By Eleni P. Austin

Full Disclosure: I began writing professionally almost 40 years ago, when I convinced Entertainment Editor Bruce Fessier to let me write record reviews for The Desert Sun. I had zero journalistic experience, but I had an all-consuming passion for music, something my mother, Irene, instilled in me practically from birth. I wrote weekly reviews for about five years, and when the newspaper was bought by a giant conglomerate, they ran syndicated capsule reviews in place of mine. I was fine with that. I channeled my passion into seeing as much live music as I could. I never really missed writing about it, until I heard Rival Sons. My pal Tom introduced me to the music of the Long Beach four-piece and I wore out my copy of their second long-player, Pressure And Time. Tom and I were lucky enough to have lengthy conversations with vocalist Jay Buchanan and guitarist Scott Holiday both before and after our very first Sons show at Fingerprints Records in 2011. A friendship of sorts blossomed from there. When I started writing for The Coachella Valley Weekly, I knew my first column would be about Rival Sons. I wanted the whole world to know how great this band was.

Rival Sons have just headed out on tour. That’s nothing new for these perennial road warriors, but this time it’s in support of their highly-anticipated new record, Darkfighter, which we be released on June 2nd. In between a short European press jaunt and the start of the tour, Scott graciously sat down and answered a few questions.

Eleni P. Austin: Rival Sons is heading out on the road in early May, crisscrossing the Country just ahead of the release of your much-anticipated eighth record, Darkfighter, which hits the shelves on June 2nd. Will you perform the lion’s share of the album before physical copies and downloads are available, or will you just stick with the four singles that the band began rolling out in October?


SCOTT HOLIDAY: We tossed this around and vacillated a little bit, being that there will be a little less than a month still before folks hear all the songs on the record. But ultimately, we felt we couldn’t start the Darkfighter Tour and not play the whole thing! So, the plan is to give folks the whole thing nightly….along with a bunch of familiars and a few deep cuts.

ELENI: There has always been a spontaneity and an immediacy to your music that I attributed to the band’s quick approach to making records. From Pressure And Time through Hollow Bones you guys famously wrote and recorded albums in an astonishing 20 or 30 days. I think Feral Roots might have taken two months, which must have felt like a luxury at the time. But the pandemic forced everyone off the road, so you had an endless amount of time to decompress and create. With no real deadline in sight, how did Rival Sons approach writing and recording new music?

SCOTT: We kind of had to take it as it came. We started this one passing songs back and forth…me and Jay. I would hit Miley up for drums too. A lot of riff ideas I write are based on significant interplay between guitar and drums…Mostly though, it was a lot of back and forth between Jay and I. When we had a handful of songs, we’d take them to (producer) Dave Cobb at RCA Studios (in Nashville). But we could only get in for a week at a time. So, we’d finish as much as we could, and then bring those tracks home. We’d record and write additional stuff for them, within our own studios and then write more material. It was a cool thing for us to have this refractory period. We’d be home working, recording and writing for another 3-4 months before getting back in with Cobb. And repeat. In for a week then back home with the progress-refractory period-recording-and more writing… maybe not getting back in for 5-6 months as things flared back up with the the pandemic. It was wild. Ultimately, it was a welcome time home with my lady and the kids…and really fantastic to really focus on what we were doing musically.

ELENI: Rival Sons has never been an overtly political band, but the last few years have been pretty heavy. Between enforced isolation, the deeply divisive rhetoric, the widening racial divide and the constant drip, drip, drip of misinformation, did any of that turmoil seep into the new songs?

SCOTT: Sure it did… But not in an extremely obvious or literal way lyrically. Jay is really great about allowing the listener to hear a song and decipher a personal meaning from it. I like this. Not to say there aren’t fantastic political or more direct songs out there that I love… plenty. Like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio” (written by Neil Young in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings in 1970), or John Lennon’s “John Sinclair” (about the poet and activist sentenced to a decade in prison for offering two joints to a couple undercover police in the late ‘60s), come to mind. But I appreciate the ability for our fans to make a song personal…and especially in these divisive times, not to alienate anyone. That may not last forever…you never know. I can’t and wouldn’t tell Jay what to write-that’s not what I do. But as to what we’ve done…I’m proud of it.

