Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday

By John Parks

Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday is a pretty chill guy, but his band is already starting to burn red hot. Having already become a huge buzz band over in Europe, the Huntington Beach, Calif., guitarist and his band have now set their sights on their home country with the release of their latest album, Head Down, and a ramped-up stateside touring schedule, including a date here in Rockford at The District, 205 W. State St., June 2.

The band makes great albums, but is becoming legendary for their live shows, which are steeped in old-school rock and roll with very little pretense. I recently talked with Scott about guitars, influences and touring, among other things. Read on …

Q: Hi, Scott. Where are you calling from today?

A: I am in sunny California, amen! We’ve been everywhere on the globe, either touring or doing promo, and it’s nice to be home for a change.

Q: There is so much good Rival Sons footage on YouTube, and half of it is in countries I cannot spell or pronounce.

A: (Laughs) Yeah, I know. And the other funny thing is, when you show up and you go “Where are we at?!!” and then it’s like “Where the hell is that on the map??!!”(laughs).  Then, we show up later in the evening, and it’s sold out, and we are like “Huh, what the … how do they know about us here??!!”” (laughs).  I mean, it’s really, really great to be thousands of miles away from California and have people be into us. I can’t say that enough.  It’s amazing, especially considering a lot of the shows are small theaters that hold a thousand people or so, and they are sold out. It’s fascinating, gratifying and cool.  We are just starting to tour and do PR properly here in America because we’ve been so busy out there in the U.K., Europe and even Canada.

Q: Most of the You Tube clips are great quality, which is better than what a lot of bands have to put up with. Do you have a problem with all the live videos circulating out there?

A: You know, there’s two sides to it.  First of all, I get it.  If I’m at a show and I’m having the time of my life, I wanna remember it.  We’ve had so many people come up to us and actually say things like, “This is the best show of my life” … people from 14 to 60 years old saying things like, “I saw the Who in 1971, and you guys just destroyed it,” or “I saw Led Zeppelin in 1970, and this was way better,” and you’re hearing this going, “Are … are you serious? I can’t believe you’re thinking that, let alone saying that.” So, I get it when people are excited and wanna tape it, but at the same time, we’re at the show, and you’ve been to shows or reviewed shows, man … nowadays at concerts, what do you see?

Q: Everyone on earth with an iPhone in the air.

A: Yeah, LEAGUES of people with their phones in the air … they’re watching the show through their phones!!! It’s kind of like disenchanting in a way because we feel like, “Put that down … and connect with us, be with us.”  It’s not so much that we’re bummed that it’s gonna be on YouTube or any of that stuff, it’s just that we feel like, “Put that down, man. We’re in a moment together. Enjoy that. Remember that.”  It should be a very symbiotic relationship, we just need to be together, and when we see people watching the show through their cameras, it feels just a little disconnected somehow. There have been shows where we’ve told people “Put that crap down” (laughs), especially when it’s like some guy in the front row, and he’s holding that up all night. Eventually, you’re like, “Dude, you should put that down, and feel a little bit of the rock and roll in your face, man, not your camera. You should do it right now because we wanna have fun with you, and we wanna do this together (laughs).  You came out to see the show, just chill and enjoy yourself. There’s plenty of footage out there already.” At the same time, I will say, I get it … kinda (laughs).

Q: You’re also really big on vinyl, which I am as well. It just sounds better.

A: Yeah, God bless you. I don’t like listening to anything else, either. I get so excited when I find a cool vinyl. I got this Stones album from the “Some Girls” tour, which is a double vinyl thing that is just insane packaging. We really set up this whole record, Head Down, for a vinyl presentation, and that is for no “retro” purpose whatsoever. I want to make that clear. I just think records sound the best. I have a little player at home, and that’s all I have in my living room is that record player and a crate of records.

Q: There needs to be more pressing plants in America.

A: Yeah, there’s really not enough, but I will tell you, it’s catching on, especially in Europe, it is really catching on. If you go to Scandinavia or even in the U.K., people are very hip to vinyl, and we actually do pretty decent in Europe overall in terms of vinyl sales. People are into it, not just for nostalgia, but for the sound. It’s coming back, big time.

Q: Head Down was also recorded in analog, which helps immensely. Bands are always telling me that it costs too much to record analog, but you got it done.

A: We always record analog, the older equipment and the analog recording … it just sounds better. The thing with analog is it can be done, you just have to find the right tape, it’s usually old tape. Once you find the right tape and get started, it’s just the way rock and roll was meant to sound. Also, we don’t spend a lot of time in the studio second-guessing. For the most part, we record live in the studio like bands used to. Digital recording can be a little more difficult because if you’re not using the older equipment, you tend to not capture a lot of the warmth of it. Some of those old machines just sound like they have a lot of magic in them, you know.

Q: Would you agree that you explore a little more sound space and stylistic range on Head Down also? Maybe a few more moods?

A: Yeah, I mean we’re still, and will always be, a rock and roll band that hasn’t forgotten about the blues or the key elements of rock and roll or soul music. But we’re absolutely also about pushing the boundaries a bit with each record and hopefully challenging our fans a little with each step. It’s not ever going to be that big of a step or that deep of a challenge, but we all have big musical appetites and enjoy a lot of different kinds of music, so we’re never going to be afraid to try new things.

From the May 29-June 4, 2013, issue

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