Photo: Arden Wray

While based in Toronto, Alvvays hail from The Maritimes – an obscure collection of islands on Canada’s East coast, and as vocalist Molly Rankin chats about her heritage, it’s obvious that it feeds into the band’s output. “I’m inspired by the unknown; there’s still so much to be discovered in the ocean,” she tells me over the phone. “I have a short attention span. I frequently drift off into thoughts of the seas. Being on a coast is a beautiful way to grow up. I’m grateful to have been surrounded by forests and water, somewhere you take for granted in adolescence, but in later years it’s great to return to.”

City dwelling makes sense for their musical lives, but Rankin says that they often pine for where they come from. “When you’re feeling cooped up, a good escape for all Torontonians is to board the ferry and go to Toronto Island, which is somewhere I went to write some of the songs on the new record,” she continues. “You’re transported to a different place entirely.”

Both their self-titled 2014 album and Antisocialites, due out on 8th September, were composed in relative detachment, not only on remote islands, but the first album was part-conceived working in the least busy smoothie shack you could imagine. Solitude seems a default setting for Rankin. “When I was younger, I got used to being on my own. That’s when I first picked up the guitar and started writing poetry. I realised when we’d been touring for a long time that I hadn’t been by myself, so it was really a necessary isolation for me to be exiled to this island until I came back with some good ideas.”

The second album comes with added punch, a development Rankin finds refreshing. “On the first record, we weren’t sure exactly what we were when we recorded it. There’s also an aspect of it that sounds a little muffled or pillowy. This record has a little more of a smack to it in that respect. There are other things that I’ve been learning, like not to use reverb as a crutch and just be comfortable with my own voice or the way my guitar sounds without so many effects.”

Having described Antisocialites as a “fantasy break-up arc,” I ask Rankin why anyone
would put themselves through such a process. “I found it to be a very romantic image – setting off in this solitary pursuit of escape. I was envisioning myself driving alone on a highway across North America and I lived vicariously through those narratives.” So was the album a process of setting herself free? “For a long time, I’d found myself in a van, with a lot of people that I love, but I realise that it’s not necessarily helpful for being creative. One thing that really does make me fulfilled as a human is feeling like I have an output and an outlet.”

Having described their sound as “wintry lyrics and summery jangles” before, I ask of the likelihood of a ‘double summery’ composition. “I’m feeling like that would be too much sugar,” Rankins says. “I like to offset those two things.”

In 2015 Rankin declared, “We’re not basking in the sunlight, sipping champagne, we’re rolling around like hobos,” but where is Alvvays at now? “We have someone to sell merchandise and drive, so we’re about one degree away from the hobo rolling around.” That driver ought to come in handy in the near future. “Next up is a couple of years of travelling and hopefully writing on the road – a little trick I must learn.”

The band returns to Thekla this month. The extent of audience mania at some of their live shows has flummoxed them, with Rankin describing UK audiences as “more willing to let go compared to North America.” With a punchier album, might crowds be even more enthusiastic this time around? “Maybe one day we’ll need a barrier. Maybe that’ll be this tour.”

Alvvays play Thekla on 9th September. Antisocialites is out on 8th September. Check out ‘In Undertow’ below.