Young Rival – Trying to Make It In the Land of Indie Rock – S08/E27

Young Rival at The Black Sheep Inn-9


Young Rival, which opened Friday night at The Black Sheep Inn for Plants and Animals, spoke to WildWorks just before their live show. The Hamilton, Ont. trio of frontman Aron D’Alesio, bassist John Smith and drummer Noah Fralick chatted with us, beers in hand, just before taking the stage.

Jangly guitars, classic rock nostalgia and all the bright tones of the impetuosity of youth – it seems like those would be the makings of a credible indie rock act. And all the more so in Canada, a fabled hotbed of the indie and alternative rock genre.

Young Rival brings all this to the table and more – and they have done, for roughly 10 years, first as The Ride Theory and now under the moniker Young Rival.

They give a kicking live show, they’ve been on the Canadian indie scene for about 10 years, and their video for the track “Two Reasons” just made the shortlist for the Prism Prize, a $5,000 music video award for Canadian artists with the clout of Drake, Grimes and Arcade Fire.

And after dropping their album, “Stay Young,” in October 2012, and finishing the Quebec leg of their tour this month, you’d think the band would be getting a little more recognition for their efforts. So what’s the problem?

“I wish we knew,” said Smith with a sheepish laugh. “If you have any ideas, you can share them with us.”

Ben Rayner of the Toronto Star pointed out the band is kind of stuck in a no man’s land when it comes to getting noticed. While the band has a bigger profile than just a Soundcloud page,  and certainly more fans than just their moms, none of their songs have ever been picked up by major radio stations. That makes it tough, and the guys of Young Rival will be the first to admit that.

“Some bands write for the radio. Like they go in with the mindset that we need a song for the radio and there’s pretty formulaic ways to both write and record and produce a song that’s kind of tailored for the radio,” Smith said.

“And if radio picked [our songs] up, that’d be great. But I don’t think we fit in that pocket, and we’d never go really out of our way to. And I think that’s why we’re just kind of in a middle ground where we’re an indie band that doesn’t really get the commercial support.”

That’s not to say Canada isn’t interested in supporting its artists, Fralick says. The Canadian government has been good about setting up grants and funding for up-and-coming new acts, he adds, and Young Rival has been one of its beneficiaries.

Yet although Young Rival can draw in new listeners over the Internet, part of its lure comes from putting on a great live act.

But it’s not easy touring a country the size of Canada, and the music industry also isn’t one for promoting its bands, Smith added.

“We always feel as a band that lots of people in Canada won’t really embrace you until you make it big somewhere else and then suddenly you’ll be the coolest thing ever,” he said.

“I think if you want to be a successful band in Canada, you have to be a radio band. Or you have to be an indie band that has a bit of success in a lot of other places. You can’t just be a Canadian band that makes a living off the Canadian indie audience. There’s just not enough people to support [you].”

To make up for that, this summer the band is headed for Europe’s festival circuit and for what they hope will be greener pastures.

“We’ve been joking that we’ve had more together there more in two months than we have during a decade in Canada,” Fralick said.

“Timing is everything,” he added. “So this is a new step for us.”

Check out our interview with Young Rival on Wednesday’s edition of WildWorks, 11:00 a.m. EST on CKCU 93.1 FM.

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