Like many of their labelmates on Omaha, Nebraska, indie imprint Saddle Creek, the Rural Alberta Advantage thrive on ornate, heartfelt storytelling, tied to the heartland – in their case rural Alberta, Canada. Download a new song, “North Star,” from the trio’s March 1 album Departing below.
Keyboardist-singer Amy Cole tells SPIN that the Toronto-based trio, often referred to, simply, as the RAA, always intended their first two albums (check out their their debut, Hometowns) to be companion pieces. “Departing is definitely seen as a sequel to Hometowns, but bringing to a close some of the themes that were explored in Hometowns, like leaving home,” she says.
And while some of the imagery has drawn specifically on Alberta, from where frontman Nils Edenloff hails, Cole loves the universality of the music. “I’m from a small town, too, and I feel an emotional connection to the themes cause I think it’s something everyone goes through,” she says. “Like, you leave your small town and move to the big city, leaving things behind, ending relationships. You don’t have to necessarily come from Alberta to understand it.”
“North Star” finds Edenloff singing about driving in a friend’s car, with the north star guiding them home. He croons over sparse electric piano and a skittish drumbeat, before the song finally swells into a organ-led crescendo that comes on like the first hints of a sunrise after an all-night adventure.
The band, rounded out by drummer Paul Banwatt, will hit the road March 9 in Cambridge, Mass., for a North American tour that finds them cruising through two of the Spring’s biggest music events: March’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, and April’s Coachella in the California desert. And, as they’re playing larger and larger rooms, Cole says they’re building out their live sound to fill the bigger spaces, adding synth bass to their onstage setup.
They’re still trying to fit all their new equipment into one small van, though, and Cole says Edenloff is quite the magician when it comes to getting their gear from town to town. “With his engineering degree he’s incredible at packing,” she explains. “Paul and I narrate little the little challenges throughout the day, and call it Nils Edenloff: Pack Freak, like Criss Angel: Mind Freak.”