One of the hardest working bands in rock, Rival Sons have been on a steady rise since their inception in Long Beach, California in 2009. Achieving mainstream success with 2014’s ‘Great Western Valkyrie’, the just released follow-up ‘Hollow Bones’ looks set to cement their achievement as one of the decades greatest success stories. We caught up with dapper guitarist Scott Holiday backstage at Download Festival to discuss the new album, touring with his heroes, and the love of vinyl. Playing the fool: Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Scott, welcome to Download. How does it feel to be here today?
Oh it’s fantastic. Glad to be here. It’s always shit weather here, we all know that, but somehow we got lucky [today]. It’s a cliché of ridiculousness that The Rival Sons will bring the sunshine from California, but I hope it stays out.
The new album ‘Hollow Bones’ is tipped to enter the chart in U.K. the top 15 this weekend.
Thank goodness. Yeah, we waited a long time for this one. I mean, not only since we made it, but before we made it we waited like two years, which is an astounding amount of time for us, because we got trapped in the ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ cycle and then we picked up all these extra tours, with Deep Purple up to the festival tour from last season. And then [Black] Sabbath; it just stacked up and stacked up, and the record started to perform late again, and it just keeps you out on the road. So we broke our rule of doing a record every year with this one, so we felt really good, we went it with a lot of vim and vigour and excitement to make this record.
I’m guessing that decision must have been difficult, given that you were offered the fantastic tours that you mentioned?
The difficult decision was to not go in sooner, and to keep taking the tours, but it is what it is. We consult a lot of people about this stuff, and we felt like we made the right decision.
You’ve worked once again with producer Dave Cobb. Was keeping that continuity important to you?
Yeah, he’s a long-time friend. I think that’s reasonably important, definitely, but most importantly is the way we work together. He’s done all of our records, and it make sense. It’s hard to find producers in this day and age that understand how to record a band the way we want to be captured, being very quick about things, and at the same time getting everything sonically very, very correct, and also being able to lift songs off the floor and make them very, very correct.
I’d imagine as the guitar player you’d be very fussy about the sound.
It’s difficult. It’s difficult just to make art with a group of people; trying to make something one thing with all of our visions, with all of us playing very strong leading roles, and at the same time having to play very supportive roles. It’s all very difficult.
And it’s all about the playing for the team, in the end, right?
Yeah, that’s difficult. It’s hard, it has its hardships. It’s difficult every time, but what comes out for us every time has been worth it.
‘Hollow Bones’, contains a vast array of sounds from soul, to electro to some good old Humble Pie in its sound. What really influences you in 2016?
There’s no one thing obviously, but yeah it’s music from blues music from the ‘20s and ‘30s and ‘40s, rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘50s, rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘60s and ‘70s certainly lately, and even the groove and tempo and feeling of things from the late ‘70s and ‘80s until modern music that’s happening now. There’s plenty of great music happening now, so there’s lots of current influences. It’s not one band, it’s not one genre - it’s everything, it’s the experience we have, the people we’ve played with, and I hope every artist is doing this. We’re taking it all in, and at the end, all we’re going to do is write a Rival Sons record. We’re going to distil all these influences and feelings into a handful of songs and riffs and solos and moments; texture and colour.
The band has been on a steady climb since your first U.K. show with Vintage Trouble at the Camden Barfly back in 2011. How does it feel to have achieved such success?
It feels like that’s what should happen. I mean, I feel humbled and an extreme amount of gratification that people have taken to us, that we’ve had that opportunity, but at the same time, it fells that’s what should happen. We don’t leave the road, we’re very dedicated to the art, we’re very dedicated to the fans and to what we’re doing, and I’m happy that’s it’s given back to us in that way.
It’s just been announced that the Black Sabbath tour is continuing into early next year.
