Budgets, Snakes and Jimmy Page. An interview with Scott Holiday of Rival Sons.
When you think of Rock ‘N’ Roll, does your mind automatically envision Robert Plant onstage? Do you think of Pete Townsend swinging his arm and just ripping the perfect chord? Does it bring up visions of hearing the classic riff from Layla and knowing instantly that this is something amazing? Do you think of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival? All these things are what make these artists classic Rock ‘N’ Roll. The music is timeless and the bands are iconic. There are few bands these days that light the fire of the style, the music and the look of those artists. Today, there is one band that carries this torch in my eyes and that band is Rival Sons. With Jay Buchanan’s soulful vocals, Scott Holiday’s fuzzed out riffs and the driving backbeats of bassist Robin Everhart and drummer Michael Miley; This band delivers a sound like no other. A classic sound, yet delivered in a very modern way, Rival Sons is poised to revive rock. Their new album is titled Head Down and it was released digitally by Earache Records in the US. You can pick up the physical CD in the US in January.
Stream the entire Scott Holiday interview below:
I’m joined today by none other than Scott Holiday. Scott is the guitarist of the band Rival Sons. First off, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, and welcome to the Unsung Melody family.
Right on Jonathan. Thank you for having me.
I want to start off by saying that we have been strong supporters of you guys since the first time I heard your music. We recently became UnsungMelody.Com, but at our old domain, you claimed the top spot in releases last year with Pressure and Time. This year saw a return to our Top 10, (You can see the entire Top 10 here.) coming in at number 3 with Head Down. I think it’s a tremendous release, and it seems you guys are finally poised to make some noise here in the States, after several successful sold out tours in Europe. Is there a lot of pent up excitement for the CD release of Head Down (Check out out our review of Head Down here.) in the States?
Yeah. Obviously, it’s strange to us, that we haven’t had the time to tour our own country. We fashion ourselves very much an American rock and roll band, but it’s just taken a lot of time to get to this point. Hopefully, this album cycle sees us hanging out in the States a little bit more. So, we’re really excited to get it on out here.
It’s been quite some time since you guys were able to tour the US, could there be a tour on the horizon?
There is. Yeah. We are talking to several people about some ideas and what we want to do. There are already some dates that are lined up, but are unannounced yet. We have dates already in the works. Possibly as early as the end of January. We might do a few spot dates on the way up to Canada and maybe on the way back through back home. It’s just difficult. At the beginning of each album cycle, all you are doing is eating crow. You’re not getting paid anything and you’re just playing, a putting yourself out. Just grinding the wheel all the way down. We’ve obviously done that for a long time. Then, we started to catch on harder in the European territories. So, now we are over there so much, we are starting to actually make some sort of a living. Then, you come back here and spend too much time here, and we’re back into the eating crow variety. So, we have to balance that out as much as we can. We absolutely want to see some of our fans out here and to see some of our own country.
I know you mentioned the home town show in LA on January 9th, we’ll have Caren Spitler there covering the show, so be sure and smile pretty. Lol How long has it been since you guys were able to play at home?
Very nice. Yeah, the local show. The last time we played locally was about six months ago. We try to do something special when we play home. Because we realize, we never play home, so if we are going to do one, let’s do it right and make it really fun. The last one was at Long Beach on the Queen Mary. We played the Queen’s Salon. This gigantic, beautiful room. This time is not as extravagant, but it is a very cool, small room. It’ll be that very tight exploding room feeling again. It should be really good.
Can fans expect any surprises at the show, or are they going to remain surprises?
As far as songs or setlists, the shows to us are a surprise to each other. (laughter) We make it up as we go most of the time. The guys are going to throw a bunch of weird stuff at me and I’ll throw weird stuff at them. We might come up with covers on the spot or whatever. We keep it very loose and organic, for lack of a better word. We stay very in the moment, off the cuff, that way we’re not robbing anybody. It feels like a very honest exchange that way.
