2012 was another banner year for Rival Sons. The band released their critically acclaimed album, Head Down, which made Blues Rock Review’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, and the band has even received praise from Jimmy Page. We caught up with guitarist Scott Holiday to discuss the new album.
Pressure and Time was a very compact album coming in around a half hour. Head Down is a bit more jammy and closer to an hour. Was it a conscious decision to go that route?
I mean, I think we always want to push and do something different. As concise as Pressure and Time was I think we had a pretty good feeling we were gonna make something a little more wide spread on this next effort, yeah.
Dave Cobb produced Head Down as well as the other Rival Sons albums. How did you guys get connected with him?
A mutual band friend of mine in the Long Beach area turned me onto him years and years ago before the Rival Sons. I’ve been friends with Dave a for while now and I made a record with him early on and it went really really well, and we just used him ever since, man. He’s a fifth band member with us.
How is the process working with him?
It’s great working with him. I think the way we make our records it’s getting harder to find guys that know how and enjoy records the way we make them, which is basically instant records, you know what I mean? We’re writing on the spot and he really has to capture us. I think now a days you got producers that wanna spend a week getting a snare tone, track all the drums, track all the bass, and then come in and do guitars. It’s really pieced apart, which is really weird, and Dave really embraces and enjoys doing it the way we do it.
One song that sticks out as something a bit different on Head Down is “All The Way.” How did that song come about and what was the inspiration behind it?
Well, that really was Jay Buchanan’s brain child. We listen to a lot of animals, a lot of different things, but that was kind of a big inspiration, kind of like an ode to the story of Bo Diddley, a version of that. He just brought the story to the room and kind of had a general idea for most of that song and slapped it together in about an hour.
To this point, Rival Sons’ recordings have all been original songs. Has there been any thought to doing any covers, and if you so, what songs would you like to cover?
There’s a plethora of songs that we’re all gonna pick from different wells, you know what I mean? We’re all gonna have different ideas, soul tunes, motown (…) we’re all interested in. You know, I’d be really keen to doing some kind of garage tune, maybe doing something by the Blues Magoos (…) certainly there’s a whole bunch of dirty rock and roll bands we’d love to do, but we’ve never thought of doing a cover on an album. You know, that’s kind of our opportunity to get what we got in our heads out, but live we throw out a few things here and there. We’ll do kind of a take on The Vamps version of “Babe, Please Don’t Go,” we’ll do Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, “Oh Well,” we’ve done some James Brown (laughs). We’ll throw out different things live, but not really for an album so much.
The band has done most of its touring over in Europe, opposed to the US. Why do you think blues rock tends to be more popular over there?
Yeah, we get asked this, I really don’t know. I mean, obviously I think a lot of the predominant bands that have done that in the past have hailed from there. Maybe it’s just kind of nested over there a little bit tighter, you know what I mean? It’s a little closer to that kind of melding of dirty rock and roll, fuzzy blues rock, that could be my only guess, I don’t know. There’s still a very vital live scene over there, you get a really really wide span of age groups going out to some live shows, I think probably a little bit more than the States.
What do you think can be done to make that music more popular over here in the States?
I think we’re in the midst of it, you know what I mean? You get groups like The Black Keys that generate ten figures a year, they’re playing arenas, you can’t stop hearing them on the radio or in commercials or movies. Guys like Jack White that are so prominent in the music scene these days, you know that’s all it’s gonna take. It’s gonna take some big heads on the dragon to really wake people up. I think we’re like I said, in the midst of it right now.
A lot of people think of Rival Sons as the future of rock and roll. Are there any other modern rock bands or artists that have caught your attention lately?
Well, the ones that I named obviously got my attention a while back. Yeah, I mean we’ve got some friends doing it in Sweden called Graveyard, they’ve got that kind of a thing going on. Gosh, we play with a whole bunch of a great bands, out of the UK a band called Ulysses, another great band out of Sweden called Factory Frames, then they’re all doing something in that kind of genre. There’s a lot of other bands throughout Europe and the UK that we’ve noticed doing it. In the States, a little bit less. We find a lot of the bands doing it over here a little bit more, unfortunately, pretentious, you know? Don’t get me wrong, there’s some really fucking good ones over here too, but the bands that are starting to poke out, you know maybe the one’s that labels wanna take a little chance on seem to be a little more slick, which we don’t want, we want it dirty.
The band is about to hit the road again for another tour. What can the fans expect?
For people that haven’t seen it, it’s gonna be dirty, it’s gonna be fun, we’re gonna make a lot of shit up, we’re gonna keep every night very individual and I actually don’t what to expect. That’s all I can say, I don’t what to expect night to night (laughs).
– Interview by Pete Francis