Alvvays' Molly Rankin ran away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to work on the follow up to the band's much-loved debut. "I wanted it to be an escape," she says.
"I'd been feeling a lot of escapism and wondering what life would be like had I not started this band, and what it would be like if I just left it all behind…" Molly Rankin contemplates. It's been three years since Alvvays released their self-titled first album. In the time since, the band have performed in front of crowds oceans apart, securing themselves in the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide.
"We expected for it to fade into obscurity," the frontwoman laughs, thinking back to their debut release. "But we were able to tour a lot. It was unexpected and thrilling to be able to see places, to drive through Switzerland and for people to show up and see us in places like Zurich or Hamburg," she marvels. "It's all wild to us!"
With lyrical tales of love, seclusion, and confusion told along melodies seemingly woven out of half-remembered dreams, Alvvays' debut cast a spell that no one fought to shake. As the band enchanted audiences further with their entrancing live shows, anticipation for a second record steadily continued to grow. "I'm not very good at writing in a van, or during soundcheck, or at a festival, or in a Travelodge," Molly admits, laughing. "Touring really threw a wrench into my writing process."
Days on the road and nights under the spotlight aren't always the most conducive to creativity. "Being an introverted person and a frontwoman, I'm perhaps more comfortable working in the shadows," Molly discloses. "That describes the other people in the band too," she adds. "We'd probably rather not be front and centre of something."
Finding comfort in solitude, and solitude in escape, the path to Alvvays' second record was one that seemed to pave itself. Packing a small PA into a wheelbarrow, the musician forged her escape on a ferry to Toronto Island. "My comfort zone is to be isolated from everyone," Molly states. "Obviously, when I was touring, I'm not so great at that."
Retreating away from the day to day, it was on Toronto Island that the musician started to give shape to what has become the band's second album. "I had some ideas early on, when we just got back from touring," she states. "I was wondering how I was going to come up with a record worth of songs…" Staying near the beach at night and working in an old, abandoned classroom by day, the freedom of these surroundings proved to be the perfect solution.
"I think the writing would have been a lot different had I not been living on the shore by myself," Molly affirms. "I'm definitely influenced by water and by the ocean - though that was technically a lake," she laughs. Whatever the body of water, it was here that the musician was able to rediscover her strengths and weaknesses, using her own escape to fuel the songs she was writing.
"I was really grateful to have a fair chunk of time to be able to get comfortable with writing again," she enthuses. "I was able to just be by myself and feel like myself again, and channel some inspiration." Telling tales of walking along the island's coastline and listening to her favourite records on the beach, while writing and recording demos in a place that she made her own, the process that led to ‘Antisocialites' seems almost as rose-tinted as the melodies that flood its construction.
"I think that I really needed to go away from everything in order to write the songs," she states. "To be alone again and to conjure up influences, to be able to walk along the shore and have some perspective on things..." she trails off. "It's an empowering thing to work and to be productive and ambitious. I'm glad I got back into that place."
It's a place that's as vivid in these memories as it is on record. Refrains sparkle and glimmer as if frozen in sunlight. Molly's vocals soar with nonchalance and grace, her words gently inviting listeners to "forget about life with me tonight, underneath this flickering light." There's a nostalgic haze that bleeds through the melodies, songs as fond as they are forlorn, forging the pathway to someplace brand new.
"I wanted it to be an escape," Molly eagerly illustrates of the album. "This idea was basically the core theme of the record for me," she explains. "There are a lot of different methods of escaping. The lyrics explore that." Through dreams and fantasy, from losing yourself completely to discovering relief in your own acceptance, and everywhere beyond, with their second album an escape is exactly what Alvvays have created.
Taking the band's characteristically vibrant melodies to a dynamic high, ‘Antisocialites' is a refreshing break from the dreary and the habitual exactly when you need it most. "The debut record kind of sounds like us through a pillow, a little bit," Molly describes with a chuckle. "We had some sonic struggles in mastering," she clarifies. "This time around we had a lot more leeway with frequency. We understand our band a little bit more, our strengths and weaknesses."
Assured in their intentions and their capabilities to bring them to life, their second record might have been a long time in the making, but the band wouldn't have it any other way. "We did a lot of tracking in Los Angeles," Molly recalls. "We got home and realised that we weren't really fully aware of the songs and we needed to do a lot more. So we did."
"We took months," she continues. "We wanted to extract whatever we could from the demos. Whatever magic the sound of the thought forming brought we wanted to capture." Working with several different mixers before ultimately finishing the process themselves, it's been a long road that's led here – and that's all part of the charm. ‘Antisocialites' is Alvvays as they always intended to be heard.
Taken from the September issue of Dork. Order a copy here. Alvvays' album 'Antisocialites' is out 8th September.