Let’s talk a bit about the way you guys record records. You prefer the method of hashing out things quickly, and trusting your guy instinct. You wrote and recorded this last record in, I think I read 20 days. Pressure and Time was written in an even shorter amount of time. Do you feel that creating such spontaneous music, is a large part of your guys success?
I can’t say if…..Yes, I will say actually. (laughter) I think it is. (laughter) I was going to say something different, but I’m going to go with yes. I’ve been pretty outspoken about my feelings about the current state of music. A lot of what you hear on the radio, popular music just feels so very overworked. It just feels like it’s overwritten. Especially for rock and roll. You hear stuff on the radio and it’s well overproduced and it starts to lose it’s human qualities. It just becomes a task to listen to. It becomes difficult to listen to and it wears you down a little bit. We’re all very much task masters, we can all write, we can all go to big and get their head way to deep in the game. So, the best way for us, for our band, is when we get in the studio, we just go in and write on the spot. Everyone is competent enough on their instrument and their writing confidence, so let’s just write as we go. Look at it like a Chuck Berry or a Little Richard record. You look at pictures of Elvis Presley in the studio or you read stories about The Who, it was so off the cuff. It was so immediate and raw. I think that has a lot to do with why I love those recordings. Just the spontaneity that just come through on those recordings.
Are you guys studio rats when you are recording, or are you a band that prefers to record, in as much of a live setting as possible? Steering clear of things like click tracks, and letting the music breath.
We like to record with room mics, we all are about two feet from each other. Crowded around a room. Imagine what it looks like with those old recording of Elvis Presley recording and they are all gathered around one microphone capturing everything. (laughter) That’s much more akin to what we’re doing. We’re trying to capture something, rather than overwork something and get too deep on anything at all. We spend time getting the right tones, the right instruments, the right initial sound. We spend a day, getting the right tools. Our overall sound we’ll work with our engineer, who was Vance Powell on this record and our producer Dave Cobb. Beyond that day, we pretty much just start tearing ass. We start ripping into it and write as we go along. No studio rat thing happening right now. I will say that before this band, that was my natural inclination. I was very much a studio rat. I used to do a lot of engineering and producing, session work, and soundtrack work, so I love the studio. I think, for me, that is one of the main reasons that this process is so important. Doing it this way is good for me, otherwise I will get too deep on it. I will freak out and we will spend nine years figuring out the guitar tone. Ya know what I mean?
Absolutely. Not since Billy Gibbons, have I seen such a flawless transition and blending of the slide guitar. Who inspired you to incorporate such a bluesy sound? Was it always there, or was it a style that seemed to develop naturally over time?
I think that it was always there. If I’m going to sit down and play rock and roll, and obviously any kind of soul or blues music, that influence is built right into it. I’m a huge fan of many of the early blues guys and tons of the rock and roll guys that I think I wear on my sleeve, that I don’t even need to mention. I discovered blues at a very young age. At the age of maybe 12 or 13, I started digging up old records and started following the lineage back from the groups like the Jeff Beck Group, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin. Kind of realizing that groups like Cream, John Mayall. Just realizing that, okay, I’m a kid and I’ve connected to this music somehow. I feel some, almost spiritual connection to this. Why? Where did it come from? I traced it back to guys like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Son House, Howlin Wolf, and on and on and on. Just so many different guys. So, in the end, I think it is very deep in my heart. It really just comes out very naturally and I think it’s really the same way for Jay, our singer.
The one song that your style is completely undeniable on the new record, is Run From Revelation. Tell me about the process of bringing that song together as a band.
Interesting. That’s cool. Yeah, that was probably one of the tracks that I had the most questions about at the end of the recording session. That song was the one that I had the most ideas in my head, at the beginning of the session, which is rare. Because, usually we just come up with something very spontaneously. That song, I actually had that main verse, that greasy slide riff while we were on tour. I was playing at soundchecks and stuff. I wasn’t telling the guys that this is going to be a song. I would just play and have it. Then, when we came in to Nashville to record, that was probably like the third track or something that we worked on. I went okay, there’s something here. I’ve had this for a while now, it’s been on the backburner, let’s do it right now. Everybody really liked the riff. So, like most of the songs, we just built it within the time frame of about an hour. It just came together very quickly.
