Jimi Hendrix did it. So did bands like R.E.M., the Killers, and Kings of Leon. They were all American rock acts that had to go to England to gig or gain traction there before coming back home with greater success. A recent addition to that list is Rival Sons. They’ve been at it since 2009, and were (and are still) regularly praised to the skies by English rock magazines like Mojo, Uncut, and Classic Rock.
Now, the United States seems to finally be catching up in appreciation for one of the greatest contemporary rock bands, this one Straight Outta Long Beach. The quartet consists of Jay Buchanan (vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), Mike Miley (drums), and Dave Best (bass, since replacing Robin Everhart in 2013). Rival Sons are currently on a co-headlining tour with Stone Temple Pilots, charging in to the Revention Music Center on October 1.
“Some of the editors [in England] were great friends, and we were signed to a UK label. Plus there just weren’t that many music magazines [in the United States] that were covering straight-up rock. It was all indie, alternative, and hip hop. Unless you were the Foo Fighters,” Holiday says of the career path.
“I’m a crazy musical historian, so I thought the same thing about [Hendrix]. But then you’ve got English bands who play to 200 people there but fill theaters here!”
The band has also found a champion on SiriusXM DJ host and hard rock/metal guru Eddie Trunk, who talks so much about Rival Sons that Holiday has said some people have accused the band of paying him off.
“I have to call him regularly to say ‘Stop talking about us! It’s too much!’” Holiday laughs. “But he’s great and a friend. He just really likes our band. We also didn’t pay to get on the final Black Sabbath tour. We don’t have money for that kind of shit!”
The Rival Sons’ sixth and most recent studio effort is Feral Roots (Atlantic), which came out in January of this year. Holiday says that the band’s current set list is lighter on numbers from it and more across their catalog. But he notes that the band was able to spend more time crafting material for this one than they usually get a chance to. He and Buchanan write the bulk of the band’s material, and they are still releasing singles from it.
The current tour has the band coming a long way from about five years ago when they played the tiny B.F.E. Rock Club in the suburbs of northwest Houston. A gig they took partially because they had friends in the area and could crash at their house.
“At that time, we were driving in a van and came through Texas, and those people put some shows together for us. We weren’t in a position to afford hotel rooms!” Holiday says. “But they were packed shows. And that’s the real shit!”
Holiday says that Rival Sons had met the Stone Temple Pilots playing various festivals, and he himself had STP’s debut record Core playing “relentlessly” in his car during high school as a young guitar player. “They’re whipping ass on this tour, and everybody is rising to the occasion.”
Rival Sons also had the privilege of being on the road with Black Sabbath for more than a year opening on that band’s 2016-17 farewell tour. “For us, it was really unusual. It was more than we could imagine,” Holiday recalls.
“Getting to be chummy and buddies with them? It’s like ‘Holy shit, I’m having a beer with Tony Iommi again for the eighth month. How cool is that! And they treated us so well. It was an irreplaceable experience.”
Finally, with Rival Sons celebrating a decade of existence, the question is put to Holiday: What is the one piece of advice that he would give to his 2009 self today?
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“I’m still working that out, and we weren’t too wet behind the ears at that point. But I would say…don’t start drinking again.” he says. “I don’t drink now, and I didn’t when we started, but I had a pocket in the middle of this band when I did. But now I’m super busy, I’m touring and writing songs and maintaining a family and take my art really seriously on a spiritual level. We all do. Music meant something to me growing up more than just cool outfits and cool songs. And when you’re intoxicated, you don’t see it clearly.”
As for more business-related advice. Holiday is succinct. “What I tell kids today is ‘Keep your publishing, try to keep your records, and hang on to as much as you can. Trust me, it’s the only way you’ll survive.’”
Rival Sons and Stone Temple Pilots play at 7 p.m. on October 1 at Revention Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit ReventionMusicCenter.com. $24.75 and up.
For more on Rival Sons, visit RivalSons.com