and to play inside of a room where you hear sound coming back at you,” she explains. “Sometimes festivals can be a bit of a challenge, because the sound you’re sending out you don’t hear back. You’re just sort of funneling sound into the ether, so to speak. Also, you’re just doing a line check where you plug something in and make sure it works and that’s basically it.”
This will be the band’s second time at the popular California festival. Though Rankin is careful not to build up her expectations, she has high hopes.
“I believe the first time we played, it was in the afternoon. I’m hoping we might be able to play a little bit later when it’s cooler, because I don’t really do well in direct sunlight,” she says with a laugh after a brief U.K. tour in February.
“Other than that, I try not to make any plans at festivals because you just sort of end up being disappointed and stressed,” though she adds, “But I’m sure witnessing Beyoncé will be surreal.”
The performances at Crescent Ballroom and Coachella come while the band is touring in support of its sophomore record, Antisocialites, which was released in September. Though some critics have noted the group moving in a stronger dream pop direction than its lo-fi self-titled 2014 debut, Rankin doesn’t see a drastic change.
“We were sort of feeling our way through the first record and weren’t exactly sure if we were a band or if it was a solo project. It was in the very early stages of this configuration that is currently Alvvays,” she explains. “The guitars were louder; we were just a little bit more skronky and abrasive as a live band than on record. I think that’s true, and maybe the second record captured a little bit more of those brash guitar tones that we gravitate toward when we listen to records. But then there are still the jangly, reverby bits that run through the record as well.”
She continues, “But I don’t think we’ve changed all that drastically. It might just be a level of a little bit more treble.”
Though the album is still fresh in fans’ minds, some of the songs date back several years, Rankin says. For example, “Your Type” has been performed since 2014.
“I think some of the songs that are on the new record were ready when we were touring the previous record. We were playing those songs on tour for a lot of people and they would record it in live settings as well,” she says, adding, “Sometimes it’s harder to record those songs.”
When that tour ended and the time came to write Antisocialites, Rankin exiled herself to a small, isolated island off the coast of Toronto. It was there where the blueprint for some of the songs began to take shape.
“I felt that I wanted to have as much material as possible in selecting the songs for the record so we weren’t stuck with something that we didn’t necessarily get behind.
“I probably wrote five or six songs in a fairly short period of time, and I feel good about them. I think ‘In Undertow’ was one of them, and ‘Forget About Life,’ and then a couple that didn’t make the record that might see the light of day at some point.”
The process, she says, gave her a different experience while writing the record.
“Just being alone and having the freedom to fail without neighbors hearing you or roommates or anything was a really beneficial experience for me,” she says. “I had my favorite stands and a microphone and a small PA and the pedals I like and could be as loud as I wanted without worrying about disturbing anyone, and try things that I may normally not.”
She adds, “I was bored, which is also I feel like an important part of being creative, is not having any options to entertain oneself.”
The exile was an important musical step because Rankin writes most of the songs.
“The songwriting process has always begun with me, and the inspiration of those songs has always hit me when I’m alone. That was why I went on that mission,” she says of her island retreat. “When I have enough of an idea and feel like I’m comfortable enough communicating what I want it to be, I bring it to Alec.”
Whether the song stays mostly the same or is completely evolved depends.
“Sometimes it doesn’t really go through many changes and others it completely goes upside down and we start from scratch and move things around. Then it becomes an Alec and I push and pull sort of thing.” Then the rest of the band enters the fold.
Though the band has much of its coming months set on continued touring, culminating with several one-off summer festivals, Rankin sees the potential for creativity to bloom beyond that.
“I think that we’ve carved out a little bit of time,” she says. “I know that the summer will be more sporadic kind of fly-out festival stuff rather than what we’re doing now, which is like two-and-a-half months of straight dates. I think up until fall we’re quite busy and now conscious of setting aside time for me to be creative while not traveling.”
Alvvays w/Frankie Rose, Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Avenue, Phoenix, 602.716.2222, CrescentPHX.com, 8 p.m. Monday, April 23, sold out.