After screening his film Ages & Stages: The Story of the Meligrove Band at last year’s NXNE festival, director Brendan McCarney is back, this time with Mike Gillespie, on the musical beat once again. This time around he introduces us to Hamilton’s not so punk band, Young Rival. Following the band as they tour Canada, the film captures the grind of life on the road for a small band.
Travelling from show to show, crammed into an old van, Young Rival are their own roadies, instrument technicians and stage crew. If they do not like how a venue is set up, especially if it inhibits people from coming to the stage or dancing, lead singer Aron D’Alesio will rearrange the tables himself. To get the true feel of the band’s experience, McCarney travels as the band does, including spending many nights sleeping on the floor of their hotel rooms.
Cutting between an interview the band did with CBC Radio 3 in Vancouver and scenes of Young Rival performing, McCarney and Gillespie capture the band’s views on a wide range of topics including: being on the road, their constantly evolving sound, exchanging postcards with their fans, and their Wildcat brand of wine. The band also gives an interesting perspective on the record industry and why sales are not important. For the Young Rival the goal is to get their name and music out to the public. They would rather give the music away for free to build a following of fans that would ultimately pay to see their live unique shows.
Several of the impromptu gigs featured in the film really showcase the inventiveness and versatility of the band. In one amusement park in Saskatchewan, made completely of vintage items, drummer Noah Fralick is unable to set up his drums due to lack of space, so he uses and old violin to keep the beat. Perhaps the best part of the documentary is Young Rival’s interaction with fellow bands on the road. After an incident in Winnipeg, where a window in their van is broken, the band puts out a call to the touring community and gets assistance from fellow musicians The Sheepdogs. The main relationship for Young Rival is with the members of Hollerado, another indie band that is slightly more accomplished in the industry. The level of friendship is emphasized when Hollerado, along with the group Wildlife, play a great prank on Young Rival on the last day of the band’s tour in Saskatoon.
Authentic: Young Rival’s Journey Through Canada is a gritty look into the world of indie rock in Canada. Brendan McCarney and Mike Gillespie capture the day to day drudgery on the road: each day a new city, a hurried phone interview on the way to breakfast, followed by a show at night to a small room of hardcore rock fans. It is not a glamorous lifestyle, but this is what bands like Young Rival must endure to get their music out. They know that they could compromise their values and write songs with the type of music that executives and radio programmers want to hear, but it would not be true to their core. As an insightful account of the indie rock scene in Canada, Authentic: Young Rival’s Journey Through Canada is a film that I can recommend.