The days of being the next big thing are over. Rival Sons have reached the top and there is no turning back. Led by singer Jay Buchanan, Rival Sons and their brand of bluesy hard rock have quickly taken the world by storm.
Buchanan and Rival Sons are the new kings of rock and roll. For proof, look no further than the old kings of rock and roll. Jimmy Page, The notoriously quiet Led Zeppelin guitar god, owns all of Rival Sons’ albums and can’t shut up about them. And Jimmy Page isn’t the only one. Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Axl Rose have all jumped at the chance to tour the world with the Buchanan-fronted band.
If having the vote of some of rock’s most legendary artists wasn’t enough, Rival Sons have the music experts singing their praises as well. The biggest and most reputable publications in the rock world have given Rival Sons’ 2012 album Head Down and the band as whole, incredibly positive reviews. They recently won “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the 2012 Classic Rock Awards, where Head Down also finished a respectable second to Rush’s Clockwork Angels for, Album of the Year. The commercial success of the band has matched that of their critical success. From the U.K. to Sweden to Canada, Head Down and its lead single, Keep on Swinging have topped Rock Charts all over the world. They sold out every single show on their most recent two month U.K. tour, and their upcoming Canadian tour looks to continue the trend. With only three albums under their belt, Rival Sons have quickly become the most celebrated new rock band in the world.
While never lacking confidence in the band’s abilities, their success has come as a surprise to Buchanan. He admits, “the amount of exposure and the amount of support we’ve been given, I could have never guessed when we got together. I originally took this on as a side project.”
Rival Sons is actually the first full-fledged rock and roll band Buchanan has ever been in. He was working on a solo singer/songwriter album, where he not only sang but played guitar, when first approached by guitarist Scott Holiday about Rival Sons. He adds, “I was just really thinking I’d do some rock and roll shows around town, get my kicks out and have some fun. I was really wrong about that.”
Before he even had a chance to second guess it, his career as a rock and roll singer had already taken off. He recalls that “by our fourth show, we’d sold out the House of Blues in LA. Our fourth show ever. And before that, our third show had sold out the Roxy. We only had one album, Before The Fire, and it hadn’t even been properly released yet. People were already going nuts and it really surprised me.”
The delay with the release of Before The Fire might be attributed to the fact the album had originally been recorded by a different vocalist. Before Buchanan joined the band, they were going by the name The Black Summer Crush and Thomas Flowers, formerly of Oleander, was on vocals. The Black Summer Crush soon broke up, with Flowers going on to successfully reunite with Oleander. Not wanting to scrap an otherwise great album, Buchanan bit the bullet and went to the studio and recorded new vocal tracks for what would become Rival Sons debut album.
Buchanan admits he was apprehensive about the band’s sudden success. He recalls, “I was insecure at first. It was too crazy. I was like, ‘What’s going on here? Do they see us as just a nostalgia or parody act?’” An understandable concern considering bands like the wig wearing Steel Panther fill up LA’s House of Blues on a weekly basis. He adds, “there’s a lot of bands out there that really take themselves seriously and would never say that they are a parody band, but absolutely are. At first, I wondered if we were being lumped into that.” There is a big difference between parody and influence, and Rival Sons are definitely the latter.
However, despite their unique style, in today’s rock climate it is impossible to avoid the comparisons to other bands. From Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple to The Black Crowes and The Black Keys, Buchanan has heard it all. He adds, “It took a while for me to really realize that none of that shit matters. We are making original music and we do our best to purvey our own style. If someone wants to lump us in with these other bands, well that’s their job. It’s our job to play music, and not hand you a business card and say ‘we are like this’ so you can file us away in your musical Rolodex.”
While it may be someone else’s job to lump them in with other bands, Buchanan is incredibly humbled by the comparisons. He adds, “What an honor that all of these great bands are mentioned in the same sentence as Rival Sons. People talk about Led Zeppelin. Deep Purple. The Stones. The Kinks. We wear our influences on our sleeves because I think that denying your influences takes an incredible amount of hubris.” Buchanan goes on to joke, “what are you gonna do? Kick and scream and go ‘No! Don’t say that! We are super individual and we are so unique!’ Bull shit, we’re not. We’re just playing rock and roll.”
Kidding aside, the versatility demonstrated throughout Rival Sons three albums provides more than enough evidence of their uniqueness. Despite that, Buchanan remains humble. He adds, “This band is not an anomaly. I don’t mean just the four of us playing together, of course there are unique things about that. But a band that just wants to play rock and roll and make records quickly? There’s so many other bands like that. It remains to be seen what kind of a mark we can make on rock and roll. We’re just carrying the torch.” That torch, according to many fans, was passed onto Rival Sons by the Black Crowes.
Buchanan can’t hide his admiration for what the Black Crowes have done. He adds, “I don’t love every album they’ve made. Or every song. But that’s one of those bands, that growing up I would go to sleep at night just feeling safer knowing they’re in the world. Keeping it alive.”
While Buchanan has always been a fan of rock and roll, his first love was the blues. It wasn’t until Rival Sons started touring with much heavier bands like AC/DC and Judas Priest that Buchanan developed any interest in metal. He adds, “metal was one of those things I didn’t identify with. And when you don’t identify with things, it’s hard not to dismiss it. So you just kinda write it off, and go ‘okay well that’s over there for them.’” He admits that spending time with some of metal’s most legendary bands really changed his perspective on the genre. He adds, “We’ve gotten to play with a lot of these old salty dogs but the vast majority of them had no impact on my youth. I was never really much of a metal guy. I was a blues guy. So, I liked rock and roll because rock and roll was built on the blues. But once you take the blues out and put in a bunch of shredding guitars and high vocals, it never really related to me.” He admits that “only recently I developed an appreciation for metal. I got to know these great metal bands, and these metalers are some of the sweetest people. Just down to earth, really great guys.”
Buchanan’s blues rock roots not only influence Rival Sons’ music, but their artwork as well. The album art for Rival Sons’ second album, Pressure and Time, was designed by legendary artist Storm Thorgerson. Thorgerson has designed such classic covers as Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon and Wish You Were Here as well as Led Zeppelin’s Presence and In Through the Out Door. Buchanan was thrilled to have Thorgerson design an album for Rival Sons. He adds, “I think that everybody thinks about it when you have a band. If you see one of Storm Thorgerson or Hipgnotic’s old album covers like Wish You Were Here.” He jokingly pretends to smoke a joint, “Yeah maaan. Let’s get Storm Thorgerson to design our album. Yeaaahh.” He laughs, “I think that crosses everybody’s mind that likes classic records. It was great working with Storm.”
With legends like Thorgerson, Jimmy Page, and Alice Cooper in their corner, Rival Sons are clearly doing something right. After taking a month off, 2013 looks to be another busy year for Buchanan and the band. They head north for a headlining tour across Canada, where their single, Keep on Swinging, is currently number one on the active rock charts. Buchanan couldn’t be more excited about it.
He adds “the Canadians are so dope because they lack a certain pretension. For us in LA, it’s all around us so we are immune to it. We forget how fucking fake we are. And self-absorbed. How many times have you gone to a party and meet knew people and the first ten minutes is basically them giving you their resume?” He goes on to say how relaxed Canadians are. He adds, ”It’s refreshing. Canadians don’t take themselves seriously. They’ll make fun of themselves.” He’s hopeful for the success of the tour, adding “they have been so supportive of us. And they’ve been asking us and asking us and we’re finally doing a legitimate Canadian tour.”
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