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Alvvays Turns Gruesome Nightmares Into Dream Pop On ‘Antisocialites’

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Photo: Alvvays press photo

Some of the most recognizable rock songs were inspired by dreams.

Take the Beatles song “Yesterday.” Paul McCartney says he heard the melody in a dream. And Keith Richards says the same thing about the famous guitar riff in the Rolling Stones song "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction."

The Toronto indie band Alvvays just released its second album, “Antisocialites.” And many of the songs are about dreams -- specifically those of singer and guitarist Molly Rankin.

"I have a lot of dark dreams that for some reason I can remember the next day," she says. "I try to paint those dreams lyrically."

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But her music doesn’t sound dark. “Antisocialites” is full of pop hooks and sweet melodies, which is odd considering the subject matter of the dreams that inspired it.

Album closer "Forget About Life" takes place in a post-apocalyptic world covered in tumbleweeds. "Lollipop (Ode To Jim)" mentions taking psychedelic drugs on a bad date. And “Already Gone” came from a nightmare about a gruesome death.

"It’s a narrative about someone being crushed by a falling tree," she says. "It's not really a great way to meet your end, but it's also a very mystical, strange way to die."

Rankin doesn’t see any problem writing catchy pop songs about her violent nightmares. She says the music of Alvvays would be less interesting if she wrote about warm and fuzzy subjects.

"If I had really sugary lyrics, if they were all optimistic I don't think it would be a complementary combination," she says.

It’s possible Rankin could someday write a dream-inspired hit like those from The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. She has a great musical pedigree: Her father was a founding member of popular folk group the Rankin Family. And she performed with them as a teenager.

"I wasn't cool in high school. I went to a lot of square dances and listened to a lot of Celtic music," she says.

And now she finds plenty of inspiration to make music of her own -- some while asleep.

"I actually had a really horrible dream a few nights ago," she says. "And I think it might be linked to my wisdom teeth? I’m saving up for their removal."

That’s not an obvious choice to write a song about. But with Molly Rankin and Alvvays, it’s fair game.

Subscribe to the Inside Track podcast for more new music discovery. Alvvays performs Oct. 31 at the Bluebird Theater.