(laughter) That’s just sickening. I wish I could write such a great song in such a short time.
It’s hard to create a process at that point, because it’s really just the four of us and the producer. Them being attracted to my initial slide idea, and us just kind of throwing ideas into the hat. Saying, okay, I think we should go this direction or this direction with everybody contributing a little bit here and there until it’s a song. I think what really caps this song, is the lyrical performance and the vocal delivery that Jay gave us. It’s really what capped the song in the end, in the right way.
It’s been said that you guys could quite possibly be the saviors of rock and roll. I know that’s a bold statement, but with the industry in the shape it’s in, you guys are a welcomed shot in the arm. I’ve read quite a few articles where even the legendary Glenn Hughes mentions you quite fondly. I’ve even heard that none of than Jimmy Page from the mighty Led Zeppelin has a few kind words about you guys. What does all this talk mean to the band? Anything at all, or are you just trying to make the best music you know how?
That’s definitely what we’re going to do. If our heroes and the people that we love want to love us or hate us, and the critics want to love us or hate us, in the end, you’ve got four guys that want to make music that feel we are making something worth making. We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to follow the direction that we feel is the right direction. The direction in our heart. That said, getting praise and accolades, let me say that press accolades are great, it’s always great to get a pat on the ass. It’s always great to be appreciated and recognized, but the recognition from the people that we idolize, that came before us, our heroes, I mean, a mention from Jimmy Page, is phenomenal. We went out to London to collect this Classic Rock Award, we got the cover of the magazine. Inside the magazine, we go the 2nd album in the Top 50. 2nd only to Rush. All this happened about a week before Jimmy Page gave us this mention and spoke about us in the Rolling Stone magazine. As soon as he spoke about us and it came out, my publicist alerted me and showed me this mention. I simply went, “Oh my God, this mention is much cooler than winning all that shit” (laughter) When you find out that the people that pretty much shaped your entire musical being, give you a bat of the eye or a thumbs up, you’re like, “Yeah, alright. I kind of like that.” I feel this happy 9-year old feeling in my body. (laughter) Jimmy is a lovely person. He came and hung out with us for our sold-out show in London. Just a really down to earth, nice fella. Glenn Hughes of course, we’ve had a friendship with him, going on for the last couple years and he is just a really, really sweet guy. Just a terrific dude.
Too cool. That’s all I can say about that. (laughter)
Yeah, I get harassed by my friends. Friends send me texts now, “Yeah, I’d like to hang out, but I’m just kicking it with Jimmy Page. I’m going to have to kick Jack White out in a minute. Alright, I’ll see ya man.” (laughter) Friends and family keep me down to earth. They keep my feet on the ground.
Keep on Swingin was the first single off this record. The video was pretty intense. My question is, were all the snakes real?
(laughter) Yeah, the snakes were real. I wish they were robotic snakes, that might even be cooler. They were real, we had them all there. As soon as the little snake boxes came out, the Tupperware type containers, it filled this gigantic area, we all had the realization, “They’re going to get those real snakes. They’re going to get those out!” We cast our drummer’s fiancé, in the video, we had her hold the snakes. I think we had to give her some medication to calm her down. (laughter) To hold the snakes. There’s actually a shot in the video, with the real pretty blonde girl, young girl sitting in the front pew holding the snakes. That is actually Michael’s soon to be wife. They were very real. She had to take some kind of sedative to calm herself down enough to do the scene.
So, she had a Code Brown moment. I understand completely.
(laughter) Jay was actually quite excited. I think the rest of us were very cool with it. We ended up doing a bunch of promo shots with the snakes. Which was kind of cool.
