Monday, February 3, 2014

Rival Sons Are Proving That Owning Your Music Is The Key To Success, Not A Major Label Contract - Part 1

Rival Sons are proving that owning your music is the key to success, not a major label contract

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"California based rockers Rival Sons have been bringing their heart and soul infused classic rock sounds to the masses since 2008. One listen to this band and it will blow your mind that they’ve only been at this for a mere 5 years. Their cohesive, tight as a drum sound is reminiscent of a band that has been at this for 3, even 4 times longer than what they’ve actually been together for.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with guitarist Scott Holiday and what started out as a 20 minute interview turned into an hour long conversation that had me completely entertained and feeling like I had learned so much about one of my favorite bands. This was such an in depth talk that this ended up being a two part interview.

In this part we talked about following up their monumental 2013 release Head Down, the shadiness of the record industry, and how the hell a song like “Manifest Destiny Pt. 1” could be captured in just one take. I feel like there was no stone left unturned in this unabridged, unfiltered conversation. Get yourself a drink, put on some Rival Sons, and settle in for Part 1 of my two part interview with Scott Holiday!  Enjoy!


Scott.  Thanks so much for doing this interview today brother!

It’s my pleasure Don.  Thanks for having me.


So are you guys on a break or something and plotting your next phase of world domination?

[laughs] We are on a very rare break. We’re usually out on the road but we just got back from Canada where we did a few weeks out there. We’re aiming to be in the studio in January. We have a couple of one off shows in the next couple of months and just trying to get our act together. We’re going to sign our next deal and get things in order before the next record.


You mentioned that you guys are signing a new deal.  Will this new deal be a record deal?

We just do one record at a time deals. For some reason, we’ve been able to negotiate these kinds of deals so this also allows us to keep the rights and control of everything one record at a time. We actually own all of our records and we’ve kept a lot of our business and our rights. We own more than the average band.


Why not just sign a big deal with a big company like Warner Bros or Universal?

That’s just now who we are. What they want for a deal like that is hilarious. I’m not selling off my children, I’m not giving away my loved ones, and I’m keeping all my body parts [laughs]. Those people are terrible and really demonic. In all seriousness, what they want to take from you on a business level is really sad and they’re getting it from people. They give you one chance, one record and you better hope that your planets align because if they don’t, you’ve just ruined your entire career because now you owe them for those records and guess what? They’re not going to make those records for you so you can’t go sign another deal and your trapped.


The delusions of these bands are that they believe that the Warner Bros, the Atlantic Records, the Universals of the world are where the money is. You guys have just chosen to not sell your souls or your artistic rights and chosen to go with the smaller guys for maybe enough money to get you by.

Right. What they’re asking for is just not fair. Here’s a simple analogy. You have a can of Coke. I want to buy your can of Coke for a dollar and you give me that can of Coke. This is a normal deal right? Now I’m the record company. If you sell me that can of Coke, I promise you a keg. Actually, I don’t just want that can of Coke though. I want your rights to every can of Coke you ever buy again. Ok? Here’s a dollar [laughs]. That’s what they’re doing to people.


It sounds like I’m catching you at a pretty exciting time as there sounds like some cool shit is about to go down.

Oh yeah. I mean, we are definitely fired up to get back in there and make a new record that’s for sure. The album cycle for this one (Head Down) went way longer than any album cycle. We’ve been priding ourselves over these last 4 records on making sure that every year we have something new coming out. Unfortunately for this record the releases were offset by like 6 months between the US and Canada so we had to put another 6-8 months into it.


I know it was a long cycle but man, we barely saw you guys hitting the states behind this one. I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Why has there been such a lack of Rival Sons here in the US? What is it that people just aren’t getting here?

Well, I think that business wise you’ve got to work where your dollar is best well spent. You can only focus on so much of the world. It’s a huge place and you can only focus on certain areas so much. It costs a lot of money and it takes a lot of time.  From the beginning of our career we’ve been pretty focused on Europe because they took to us quicker. The media has taken to us and we’re on magazine covers over there, we’re charting over there, and we’re on radio all over the place, and we play pretty big theaters over there. When it’s time for us to work, it’s just kind of our go to. Our next biggest market that took to us quicker than the US has been Canada. I think the answer that everybody wants to hear from me is that America hates rock n’ roll [laughs]. We know that’s not what it is at all and we know that there are great fans here.  We have a boatload of fans here but it’s just such a huge territory. It’s a little bit slower here and everyone’s taking to us slower. We don’t get tour support. We fund everything ourselves so it’s going to take us spending a whole bunch of money. That said, we’re going to focus on this album cycle much more on being over here with our brethren.

I feel like the music world is just so over saturated with bands these days. If it wasn’t for running this site I don’t know that I would’ve ever heard some of my favorite bands such as Christian Mistress, Gypsyhawk, or even Rival Sons. I feel like the good news is that anyone can make a record these days and the bad news is that anyone can make a record these days.