ELENI: You and Jay usually collaborate on the melodies, while Dave Beste, Miley and Dave Cobb have a hand in the songs’ arrangements. For the most part, the lyrical content has been Jay’s domain. I know before he joined the band you had written the lyrics for your debut, “Before The Fire” and you also had sole writing credit for Great Western Valkyrie’s epic closer, “Destination On Course.” How often do you feel compelled to write both the melody and lyrics? And are there any compositions on Darkfighter that are strictly yours or strictly Jay’s, or for that matter, Miley’s or Dave Beste’s?

SCOTT: All the songs on Darkfighter were collaborations between Jay and myself. We took a couple of nods and did some co-writing with Dave Cobb, as per usual. Miley has a writing credit on “Guillotine,” for pointing the bridge in that direction. The rest were Jay and myself. As far as lyric writing for me…? It’s there, it’s in my heart…but it’s not dying to come out right now. I write when I’m compelled, I enjoyed it. But I thoroughly enjoy working with my partner. He’s a better lyricist-and he has to sing ‘em. Better he writes ‘em. Jay’s not the type of singer/writer/partner where I feel I need to step into his lane like that. It’s a healthy relationship, we know our lanes. Actually, I am sure that if I was to write some more lyrically-he wouldn’t be discouraging at all. I will still write a melody here and there. Sometimes it’s built into the song for me. Like “Bright Light” from Darkfighter. The verse and melody we’re connected. I shared that, and Jay ran with it. He’ll also write melodies that I’ll use on guitar. Like the bridge solo on “Bright Light.” My slide solo is based on a melody he recorded for that section.

ELENI: Back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, if a band or artist licensed their music to a commercial, it was considered “selling out.” These days, it’s viewed as a valuable marketing tool. Rival Sons songs have been played in movies and various television series for years. Now, Chevrolet has licensed the song “Pressure And Time” to help market their line of manly and rugged trucks. I think it’s a perfect fit, in fact, I will stop and watch the commercial when it’s on, even though I have zero interest in trucks. Was it an easy decision to allow them to use the song?

SCOTT: You’re very correct, it used to be taboo to give songs to commercials and the like. Cheesy even. Well, commercials have changed. How we watch them….how we listen. It’s a whole different ball game now. There are provisions as to what I’m willing to license. As a vegetarian, no meat commercials, no fast food, there’s other stuff. I’ve tried to keep the band a little light on the booze adverts…although we’ve done a little of that. But with Chevy, no problem. Put us in the Seger System!

ELENI: Last time we spoke, you had just launched your Sacred Tongue record label (partnering with Thirty Tigers for distribution), and you were gearing up to play a couple of livestream shows filmed at the historic Catalina Casino on Catalina Island. The label released a live album from both shows and they immediately sold out. Was that a one-time pressing, or will those albums eventually be available again on vinyl or even CD?

SCOTT: We have plans to release them, stream them, make them available on vinyl, etc. In the works now. And yes…yours is in the mail, Eleni. I haven’t forgotten about you! Haha!

ELENI: Back when the “M” in MTV stood for music, it served as a perfect platform to introduce new bands. Those days are in the rearview, but you guys still go out of your way to create inventive and entertaining videos (“Pressure And Time” and “Until The Sun Comes” are a couple of early classics). For the new album, you have unleashed incredibly distinct videos that are equally cinematic and resourceful. From the Tarantino-esque “Nobody Wants To Die,” to the Wes Anderson-inspired “Rapture” and “Bird In The Hand,” which lands somewhere between an “Ocean’s 11” caper and The Who’s “Happy Jack” video. All three are wildly clever, funny, intriguing and infinitely watchable. A narrative through-line seems to suggest they will all connect together. Who came up with the concepts? Did you all have a hand in the scripts? Did the same director helm each production? Can we eventually expect a video for each Darkfighter song that will create an epic saga?

