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Rival Sons keeps music fresh through improvising, evolving

Though the Long Beach, Calif., band Rival Sons released its first album in 2009, the group is a part of music history that spans back to the heyday of bands like Montrose and Led Zeppelin.

The quartet – vocalist Jay Buchanan, guitarist Scott Holiday, drummer Mike Miley and bassist Dave Beste – deal in the art of the thunderous riff and the soulful vocal. These guys are a classic/blues rock band in the fullest sense. With Buchanan’s absolutely soaring vocal talent and Holiday’s penchant for crafting riffs that sound just as good as the classics, this is a band that deserves to be on more people’s radar.

The band’s newest album, “Hollow Bones,” was released two months ago and continues the group’s streak of solid blues rock mastery. Poised for a blistering old-fashioned rock show on Aug. 20 at the Town Ballroom, Holiday took time to discuss blues rock revivalism, crafting riffs and finding inspiration in unexpected places.

Question: You guys have always taken full advantage of the classic rock tradition of these really thunderous riffs with guitar and vocals taking the front in your songs. Do you see yourselves as keeping a tradition alive or a part of reinvigorating it?

Answer: I think it’s both things to some degree. A lot of times people in the media try to put this tag on us; that we’re these saviors of rock ‘n’ roll. We really don’t wear that jacket. We really make the music that’s important to us. Is a lot of it in that tradition? Yes, and we share a lot of common influences and ethos. We’re continuing something that seems like it’s been needing reinvigorating.

Q: Was there a specific concept behind your newest record “Hollow Bones?”

A: I think musically we could over-intellectualize about a running theme or something like that, but really we work very off the cuff and very immediately. We didn’t write too much before we went in.

Q: Were there any different vibes in the studio this time around?

A: I think that perspective is different every time. The angle we want to come from musically changes, but not much else. We’re evolving, growing people and we’re always improvising, so that’s what’s going to be obvious whenever we do something fresh. But the process stays similar album to album.

Q: When you write your songs, and specifically instrumentals, what sorts of things are you thinking about when you put something together?

A: It’s as mundane as, “I’m going to make something that really sounds great.” It’s about finding something that locks in, and something that’s been resonating in my mind and while I sleep. When you wake up sometimes you have melodies in your head. Other times I’ll just be complementing something else that’s been written already.

Q. You obviously take inspiration from the great bands of the 1960s and ‘70s, but is there anyone you take inspiration from that you would view as an unsung hero of rock, or someone unexpected?

A: We all listen to so many types of music. I’m as likely to listen to A Tribe Called Quest as I am to listen to Led Zeppelin on any given day. Any pop music or psychedelia all in the same day. Eighties pop is riddled with grooves, hooks and riffs. It’s everything, and you never know where it’s going to come from with us. Certainly, on this record, we’re thinking let’s get into the rhythmic zone of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall.”

Q: As a band where soul and groove is so integral to your sound, what are artists that you’ve heard of late that have really caused you to take note?

A: I think we have a lot of friends doing it. A lot of bands coming out now even name us as influences. Most of them are friends of ours. The Temperance Movement, Monster Truck, Blackberry Smoke, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown; these are all really deserving bands that earn the praise they’re getting. The scene really needs that one kick through the poles or an extreme high five in order to break open.

Q: Over the seven years that have passed since you put out your first record, what are the most important things you’ve learned that you would tell other bands?

A: I mostly tell younger artists to make sure they keep their intellectual property and keep the publishing. If you can’t survive the business, then you can’t do it necessarily. Try to own the masters and keep as much as you can. But before that, make sure you’re doing music because it gives you something special. At the starting point, you need to do it because you love it. Musicians are great at being poor, and I would say to young musicians, enjoy the taste of crow. But when it does become a business, you need to learn how to adapt.


Who: Rival Sons

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 20

Where: Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.

Tickets: $24 advance, $29 day-of (box office,


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