Speaking of videos, for a band with as much style as you have, it was a bit odd for me to see Until the Sun Comes, and there was no band in the video. Was that a bit of a strategic ploy to let the music speak for itself, and intrigue the listeners to find out more, or was it simply a cool treatment brought to the band?
We get so many treatments when it’s time to shoot a video. I am truly not personally fond of the whole video process. Because, A. We’re on a small label. We don’t have the bid budgets to make the videos that I would want to make. We also don’t have the relationships with the film makers that I would like to work with per say. I’m a huge movie buff. There have been so many great videos made in the last 10 years, 5 years, just unbelievable videos. We can’t afford those people and they’re not calling us up to make us free videos. It’s unfortunate. We had Greg Ephraim work with us on the Pressure and Time video, he also did the Keep On Swinging video. They do a great job, but we wanted to do something different. I’ve been really keen on working with Michel Gondry, but we couldn’t work with Gondry, because he’s tied up in the middle of a film. We were recommended Simon Gesrel, who has worked with Mchel very closely. So, we went and we checked out all of the stuff that he’s done and it was a very calming kind of feel with the stop motion animation that he did. I’ve been wanting to do a stop motion animation video forever, so he gave us the treatment and of course, we were so like, “This is not what we were thinking for the video, and I love that!” That is cool. Let’s do something that I’m not thinking. We would have hoped to have animated ourselves into this video, but the budget did not permit and this is the treatment that he gave us. I think it’s really fun actually. There will be other videos from this album. We’re working with some people to put out some really, heavy concept stuff. So, we’ll see how that works out.
Alright, I always end on a random question. I like to get reactions from people, or make things humorous. Yours isn’t too tough today. I know that Michael Miley is a self-proclaimed juicer. He makes a lot of drinks for you guys out on the road. What’s your favorite Miley juice concoction?
Well, generally, I don’t do too gnarly of a juice. I’ll tell you right now. I’ll normally do a lot of greens. Like a spinach and kale, with one lemon and one apple. That’s my go to juice. But, on the road, we go gigantic. So, if you are feeling really shitty, there is a diabolical, tnt concoction that will blast out a hangover or a sickness, or just a bad mood. This thing is really gnarly. It’s basically every veggie that you can put in it. We’ll put a bunch of scotch bonnets in there. Peppers, garlic, and ginger. This thing, it’s literally like a Tom and Jerry cartoon, it will blow the top of your head off. I’m talking just everything. Just every vegetable known to man that will juice correctly, and lots of peppers, and scotch bonnets, and garlic, and ginger. That’s not my favorite, but if I’m in a bad mood, I might have to drink one of those things.
Alright, I thank you so very much for taking the time to speak with. I’d also like to personally take a moment to thank you, the band, and your manager Tom for allowing us to use your song Tell Me Something on our podcasts. Myself and the site, wish you guys absolutely nothing but the best, and I’m hoping that I can personally catch one of the upcoming tour dates. Maybe I can try one of those Tom and Jerry juice drinks!
Well I appreciate it. Thank you for using that song. It’s very close to my heart. I think that one might actually be one of the first songs that I wrote for this band ever. Tell Me Something could be one of the first songs that I actually wrote at home, and had an idea for this band. Before this was actually a full blown band. So, that’s really cool that you guys picked that one. So, keep on keeping on man.
It made perfect sense for what we were trying to do. It embodies rock and roll for me, with the riff and the vocal delivery. You know, we’re talking, so why not Tell Me Something. It’s perfect for me.
(laughter) Right on. Well thank you.
Rival Sons members:
Jay Buchanan – Vocals
Scott Holiday – Guitar
Robin Everhart – Bass
Michael Miley – Drums
Keep up with Rival Sons below:
Check out the video for Keep On Swinging by Rival Sons below:
Check out the video for Until The Sun Comes by Rival Sons below:
You can stream an entire concert from Rival Sons in Stockholm below:
Check out the video for All Over the Road by Rival Sons below:
Check out the video for Pressure and Time by Rival Sons below: