Highland pipes always an influence for Alvvays’ critically acclaimed sound
The critically acclaimed alt-rock / “jangly pop” band Alvvays in a brief Instagram interview with the influential Pitchfork magazine has admitted they owe their signature sound to the Highland pipes.
Alvvays is fronted by Molly Rankin, whose father, the late John Morris Rankin was a member of the famous Cape Breton, Nova Scotia-based Celtic folk music group, The Rankin Family.
They use a Korg synthesizer to create a signature multi-layered “drone sound” that brings a signature texture to their songs.
“Bagpipes are a common instrument where we come from in Cape Breton,” Rankin says. “The bagpipes are sort of like an alarm sound in my mind, but also a beautiful, primal noise that you almost feel beckoned by.”
She goes on to say that keyboards player Kerri MacLellan has several pipers in her family.
Rankin has acknowledged that her immersion in Celtic music strongly influenced her singing and writing styles.
The band’s latest album, Blue Rev, released in October, has reached #6 on the Scottish Albums Chart, #27 on the UK charts, and #61 in the US.
Pitchfork recently named Alvvays’ “Belinda Says” the best song of 2022.
Highland pipes and bagpipe music have enjoyed increasing attention and use in mainstream music. The “Scotch snap” signature strathspey rhythm is an acknowledged inspiration for recent trends in rap music, and Taylor Swift adopts it in her most recent hit album, “Midnights.”
It’s far more typical, though, for Highland pipers to be influenced by mainstream music and, in the example of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, performing renditions of pop songs arranged for the pipes.
Despite being a music publication that purports to take all music seriously, Pitchfork unfortunately elected to use the usual array of insulting stereotypical bagpipe images and sounds to accompany the piece.