As much as you think it might be an easy task, it’s not always that simple to showcase new, up-and-coming artists. Usually when it comes to these sorts of things, if you aren’t familiar with the band’s name, what’s going to make you click our story versus the 231 Best At-Home Get Rich Quick Tips? Yeah, not always that simple.
However, putting all doubts aside, we’re going to keep highlighting emerging bands we believe in. Bands that stand out against the tiring monotony of our music scene. You know, bands like Vancouver risk-takers Rare Americans.
Blending alt-rock, hip-hop and ska like some zany Twenty One Pilots, grandson and Streetlight Manifesto science experiment, James Priestner and Lubo Ivan (along with Jan Cajka and Duran Ritz) have concocted something uniquely their own with Rare Americans.
With infectious, mind-bending tracks like “Brittle Bones Nicky,” “Cats, Dogs & Rats” and “9 Times Out Of Ten,” the crafty Canadian crew is a refreshing addition to the sometimes-stale alternative genre.
Now, in order to get to know a little more about the promising performers, we reached out to Priestner to hear all about his musical influences, dreams and aspiring hockey career. To check out our chat and discover your newest obsession, be sure to look below. Afterward, for more from Rare Americans, like their forthcoming LP Rare Americans 2, head here.
Where did you grow up? And was there a music scene where you grew up?
James Priestner: I grew up in Edmonton, AB, Canada. It’s a city of one million people so we had all the major acts come through, plus a ton of mid-tier bands playing in the 500-1000 seat venue range.
I have to say since moving to Vancouver, I realize there is a lot more of a “scene” here than in Edmonton though. I notice more musicians, more artists, filmmakers, managers, labels, more venues to play at, and more shows. I notice lots of US based mid-tier artists will only play major markets in Canada and Vancouver is one of them.
What were you and/or your bandmates doing before your band formed? Jobs? School?
I was an athlete. I was a goalie in the Western Hockey League, a developmental league that the NHL drafts from.
Who or what influenced you to start playing music?
While playing in the WHL I had a lot of free time when I wasn’t at the rink. We had a 10pm curfew every night so after practice I would go home and try to be creative. When I was 17 I bought a guitar, took some lessons, and very quickly wrote a song. From there it was all over for me, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I had a lesson once a week, and I tried to bring a new song to my guitar teacher each lesson. 10 years later and I’m still doing it!!
If you could collaborate with any artist of your choice who would it be?
I would love to work with Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys. He’s an all-time favorite of mine. I think his voice is super captivating from the New York crooner type of vibe to his soft airy-tone, and his more punk rock side. I also love his lyrical wit and musicality.
What’s the best live performance you’ve ever seen?
I really liked Oliver Tree at Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. I was just getting into him at the time and his show really sold me. He uses a lot of animation on stage which is something we do as well, and the costume changes, theatrics, and just his overall confidence and energy was really inspiring.
Are there any recent releases or performances that have inspired you?
I went to so many shows last year to take inspiration for Rare Americans. Super sad about the demise of the live industry with COVID, really makes me appreciate live music. As I mentioned, Oliver Tree’s show, Arctic Monkeys’ show after they released Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was fantastic as well. I’m late to the game on this one, but I also got into J. Cole this year who I really have come to love.
If you could have one of your songs be on a TV show or movie of your choice what would it be?
The Wire!! One of my all time favorite shows. Unfortunately they aren’t making any new seasons, but if we could go back in time…
Three bands or artists that would be your dream to tour with?
Gorillaz, Twenty One Pilots, Oliver Tree.
What would you like to be remembered for? Musically or not.
Deep question. I would say I want to be remembered as someone who really gave my all. Someone who tried to inspire those around me to believe in themselves that they can accomplish what they never dreamed they could. I love talking to fans that have wild dreams but no belief, and trying to inspire them to change that, to work towards their goals.
Best piece of advice anyone has given you?
You have two ears and one mouth. Listen and try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before assuming you know what they are thinking or going through.
What have you learned since being in the music industry?
The more I know, the more I don’t know!! It’s like a spider web. You never know what’s going to hit at any time. I also don’t think you can ever know what fans are going to resonate with. The minute you say “this is going to be a hit” it probably won’t be and that song you were thinking of not including on your album might be the one people like the most.
I also realized the music industry, especially for a DIY band, is so much more than just making music. You have to be a high-level marketer and entertainer to make it in this industry. Artists are characters, fans are buying into their entire worlds, their artwork, their brand, their message, not just their song.
The best thing currently on the internet is?
The ability for anyone to make a career. The fact that one of the top Youtube earners in the world is a 9 year old who unboxes toys is wildly fascinating. I think it’s pretty cool that the internet provides this ecosystem for people to make content, be themselves, develop followings, and ultimately make a living from doing what they love.