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California band braves cold to meet fan base

Rival Sons have crossed the Canadian border and are about to face their biggest fans.

The California blues-rock band’s hard-driving single, Keep On Swinging, is No. 1 on Canada’s rock radio charts for the second week running — which makes this country the band’s biggest market in the world.

And it pretty much makes the group’s four-hour wait on Thursday at the Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver worth it, according to Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday — who doesn’t think having long hair and rock instruments was the problem.

“We have no idea what the holdup was. We just sat around playing games on our iPods . . . there was no problem that we made,” said Holiday, who performs with Rival Sons at Red Deer’s The Vat on Tuesday, with special guests The Balconies.

“Sometimes the (border guards) can be really cool. We just sign a couple CDs for them and they’re happy.”

In preparation for touring the Great White North in February, Holiday and the gang hit a wilderness shop in California and purchased assorted parkas and “big snow boots.”

Rival Sons has already toured Scandinavia, so Holiday said he knows about steady cold that doesn’t lift for days. All the same, he added that he’s looking forward to the upcoming tour since Canadians are “good rock ’n’ roll people,” with an obvious appreciation for heavy blues rock. “You have a lovely country and we’re really happy to be here.”

Rival Sons was formed in 2008 by Holiday, drummer Michael Miley and bassist Robin Everhart. They had heard of singer Jay Buchanan and recruited him to their Long Beach-based band, creating a sound on the albums Before the Fire (2009) and Pressure and Time (2011) that’s described by Holiday as “funky garage rock with some blues and metal.”

More along those lines can be heard on Head Down, which was released to solid reviews last September and recorded in 20 days just before a European tour.

Holiday said the process was far too quick to sink much thought into themes and continuity. The fact that there are snakes pictured on the album’s cover and live snakes lifted by a band member in the Keep on Swinging video, featuring a religious revivalist plot-line, “is just a coincidence.”

But larger themes do sometimes factor into the group’s music.

For instance, the songs Manifest Destiny I and II are about the way the West was colonized by American settlers. While the phrase “manifest destiny,” coined by U.S. columnist John O’Sullivan, romanticizes and attempts to legitimize European expansion across North America, Holiday said the reality was “a bloodbath.”

“It was not open country. There were very spiritual, ancient people that were there,” he said, and Manifest Destiny I and II tell of what happened when North American aboriginals met the cavalry.

For more information about the show, call The Vat at 403-346-5636.



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