Rival Sons is the brainchild of American-born guitarist Scott Holiday and is a band that has been bubbling under the surface of mainstream recognition for the last few years. Marrying blues, soul and sweat with rock n’ roll has helped the band create their own unique sound and this year’s Head Down album has been lauded by the sometimes cynical rock press. The band is slowly getting Europe in a stranglehold thanks to their non-stop touring over there which has helped establish the band as the “one to look out for” as we head into 2013. Scott recently sat down with Mitch Lafon for a year-end chat.
Your latest album, Heads Down, is very much in the vein of early Aerosmith. That classic rock sound has disappeared from radio. Did you, at all, consider the marketability of your sound?
Scott: Obviously, everyone is conscience that it’s a business and we want to be on the radio. Essentially, you want to be pop music because “pop” stands for popular. Popular means a lot of people listen to it, you get to play of shows and have a lot of fun. It becomes a widespread thing, but honestly we’re not tailoring it for that at all. We’re conscience of it, but we’re not thinking, “let’s do something really retro.” We’re thinking what is sonically most pleasing to our ears (the four of us and our producer, Dave Cobb). We’re all big fans of analog recording. I’m a huge vinyl junkie. I like that gritty sound; it sounds like rock and roll. I like that sound. We can’t go so gritty and grainy because it just won’t translate.
You’re still very young. How did you get into that sound?
Scott: I was raised by my mom and dad and aunts and uncles, they’re all rock and roll people. That’s the kind of music they played at their parties. They’d be blastin’ early Van Halen, lots of Zeppelin, lots of Stones, lots of Beatles, and, of course, early Aerosmith. It was just around and then I became a guitar player at about twelve, so it just was the sound in my head. I’ve made much more modern sounding records, but I never felt it had exactly quite what I wanted. Then, I came across Dave Cobb (our producer) and he was very like-minded. We’re not trying to make an old-sounding record or a retro record. We’re just trying to make a record that sounds good. We’re using plenty of new things and tons of really old stuff, too. Not to be cool, but just to make the best sounding record. I’m touchy because we get the retro tag a lot.
Check out the song: “Until the Sun Comes”
How did you wind up on the Earache label? You’re not the kind of music/band that they usually deal with.
Scott: I had been signed to Atlantic previously and I didn’t want to do it again. It’s a burning building, but we were looking for money and these guys (Earache) contacted our manager, so I looked them up. They’re not even a metal label; they’re death core. So, I thought it was a joke. They were just being funny and saying, “let’s call up a blues rock band and act like we want to sign’em.” That was my initial reaction; they’re kidding. They had Morbid Angel, Municipal Waste… I know those bands, but it has nothing to do with what we’re doing.
So, I ignored them and another month or so went by and the label called again. They were serious and they had a plan. They get what we’re doing. So, we had a meeting with them and they weren’t messing around. Their track record is really good. They’ve been in business a really long time and that’s pretty rare for an independent. So, I thought that was cool and I could really appreciate that on a lot of levels. I liked what they had to say and how their plan was laid out. We liked the idea of being the black sheep on a death metal label. We definitely stick out on their roster.
The band has spent a lot of this year (2012) in Europe and the media over there seems to really love you. What are your plans to achieve North American “dominance”?
Scott: I would love to tell you the plan. We have so many plans for Europe and we have some Canadian stuff coming up, but the US is such a different nut to crack. It’s a little weird being from here and realizing that. Our time gets monopolized because we have so many offers coming in from the rest of the world. Japan, Europe, all through South America, the UK and Canada have offers coming in that we can actually survive on and really reach a lot of people, but we just haven’t had the same kind of thing happen with the States. So, I don’t know how we’re going to attack it.
Have you considered relocating to England or somewhere in Europe?
Scott: God no. I live at the beach. I’m not moving to the UK. I live in sunny California. It’s beautiful here. The UK is my home away from home. I love it there, but I love coming home to the beach.
In Europe, there are so many rock festivals (Download, Wacken, etc.) – why is it so different than in the States? They really embrace and support rock music in Europe.
Scott: It seems like there’s more of an open mind. Those territories are very little. It’s like if California or Arizona were countries. It’s a lot easier to kick ass and takes names when the territories are that tight. I wish I could explain, but there’s just a whole different mentality going on with rock and roll, the live scene and live music over there. Europe and the UK have “festival season”. We don’t have that here. We don’t have a “festival season”. We don’t know what that means. The kids over there will “tour” the festivals.
To be fair over here we have “Ribfests”.
What are your plans for Canada?
Scott: I love Canada. We’ve come through a number of times, but Canada is gigantic and it’s really hard to get up there. You could spend two months just moving around.
True, you’ll be here two months and only play six cities.
Scott: But Canada is one of my favorite places. I love Toronto. We’ve played a bunch of cool places and I just love the people. We’ve become friends with the guys in The Sheepdogs and I know that band is just taking names up there right now.
Your average rock fans sees your new album Head Down in a store – why should they buy it?
Scott: Well, there’s a lot of rock n’ roll out there and I think there could be a lot more. If you like rock n’ roll that hasn’t forgotten about the blues or rock n’ roll that hasn’t forgotten about soul music… These are important ingredients and it’s our rock n’ roll. It’s one of the reasons that I wanted to create this band. There’s all this music and there’s not a single rock n’ roll band that has remembered blues and soul. A band that’s whacking it hard, dirty and fuzzy… A band that has blood on their hands. I think we’ve worked really hard to become that and we try to infuse our music with those things.
There’s certainly a lot of passion in your album. It’s very genuine.
Scott: Nobody messes with any of our music at all. There’s no involvement from the record company at all; from the design, the sound and the songs. That’s major label bullshit that has brought the music scene to its knees. It’s extinguished rock n’ roll because that’s not how you’re suppose to make rock n’ roll. We make the music that we want to make. It’s dirty. It’s raw and it’s off-the-cuff.
Check out the song: “Keep On Swinging”