Alvvays Became a Band Because of Chad VanGaalen

"Chad explicitly said to us, 'This is a band record. This is not a solo project.' You know, you guys should come up with a name.'"

Photo: Alvvays by Stephen McGill (left), Chad VanGaalen by Chris Gee

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Oct 9, 2023

"Archie, Marry Me" was the song that built Alvvays — but nothing happens in a silo. In fact, the band credit someone else entirely for convincing them to become a band: the song's producer, prolific singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen.

On the latest episode of Hrishikesh Hirway's Song Exploder podcast, Molly Rankin and Alec O'Hanley discussed working with the Calgary-based polymath on their first recording together, which also happened to become their first hit.

"I was such a huge fan of Chad VanGaalen's work. He's a songwriter, and he probably has close to, I want to say 10 of his own albums out," Rankin reflected.

"And he built his own circuit-bent synths and instruments," O'Hanley quipped.

Rankin continued, "He recorded all of his solo stuff and if we could just have him see some of the songs through his eyes — or hear them through his ears — I just thought it would be a cool combination. But he's sort of a recluse; like, he was just this really elusive character. But he emailed me back, and he said he was down."

O'Hanley recalled not really having any idea what they were getting into when they went to Calgary to work with VanGaalen, but what happened would ultimately seal the fate of their career trajectory, including some longstanding gear: "We had eight tracks to work with on this Tascam 388 tape-recorder that we still use today." 

"[VanGaalen] has his own idiosyncratic way of capturing stuff, and I think that it is a big part of the sound of that song," Rankin added before O'Hanley commented on the two of them having not really known they were a band at the time. VanGaaelen didn't know either, but by the end of it, he explicitly told them that they were making "a band record" — not a solo project.

"'You know, you guys should come up with a name,'" O'Hanley laughed. "So, it's kind of the island we founded the band upon."

Still, they didn't officially become Alvvays until they had finished recording their 2014 self-titled debut album. Last year, they topped our best albums list with their third LP, Blue Rev. Even more recently, VanGaalen announced that he had teamed up with Astral Swans for the forthcoming Split EP.

If you missed it, hear Rankin and O'Hanley discuss the band's genesis on Song Exploder below.


Tour Dates

Latest Coverage