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Arts and Entertainment

Meet Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage

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The Rural Albertan Advantage: Amy Cole, Nils Edenloff and Paul Banwatt I Photo: Joe Fuda

The Rural Albertan Advantage: Amy Cole, Nils Edenloff and Paul Banwatt I Photo: Joe Fuda

Nils Edenloff wrote most of The Rural Alberta Advantage's stunning debut album Hometowns in Toronto, homesick for his native Albertan prairie. The touching album of folk anthems was built and honed at a open mic night at a local bar where Edenloff met drummer Paul Banwatt. The duo gradually acquired a band and headed out on the road. We spoke with Edenloff from the road yesterday mostly to find out what the devil is the advantage of living in Alberta. "It's a play on a government slogan from the 80s," he explained. "They used to have these ads that talked about how much opportunity there was in Alberta and they called it "The Albertan Advantage." All of these opportunities were about industrial products like gas and oil and other dirty things. It became a local joke. And then one day I got this email from my brother when I was in Toronto and he was joking about going off to explore the rural Albertan advantage, and I got this flash of beautiful memories from growing up there. A lot of the songs really reflect that love for the place. It's really a wonderful place to grow up."

The Rural Albertan Advantage - "Frank, AB"

What made you pick up an instrument?
My parents put me into a music appreciation thing when I was in preschool. We did rhythm training and the basics of music. I'm not sure if it had an effect on me. I think my parents were just like, "Yeah, kid likes music, I guess. Let's put him in school." Music has been a part of life as far back as I can remember. I played piano and guitar when I was younger. I think they were my first instruments.

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Do you still play the piano?
I still can't play it well. I always played by ear.

When did you decide to move to Toronto from Alberta?
I graduated from university in Alberta and decided that I could either stick around there and do the same sort of thing or move away. I just felt like I was stuck in a rut. Mostly I wanted to see the touring bands that went through Toronto. You might not believe this, but there aren't many touring bands going through northern Alberta.

What was the best show you ever saw in northern Alberta?

I don't think anyone ever played up there. It's in Edmonton which had the shows that really stuck out. I remember I saw Hayden there when I was younger. That was amazing. Oh and I saw Arcade Fire in Toronto when they were just beginning. There were about ten people there and we were all like "Oh. My. God." That was really something special.

Is your band a democracy or a dictatorship?

I would like to say it's a democracy, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it's a dictatorship.

Is "Don't Haunt This Place" about a real break up? Or a series of break ups put together?
Ah, that song is more of cause and effect type story. Some songs are a patchwork of ideas, but this one is about a specific breakup. I wrote it in my apartment that I was living in by myself after I had just broken up with my girlfriend. There were all of these memories still left there and that song really pours them all out. It's almost like voodoo black magic pulling memories from places.


The Rural Albertan Advantage I Photo: Patrick Leduc

"Frank, AB" is such a beautiful love song, but I don't understand the title. Is Frank, AB a particularly romantic place?
(laughs) Um, no. It's a really grim place. A rock slide buried and entire town in the early 1900s. There is just this sea of rocks covering the landscape. It's a really depressing place. It has a very creepy effect on you. They used to take us on field trips there when we were younger. It's not very romantic. I wouldn't marry anyone there. Did they dig all of the bodies out?
No. It's the same way that it was. It was a whole mountainside that fell. When they were building the highway they dug out some of it and found 16 bodies.

Eww...Anyhow I heard that you were self released in Canada, Saddlecreek Records in the US. Is there a reason for that? Did they offer you something juicy?
We're all huge fans of Saddle Creek and what they do. When we started our record label in Canada it seemed to make sense at the time. We were hand burning CDs and hand stamping the album covers to sell out at shows. It was a lot of work. And then Saddle Creek came along when we played in the states. They saw us at an eMusic showcase at SXSW and seemed really excited by our sound. They've been so good to us. Our band is based on a series of events that all stems from grassroots growth and people believing in us and promoting us and helping us out a long the way. We like to control our own destiny in Canada, but that's become increasingly difficult because we've been so busy touring. It's been a ridiculous year. We'll see how it goes. We might be on a Canadian label for our second record.

How's the second record coming?
We've got seven songs that are probably good. I mean, we're really happy with them. We've been testing songs from the new album on the road. We don't want to rush it. We want an album that's on par with Hometowns.

Are you going to sign other bands if you keep your record label?
I think it will still exist in some way. We'd like to make it into something eventually, but right now we're just focusing on the second record.

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What was the worst show you ever played?
There are some infamous shows that I want to block out of mind. I remember playing a show in Toronto for a promoter called XXX Series.

Yeah, that's what it was called. It wasn't porn or anything, but that guy was one of the sketchiest promoters ever.

You would think with such a wholesome name...

Yeah we should have known. Oh one of our worst shows was in Ontario at Stephanie's Carribean Cuisine in 2005.

The Rural Albertan Advantage - "Don't Haunt This Place"

What happened?
Let's just say at the beginning of the show there were five people in the band and after the show there was only two people. There was the complete destruction of the band that one show.

Holy crap. What happened?
I can't talk about it. It's too painful. (laughs). Let's just say that now the band is three people and I think that's the number we're going to stick with.

What is the weirdest thing you ever seen in the audience?

Several nights ago I was singing this solo song on stage and this dude grabbed a drumstick and started hitting the cymbal. But this guy looked like he hadn't a soul outside of him. He looked like the walking dead. It was so creepy. He also looked identical to a friend of mine in Toronto. It was so strange. But if you want a weird surreal and good story, when we played Pianos in New York for the first time it was so weird because everyone knew all the words. We had never been to New York before and everyone was singing along. We were afraid that we were getting punked or something. How could so many people know our songs? It was really strange.

Do you have a favorite local band at the moment?

Oh man, there are so many. We're touring in February with Wooden Sky and Great Bloomers. They're both great.

Okay, last question what was your favorite album this year?

The Antlers album, Hospice. I love that album. I really like how you have to listen to that album as a whole piece. You have to ingest it whole. You can't listen to it as separate songs. I really enjoy the fact doing that sort of thing again.

Well thank you so much for talking with us.

Thank you!

Be sure to catch The Rural Albertan Advantage tonight at the Bootleg Theater with Shaky Hands and Pepper Rabbit. Doors are at 8pm. Tickets are $15.