Rural Alberta Advantage hit up urban Alberta

By Andrew Williams

The Rural Alberta Advantage just might be the most critically successful part-time band in Canada. While they have been featured on countless best-of-’09 blogs, all the members of the band have some kind of job or commitment on the side.

Lead singer Nils Edenloff is a computer programmer by day, backup vocalist and keyboard player Amy Cole works freelance public relations and Paul Banwatt, the band’s drummer, is a student at the University of Toronto and a member of electro-dance duo Woodhands.

But they are part of a growing cohort of street savvy up-and-coming bands that are able to leverage the power of the Internet to maximize their popularity and gain exposure.

“[The Internet] has played a major role in us getting to where we are right now,” says Edenloff. “We are playing all these shows in the States, and tons of people are coming out, and for us we never expected that would happen. We’re just some indie band from Canada, how can people know who we are?”

The band’s popularity sky-rocketed when they were chosen to participate in eMusic Selects through a serendipitous series of events. A member of the eMusic message board learned of the band from a blog in Halifax.

“The eMusic thing happened as a result of some guy on a message board suggesting to eMusic that they pick us up for the eMusic Selects program,” recounts Edenloff. “eMusic contacted us that morning and asked us to be part of the program.”

Since then, they have garnered copious amounts of critical praise. Their debut, Hometowns, received an honourable mention from Pitchfork for album of the year, while their song “Don’t Haunt This Place” was number 76 on their best songs of the year.

“We are definitely excited,” says Edenloff, “Given the amount of music being put out year after year, just to somehow be a blip on that kind of radar . . . we really appreciate it.”

Musicians and recording industry executives often complain about the Internet’s effect on the music industry, but Edenloff isn’t particularly worried.

“The music is just getting out there,” attests Edenloff. “And if people love music, and they want to get behind it in some sort of way, they will support it, be it . . . through shows or merch. [The Internet] hasn’t hurt us. I think it’s helped us in the long run.”

And things are picking up. The RAA signed with their first label in May 2009 — Saddlecreek Records, home to BrightEyes ­– and are already focusing on their next album, which Edenloff described as a companion piece to Hometowns.

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