2016 Preview: Rival Sons

Life really isn’t so bad for Rival Sons. Following their modern classic rock masterpiece Great Western Valkyrie – which cracked the UK Top 20 – they’ve been signed up to support Black Sabbath on their final tour.

And in December, supporting Deep Purple at London’s 02, Scott Holiday became the envy of aspiring guitarists everywhere by playing Smoke On The Water. With Deep Purple.

“Steve [Morse] had asked him to do it, and Scott was just delighted,” vocalist Jay Buchanan tells us over the phone. “We were really excited for him.”

Encounters with legends aside, the Sons’ focus has been squarely on album number six. Joined by longtime producer Dave Cobb, the Californians returned to Nashville to record the follow-up to Great Western Valkyrie. Keyboardist Todd Ögren-Brooks joined the fray, but it was largely the regular Rival Sons team. After around three intense weeks of recording and a couple of days mixing, they left the (as-yet untitled) album to go on tour with Purple. As we went to press, they’d returned home to make the finishing touches.

“I think it’s around 96 per cent done, even with the mixing,” Jay says. “So we’re about to wrap that up, have it mastered and work on the artwork.”

For now Buchanan’s keeping track titles under wraps, though he says we can expect a few changes on this record. Not to mention tastes of the experience they’ve gained over the last year or so.

“There are definitely different tones,” he says. ”These are definitely some of our heaviest songs on this record. And at the same time there is at least one track that’s the lightest song we’ve ever recorded. So yeah, it runs the length of the field. There isn’t much going on as to mid-tempos, it’s pretty unique when you look at our catalogue. But there’s a natural flow.”

Lyrically it encompasses “the stuff that most albums are made of”, including the ego, “struggle with the divine”, love, heartbreak… Not a radical departure from their previous rock storytelling, but it’s part of an evolving writing tack that seems to be working well.

“We write in the studio,” he explains, “we’re writing a minimum of one song per day, and recording. The pressure of having to write on the spot and deal with everyone’s personalities is always interesting, because we’re all pretty different people – in fact very different people. But I found myself enjoying the diversity amongst us. Whereas with other records it felt more like something you just had to deal with.”

With so many things working in their favour – from the critical acclaim to the A-list tour buds – Buchanan’s quietly confident outlook seems justified.

“I think it’s a fantastic album, and I’m really looking forward to playing these songs live,” he enthuses. “With an opening slot you end up basically playing your greatest hits. So I don’t know how many of these songs we’ll be playing with Sabbath, but I can’t wait to play the entire record. It’s very energetic. You love the taste of new blood.”

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.