SCOTT: Jay and I wrote and co-produced “Nobody Wants To Die.” It was directed by our talented friend, Eli Sokhn. Jay wrote and co-produced “Rapture,” which was directed by Kurt Kubicek. We both wrote and co-produced “Bird In The Hand” which was also directed by Kurt. This has been really fun and a real learning experience for us since neither Jay or myself have had any experience in this world previously. The mood is always light and fun on set, despite the long and intense days. We’re working with shoestring budgets-most of the crew are working below their wage. Certainly, the directors worked for peanuts, yet they treated each shoot as a passion project. We could never have made these videos without the talent and dedication of Kurt and Eli, and anyone involved, really. As far as the story continuing….you’ll have to wait and see where it goes. We’re leaving on tour so there may be a break in the videos. But will they return??? Stay tuned…

ELENI: Tell me a bit about Lightbringer, the second full-length album that will arrive in 2023. Was it always the plan to release two albums in one year? How do they complement each other? Are there corresponding themes on each record? If that’s the case, thanks in advance for resisting the Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion I & II blueprint. (In 1991, the band famously released two albums in one day, which was complete sensory overload). This feels smarter, allowing the fans the luxury of digesting each album one at a time.

SCOTT: Referencing GnR’s Use Your Illusion records, I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a great reference to how I do not want to do it, because as you mentioned, it’s a bit overwhelming and hard to digest all at once. I couldn’t have been a bigger fan at that point, and even I was overloaded and couldn’t pick through these albums. Up until that moment I was able to listen to every morsel on every record. Although there were amazing songs on both releases, they just felt bloated, right? Anyway, I’m sensitive to this and didn’t want that, so there’s some time between each album. One in the Spring and one in the Fall, allowing for some proper time to absorb Darkfighter. Many folks refer to our records as “growers.” I understand this. There’s layers…depth…complexity of colors and tones often within each track.

Initially, we hadn’t planned on releasing two separate albums. We recorded the songs, and when it came time to pare them down to a digestible, clean statement, there was over an hour of music, and really, there seemed to be two clear ideas. One that basically illustrates the dilemma, or casts a shadow, and another that is more casting a light on that shadow. Or at least, is more illuminating in its themes. So, we have two, Darkfighter and Lightbringer, which are actually lyrics within a song on Lightbringer.

ELENI: I don’t know if you caught the Grammy Awards a few months ago. I tuned in (after consciously avoiding them for the last 40 years. But really, who can resist the allure of Lizzo? Not me). I was struck by how much bandwidth was given to Rap (in English and Espanol), Pop, Global Music, Soul, R&B and Country, but Rock N’ Roll, Alternative and Metal categories were completely marginalized. Those awards were presented off-camera. I truly loved the inclusivity, but it feels like the music industry doesn’t quite know what to do with Rock N’ Roll these days. I’m not resurrecting that tedious “Rock is dead” trope, but do you think about the future, or the legacy of Rock M’ Roll?

