Interview with Scott Holiday from Rival Sons Special

Posted Jun 26, 2014 by Adrian Peel
The guitarist with the frenetic rock 'n' roll upstarts discusses the band's storming new album 'Great Western Valkyrie' and also talks about their ubiquitous 'classic rock' tag.
Rival Sons (with Scott Holiday second from right).
Rival Sons (with Scott Holiday second from right).
Jeanette Wall
There have been a number of hot new rock acts hungry for success who have really impressed me of late. Never one to much care for the 'I'm so depressed, I'm going to kill myself' brand of introspective Indie and Alternative Rock, I like my rock to be loud, energetic, packed with great riffs and most of all, fun.
Over the last few years, I have very much enjoyed listening to the likes of Airborne, Alter Bridge, California Breed and of course Rival Sons, bands that definitely fulfill most of the above criteria.
Hailing from Long Beach, California, and forming in 2009, Rival Sons were first brought to my attention when Classic Rock Magazine named this explosive foursome Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2012.
Comprised of Jay Buchanan on vocals, Scott Holiday on guitar, Michael Miley on drums and Dave Beste on bass (original bassist Robin Everhart left the fold in 2013), Rival Sons released their first record Before the Fire off their own backs five years ago, before delivering their second Pressure & Time in 2011 though UK label Earache Records.
Not only did this album contain Rival Sons' first music video, for the excellent
title track, but the cover was also designed by the late, great Storm Thorgerson, best known of course for his work with Pink Floyd.
I caught up with the guitarist mid-tour and asked him about the title of the new album, an album recorded in Nashville with long-time producer Dave Cobb. "Titles are elusive, man... I think giving away a title like that would be no fun, so we just let people decide where that title comes from and what it means to them. You gotta listen to the record, go inside and see what it means... Or, if you can tell me where the title 'Physical Graffiti' came from, I'd be happy to divulge!"
"We set out every time to make a different record," explains Scott, tackling my question of how this new album differs from the group's previous efforts (four LPs and one EP make up their growing discography). "It's a conscious goal and it should be a conscious goal of any artist or any band - it certainly is with us...
"With Pressure & Time, we wanted to be really economical, like with the guitar stuff I wanted to be very economical, and I wanted the songwriting to be very poignant and very easy to swallow. So even if you weren't a huge rock 'n' roll person, you could still understand the songwriting and the moves we were making on that record, and I think it was pretty effective...
"With (2012's) Head Down, we had been touring Pressure & Time for a year and really developing those songs even more as a symbiotic kind of live situation with our crowd and with each other.
"So you'd get these expanded opened up arrangements of all those songs and then we decided we should make a record that reflects that. It should be expanded, it should leap forward in a huge way, it should show a lot more musicality. It should show more connection and it should reflect what the audience has been enjoying for the last year.
"That record was a lot more broad in topic and lyric and music and arrangement - all that stuff. You've got instrumental tracks, you've got two-part songs, you've got six-minute guitar solos - it's a more fanned-out type of record. But on this record, Great Western Valkyrie, we really wanted to make it a natural progression and amalgamation of the last two records."
There is perhaps a 'retro' feel to some of the band's music (they certainly appear to wear their Zeppelin-style influences on their sleeve at times), but it still manages to sound thrillingly modern and up-to-date. I soon learned that this topic, or variations on it, is one that comes up a lot.
"Regardless of what people might think, we're really not trying to aim at a '60s or '70s-sound," insists Scott. "It's not one or the other and I don't even think we've ever said, 'Let's do a modern interpretation' because it just sounds so kooky! 'Let's do a modern interpretation of the '70s!' I mean to say it like that doesn't make any sense...
"We're in there just making music. We're using tones that make sense to us, we're using gear that makes sense and we're using modern influences and old influences. I'm not gonna deny that it seems very '60s or '70s influenced, but we're just making rock 'n' roll for us.
"I think if you hear something like 'Rich And The Poor', 'Good Things' or 'Destination On Course' - or even
'Electric Man' - I can't see exactly how derivative this is of '60s or '70s - it's really just music... I think tonally, being a rock 'n' roll band, that's just everyone's closest point of reference, and it certainly isn't indie music or shoegazer music. I think the last good reference for rock 'n' roll seems to be the '70s for everyone."
"I think we're aiming to just be 'us'," concludes the innovative musician. "We live now and I think whether you hear it or not, we're as influenced by acts that thrive and live today as much as we are by acts that thrived in 1971 or 1964. People always ask us, 'Don't you wish you were from that era? You guys would be the biggest band ever!' and I think, 'This is ridiculous this whole idea'.
"A, the competition was really steep then, B, hell no 'cause then I don't get no Radiohead or I don't get all these acts that we're in love with! I don't get my Wilco - I don't even get my Tom Waits if I'm from then. I want to be from now - I'm happy to be from now."
Great Western Valkyrie is available now from the Rival Sons Official Store.
For more information, visit the group's official website.