Get to know 2023 Breakthrough Group of the Year Presented by FACTOR, the Government of Canada, and Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters* nominees, Rare Americans in our “7 Questions With” series where we speak with first-time JUNO Award nominees from all genres.
In a world filled with bullshit, Rare Americans are the real deal. These genre-bending Vancouver punks have built a passionate fanbase with their positive message, relentless work ethic, and inventive storytelling. Add in a diverse sound with captivating visuals, and Rare Americans is cemented as a force to be reckoned with. Band leader James Priestner, guitarists Lubo Ivan and Jan Cajka, and drummer Duran Ritz write music drawing across a myriad of genres while keeping true to what makes them unique: Telling crooked and catchy stories.
1. How does it feel to be nominated for a JUNO award?
It feels pretty damn awesome! Since the start of the band, we’ve really had a “fan-first” type of approach. Trying to make great art and earn fans one-by-one around the world. We haven’t had a ton of media recognition up until this point, but I think after dozens of sold out shows around the world last year people started taking notice. This just feels like a huge step for Rare Americans and we’re super excited to be a part of it.
2. Tell us a bit about your JUNO-nominated project.
Rare Americans is an alternative rock band and multimedia company that has developed a unique art form by pairing songs with animated music videos that tell narrative-based stories about people from all walks of life. We are partnered with Toronto-based animation studio Crooked City Studios. We write and produce the music, and work on the video concepts together. We’ve now released 4 albums, an EP, and over 20 animated videos since 2018.
3. What has been the craziest moment of your music career to date?
We would say selling out our entire first USA tour in just over a month last year. We hadn’t toured before, but we knew based on streaming data that America was our biggest market. We booked a 20-show run in all major markets having no real idea how it would sell. Sure enough, demand was a lot higher than we expected and we sold out 100% of the tickets. It was pretty cool, a huge motivator for everyone on our team. The tour went as well as it could have and it’s an experience we’ll never forget.
4. What’s your favourite lyric from this project, and why does it resonate with you so much?
A lyric from our song “Walkin n Talkin” that goes “But I get up and say, I won’t give up today, cuz I got a job to slay, but I gotta get the hell out of my own way.”
It’s a really empowering lyric and we find our fans love to sing it back at shows. Humans can be our own worst enemies sometimes. It’s often our internal mind chatter that makes us question ourselves, makes us feel like we’re not good enough. As soon as you get out of your own way, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.
5. Which Canadian artist would you like to collaborate with and why?
We like what 347Aiden is doing. He’s got a distinctive voice and style built at such a young age. We think our fans would cross over well. He was up for breakthrough artist of the year last year, maybe it was meant to be!
6. What would you like music fans to know about you? How would you introduce your music to
new or soon-to-be fans?
We are a very melodic band that puts a huge focus on lyricism. We call our style of music “crooked pop” because while our music is catchy, it’s definitely left of centre when it comes to sound. We like to blend the genres of punk, hip-hop, and indie rock.
Our fans have branded us as “storytellers” which I think comes from animated music videos. We are always trying to tell stories from all walks of life and tackle tough subject matter in a meaningful and relatable way.
7. What’s next for you?
This is the biggest year we’ve had yet as a band. We have a Canadian tour in March that’s nearly sold out, and then we head directly to Europe for 20 shows. We also have three albums finished and are testing a new format this year as more of a “multimedia” brand. Instead of one-off music videos, these albums are full music films with one narrative start to finish. From our research, it’s the first time in the history of music that anyone has attempted this. Scary, but exciting!
Tickets for The 2023 JUNO Awards are on sale now! Don’t miss out on an unforgettable night of Canadian music hosted by Simu Liu on March 13.