Alvvays grows from Rankin Family’s roots 

click to enlarge Molly Rankin, center, heads up the Canadian band Alvvays. - COURTESY GAVIN KEEN
  • COURTESY GAVIN KEEN
  • Molly Rankin, center, heads up the Canadian band Alvvays.
Molly Rankin says growing up on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island wasn’t as idyllic as it sounds.

Long before she and her keyboardist best friend Kerri MacLellan formed their jubilant, jangly quintet Alvvays with guitarist Alec O’Hanley, they spent their childhoods playing in the forest, making up fairy tales.

“It was sort of bizarre, because we would just disappear for hours, and our parents never seemed to really care, as long as we were home in time for dinner,” says the seraphic-throated singer, who bring Alvvays to The City this weekend, backing its self-titled debut, with its sunny singles “Adult Diversion” and “Marry Me, Archie.”

For weekend Cape Breton fun, Rankin says, “Kerri and I would go square dancing. We were heavily involved in that scene.

Their most memorable moment from that era: “A winter day when we noticed this old shoe from the 1920s, protruding out of the snow,” she says. “We kept digging, and it was attached to a prosthetic leg. So I still feel like somebody died out there, because this place wasn’t just the middle of nowhere – it was more like the edge of the earth.” Worried, Rankin brought the weird relic to her parents, who promptly threw it in the trash.

Her father, John Morris Rankin (who died 14 years ago in an automobile accident on the island), was a member of the folksinging troupe The Rankin Family, and he urged his daughter to be practical, to get a college education. She tried art, but couldn’t get a portfolio together.

Studying theater, she found her classmates too competitive. So she resorted to a last-ditch backup plan.

“I went on tour with a reincarnation of The Rankin Family,” says the artist, 27. “And I don’t even consider myself a real singer, compared to them – they were just a well-oiled machine. So I would just pop onstage, play some fiddle tunes and sing harmonies. It was a very easy gig.”

Upon returning, she quit college, worked straight jobs in Halifax, sang countless open-mic nights, issued the solo “She EP” in 2010, then formed Alvvays (initially dubbed Always – they traded a W for two Vs after learning of another group with that name).

Rankin admits she’s grown more worldly. “With The Rankins, I just walked in with everything done for me,” she says. “But with Alvvays, we’ve had to do everything ourselves. So it’s been nice, learning the ropes with promoters and doing it all from the ground up.”

IF YOU GO

Alvvays

Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Nov. 29

Tickets: $10 to $12

Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com

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Tom Lanham

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