That’s it, it’s fantastic. They’re wonderful to watch every night. I’m a big, big fan. I grew up playing those riffs, and to be able to rub shoulders and hang out with Tony [Iommi] after the show, and talk about things, and have people be really normal people that I grew up having their posters on my wall, it’s something else than what it is for the band to be able to play arena shows every night. To get such warm welcomes and accolades from their own audiences, it’s great.
It must be poignant for you as a fan getting to play with the band in Birmingham, which looks likely to be the band’s last ever shows?
I haven’t heard [if they are the final dates], but that kind of makes sense to me, to be the return home. But we’ll see. I don’t know anything more.
Can we expect to see you back in the U.K. for some headline shows in support of ‘Hallow Bones’?
The second we have any free time you will see headline shows. We’re working as hard and as frequently as we can. We were going bring in headline shows on the tour we’re on now, it’s just that there’s no time; we leave [Donington Park] tonight before Sabbath even play. We were talking to all of them a little today, and they were going to cord off a little area on stage for us to watch – this is how they treat us very, very well – but we can’t. We’re leaving not long after we play and we head for Paris, otherwise we would have thrown something in here as well. So I can’t tell you when, but I know we’ll be back, and when we’re in the area at any time, we’ll do something. Our last gig was at the Roundhouse. I don’t know where we’ll take it next.
You’ve always been great advocated for the vinyl format. Are you a collector yourself?
I am yeah. At home that’s all I’m pretty much listening to.
What’s your most prized piece?
Well, I don’t have anything that is like, unbelievably prized - I have a whole tonne. I’ve a lot of garage, but even now I’m getting into a lot of old rhythm and blues, a lot of blues records. I have a really cool, old compilation of early rock ‘n’ roll that has everything from Joe Tex, early Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
It’s all about the flow of those sorts of albums, isn’t it?
Right, so I like this record a lot. It’s just like the history of early American black music. Yes, this is a prized record. I have a Shadows Of Night, I have one of their early records signed by the entire band.
Have you asked Ozzy and the guys to sign a copy of ‘Masters Of Reality’ yet?
No, it’s so weird, I never do that when we’re out with bands. I’ve had every opportunity, but I know how it works for us, and you want to keep things real and comfortable. I bothered Tony the first night - not to sign anything - but I talked to him about guitar stuff, but we were quite cool, quite chummy and easy. We had some mutual friends we were talking about. But even when I’m talking to most of my heroes that I meet, I try to just get it out of the way; with Jimmy Page, or Tony, or Jeff Beck or Billy Gibbons, I’m so lucky to meet them I always have to pre-empt it before. They know who my band is and who we are and everything, so before I say anything to them I go; “look, I’m just going to get the weird shit out of the way. I grew up with you, you’re my hero, I’m just going to have like a fan freak out moment, we’ll just get over it and we can be friends after that. Is that cool?” They go; “all right, cool”, and I go; “FUCK!!! All right, we’re cool”.
Finally, the new album’s out, you’ve more dates with Black Sabbath, what’s next on the agenda for Rival Sons?
Well you know that Sabbath tour will take us into late February, and we’ll continue and pepper in headline shows and tours, festivals in the U.S, other territories, South America, Mexico. I know we want to hit Asia, we want to come back to Europe. We’ll definitely come back to the U.K. The U.S., we have to really, really lock down. I’m sure we’ll probably get in the studio and do some fun things here and there for Record Store Day, maybe shoot a video or two. We always want to record and stay busy, man, so I know it will be a really busy one this year.
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Rival Sons' 'Hollow Bones' is out now. The band play as special guests to Black Sabbath on the below dates.
Black Sabbath 'The End' U.K. and Ireland 2017 Dates:
20 Jan - Dublin, 3Arena
22 Jan - Manchester, Arena.
24 Jan - Glasgow, The SSE Hydro
26 Jan - Leeds, First Direct Arena
29 Jan - London, The O2
31 Jan - London, The O2
2 Feb - Birmingham, Genting Arena
4 Feb - Birmingham, Genting Arena