I catch Nils Edneloff, front-man of The Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA), known for his talent as a songwriter and one-of-a-kind vocals, during his lunch break. He seems bewildered, but is immediately open and friendly, explaining he’s at work. “Working on the new album?” I ask. “Working as an engineer — it’s what I went to school for so. . .” he chuckles.
We briefly reminisce about the bands double-set at the Pawn Shop last February, discussing some of his awkward jokes and stage banter. Edneloff admits “Stage presence is a learned art, one I’m not sure we’ve mastered.”
Not that it matters, fans of the band understand that it’s The Rural Alberta Advantage’s slight awkwardness that makes the band so endearing. It’s a refreshing combination of talent and humility, a rarity in the music industry today.
Its first album, Hometowns, was a brilliant debut, harboring much attention across the nation, espe- cially in Alberta. “We didn’t really realize what was going on until we played our first show in Alberta. I don’t think we were really prepared for the response,” Edneloff recalls, referring to the way the band’s set was embraced by fans.
And hopefuls can expect the second album at, “the beginning of March.”
“The second album was a different sort of experience. With the first album, we were hoping a few people would pick it up, but with the second there were expectations we knew we had to live up to,” said Edneloff.
The small amount of criticism the Rural Alberta Advantage has received in the past seems to be with its close attachment to Alberta. I ask Edneloff if having the band’s identity tied to geography has hindered it, or if they’ve grown tired of the association. He insists that it has indeed remained an advantage.
“That’s never going to change for me. I grew up here — the second album stays true to that. The references in our music might become more subtle, but it is still part of who we are.”
The Rural Alberta Advantage’s MySpace page describes their music as “indie-rock folk songs about hometowns and heartbreak.” We know about the hometowns, but what about the heartbreak? “I’m drawn to sad songs. And I think in a certain sense there’s something true in the sad aspects of life — love, moving on, leaving loved ones. I think there has always been that undertone in our music.”
On that note comes the serious question; is there a bit of a RAA love-triangle? Edneloff jokes “Just good friends, but it’s nice to have a bit of mystery isn’t there? It’s funny what our audience is left to wonder.”
Whatever their connection, it can be credited for creating such dynamic sound within the trio. Drummer Paul Banwatt and percussionist/vocalist Amy Cole are so in-sync with Edneloff ’s strumming and vocals, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’d been separated at birth.
“Paul and I have been playing together for a long time now,” he explains. “We really just play off each other — it’s amazing. Being in a band with such a striped down sound kind of allows Paul to do whatever he wants.”
I’m no musician myself, but I know as much as to realize most drummers in indie folk bands don’t operate with that sort of artistic freedom, let alone have opportunities to showcase themselves in every song.
Live, Paul Banwatt could rival some of the best drummers of our time. As for Amy Cole, the drool-worthy harmonist, she layers onto the sound, working with the tambourine, keyboard and various percussion.
“Building the song up to its highest potential,” Edneloff fondly adds.
The RAA’s tase in the arts is impeccable. Edneloff explains their video for “Drain The Blood,” directed by Ante Kovac, is a reference to the Francis Ford Coppola film, The Conversation, from the 1970s. Clearly, a multifaceted group, the band is excited for their Myer Horowitz show on Oct. 29.
“We haven’t had a chance to do a lot of theater shows, so we’re excited to show our diversity in terms of venue,” Edneloff states.
I ask if the publicity and response they’ve been receiving is a bit overwhelming
“It’s something everyone in a band strives for. It’s surprising in a way, but it’s something we’ve been enjoying.” Edenloff pauses, “I’m not so sure about the online thing though . . . we get Amy to do the tweeting.”
Wrapping up, Edneloff laughs, “We like to keep some of the mystery. There’s an appeal in not knowing everything about a band. We invite discussion, and we thrive on hearing from our audience, but we’re not Kanye, we’re not trying to be…”
Then the acclaimed front man mentions he and his band-mates will most likely be working the merchandise table themselves.
That’s dedication for you.