SCOTT: We know musical trends are cyclical, and clearly, Rock N’ Roll is out of cycle. But are we in the cycle? Jeez…. I don’t know. Around the peak of Nu-Metal (Eleni says “ick”) is where I figured the musical zeitgeist would cycle back to Rock N’ Roll. We had glimpses of some really cool, fun stuff happening. Bands like The White Stripes, Wolfmother, Jet…cool Psych bands like Black Angels…we had Queens Of The Stone Age and some hangers on’ers…the Seattle bands were still kicking, some great bands across the pond happening, etc. This is where I basically began my quest to contribute something and build a band that could make a solid contribution. That was a long time ago. You know, because you’ve been right there with me. It’s been a humbling and adventurous time since then. Lots of ups and downs. It’s impossible to predict these cycles though, as they’re based on ARTISTS, not just the idea of cycles. The Folk movement of the ‘60s didn’t happen because the world needed folk. They didn’t know they needed it until “Zimmerman.” And POOF….there it was. Of course, that’s a special case. But generally it’s an overwhelming collection of artists pushing the boundaries. ‘80s Metal gave us Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, Judas Priest, Ozzy, etc. …The ‘90s gave us Seattle, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, while Chicago gave us the Pumpkins. In California we had Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, even STP. Over here in L.A., what to say of Rage Against The Machine and Tool popping up at the same moment! Then we had the whole Rap/Rock Nu Metal thing hit real hard…which really spiraled things off into a weird area. And possibly inspired the world of Rock loving kids to seek the deeper source in this genre: Real MCs. The Hip Hop and Rap world. Less angst-driven and something more genuine and authentic feeling. Anyway, these groupings work like movements….that speak to a generation. I want to say we need stronger Rock N’ Roll records. Better songs, more substance and relevance. But really, it’s the ARTISTS. All that I, or we (Rival Sons) can do is make the best records we can, play the best shows we can. We’re starting to produce other artists….we always take artists we really like on the road with us. Bands making good contributions. I don’t think any of the artists I mentioned could have predicted the movement that coalesced around them. Neither can I.

ELENI: Last fall the band played a number of not-so-secret FREE shows in a few select cities. I was happy to be a part of the crowd at The Peppermint Club in L.A., but of course, I have to ask again if Rival Sons will ever make their low (or high) desert debut any time soon?

SCOTT: It’s amazing to me that we haven’t! I grew up in the high desert and spent a significant amount of time in the low desert as well. My ex-wife, Kishori’s family actually has a little cabin on the back side of the (Joshua Tree) park entrance. We’d go out there all the time. No running water or electricity! Just a simple structure. Campfires…oil lamps… bucket baths and guitars. And the beauty of the dez. It’s wonderful, it’s in my bones. Yeah… we’ll find a time and way to do something really fun out there.

ELENI: Finally, as friends who have traded vinyl records for nearly a decade, I know you have always listened to a wide variety of music. What artists or genres have currently caught your attention?

SCOTT: I appreciate all the great stuff you turned me onto. Thank you, Eleni. Seriously, for an artist, getting turned on to new art is the BEST. It’s my favorite, I’m always looking for new stuff. These days, my kids are actually a great source. Their mother and I brainwashed the heck out of them! Raising them around a lot of music…with a lot of passion in the enjoyment and appreciation of the artists. Now, we can almost kick the training wheels off! They are hunting stuff down on their own, discovering amazing music and turning us on! It’s one of the greatest joys of my life, watching that take shape. Beautiful. Let’s see though, current stuff in the house right now? Ahmad Jamal (R.I.P.), Mac DeMarco, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kool And The Gang, De La Soul. Bowie and Pink Floyd are always in rotation…to name a handful. The kids have really gotten into a lot of the ‘90s acts I mentioned, which is a trip. I was a teenager when I was into those acts…now they’re teenagers…discovering those acts, discovering Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Beatles, the Stones, etc. Newer artists that kill? Unknown Mortal is one of my favs…Anderson Paak always hits. Chris Stapleton always wins. I’m just really getting into Mac DeMarco. I still love King Gizz and also Tame Impala. Mac Miller…Telemakus…Julian Lage (brilliant guitarist). An endless well of inspiration at our fingertips, what a time to be alive.

ELENI: As always, thank you my friend, for kindly answering these questions.

SCOTT: Thanks Eleni, see ya soon!

ELENI: As always, thank you my friend, for kindly answering these questions

SCOTT: Thanks! See ya soon!

(For Rival Sons tour information go to