[laughs] That’s right. I say the same thing. I hear a lot of people saying, “Man, there’s not as much good music now as there was back in then” and every time I hear that I say, “You are out of your mind.” There’s 10 times more going on right now than there ever was but it’s kind of like being in a crowded room or club and you’re trying to get to the other side of the room. We’re all moving through a very packed area so it’s hard to sift through all the bands to find the things that we might love or great.


Just like the “old days”, you still have to do a little digging and little groundwork to find those special bands. I remember being a kid and going to record stores and asking the guy behind the counter, “Hey, I love Iron Maiden. Who else is out there that is like that?” Now we have this internet thing and we can find anything and everything.

Exactly! I remember when I was really little and already buying records and the internet was not a thing. Could you imagine how it is for kids now where everything they want is right there in the Google machine [laughs]? Not only is it there but it’s buyable in seconds. This is really revolutionary and mind bending. If you wanted a Flamin’ Groovies record, you could search for five years going through states and countries before you’d even come across your first Flamin’ Groovies record. Now,Google machine, there it is and buy their whole collection [laughs]. It’s a no brainer anymore.


So even with the internet today guys like you and me can still enjoy the hunt and save a shit ton of gas.

[laughs] There’s still some fun to doing this on the computer. I think there’s still that hunt and that kill out there to discover. It’s not that deep think like when you’d come across that Flamin’ Groovies record at a garage sale.


That’s how it was for me with the Captain Beyond debut album. I could’ve bought it on Ebay but I hunted forever, found it, and stuck it in frame on my wall for all to see! I was like, FINALLY!

[laughs] You know what?  All I really listen to out of fun and out of quality is vinyl. That changes the hunt to. You can buy all that vinyl on the computer but I like to stick to that mentality that you’re talking about with the Captain Beyond album. I look for original copies and limited editions for my collection. I just go to shops and garage sales. Every country I go to I look for certain things that are only limited to those countries and bring them home.

Rival Sons released their entire catalog on vinyl. When you recording these albums, did you go into the recording and production process with the idea that they were going to be mixed specifically for a vinyl medium as opposed to mixing for CD and then just putting out vinyl?

Not really. We’re not trying to be such ridiculous hipsters saying shit like, “Let’s go in and make this only on cassette and really lo-fi.” We’re just trying to make the best sounding record. We’re recording a lot of analog and using a lot of analog paths. We master for vinyl, we master for digital. We’re just trying to make something now that is us. That is going to digital. We all have iPhones, we all are Mac people. We’re in that world but we all have record players and love listening to vinyl. It’s not one or the other. We live in the now.  People want to throw us back into some old era but no, that’s not what I’m into. I’m not constantly listening to copies of Moby Grape on repeat. That’s not what’s happening here. I like the new MGMT [laughs].


Head Down is such a great album but it’s a step in another direction from Pressure and Time.  Matter of fact, listening to each of the Rival Sons albums I can hear a steady evolution and progression to where you are now.

Well thank goodness you’re a fan and you’re hearing an evolution. From record to record there should be a stylistic and sonic shift. We’re never going into studio saying, “Let’s make part 2 of that one.” Before the Fire was before Jay (Buchanan; lead vocalist) was in the band. Those are more my songs that I had written with another singer who didn’t write at all. I ended up removing this singer from the band and then got Jay in the group who agreed to sing all these songs. There’s a whole different sound happening. There’s a lot more of my eastern influence and a lot more of an early British invasion sound because that was the place where we were at. The EP was the first one that we worked with Jay on so you’re going to get a way bluesy version of us because that’s Jay. You’re also going to get the sound of four dudes working hard together instead of just one dude’s perspective. Pressure and Time was pretty much the sound of the band being pretty much minted and ready to make a real effort together. It was very concise and very right to the point. I wanted the songwriting to be short, direct, and very easy for people to swallow. Rock N’ Roll isn’t too abundant right now. It’s kind of just leaking in here and there. If people are going to hear us they’re going to need to take it in a small pill. It can’t be a horse pill. We had toured that record for a whole year and had expanded those arrangements, met our fan base, and circled the globe a few times. When we stepped into the studio right off the tour to make Head Down and we were all very collectively on the same page. We needed to show people a little more of what the live show feels like and a little bit more of what the band is.


Tell me about the song Manifest Destiny.  Is it true that what we hear was the first take?  If so, how the hell did you pull that off?

[laughs] Everything was plugged in, everything was mic’d up, the producer was in the booth, and we just had everything ready to go. We were just prepared to capture. With Manifest Destiny Pt I, It was the first time we ever even played the song together. I’m not talking about rehearsing it for a month and then doing it in one take but the way. We talked about the song, talked about the changes, maybe mapped out a few things for a couple of minutes and then we say, “OK, let’s try playing it” and that “try” became the take we used on the record. It was really far out for us and it was unlike anything I had ever done. There was definitely that feeling of immediacy that we wanted to capture early takes but when it does happen it’s really fun for all of us."