Monday, 23 September 2013
Firstly, for those who don't know of you, can you introduce the band?
We're called Royal Canoe. There are 6 of us. We all live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
'Today We're Believers' is your debut album. You've already received great reviews for previous EPs, so did you find the step up between EP's and a full album a daunting prospect?
We recorded the EP at the same time as the full-length, so we didn't have to endure that second-guessing phase.. We're preparing to start work on the next full-length record (seems kind of weird because Today We're Believers is just coming out) in between our touring schedule, but more than anything I'm excited to get back to work on creating new material. I guess there is a part of me that is curious about how successful the transition will be into whatever new place we end up taking our music considering how long we had to work on this last record and how different the schedule will be for the next one. But I'm more anxious than afraid.
Musically, you have been coined as experimental pop. Would you agree with this tag, and what bands or artists would you say influence Royal Canoe?
I don't mind experimental pop.. Although someone recently wrote that there was a "country-tinge" to our music, which I thought was interesting. It goes to show that everyone hears things in their own way. We listen to a lot of Hip hop in the van (Outkast, dr.dre, MF Doom), which really works its way into our rhythmic sensibilities. As far as bands go, we draw from artists like Dirty Projectors, Tune Yards, The Knife.
With the exception of a small handful of tracks on the album, I would say that you aren't guitar focused. Many bands create first and foremost through a guitar melody. How did you approach song-writing on the album?
It might be because there were so many keyboards at our disposal or just where we were at musically when we recorded this album, but we were not that interested in letting guitar chords running the show. As you said, so often the guitar provides all of the harmonic context for a song, almost to the point for us where we have a hard time buying into a song if it's super "strummy." That being said, the guitar is an important aspect to our sound, but the challenge for us is to try to get something fresh out of it as opposed to just wanking or chording. I've toyed around with the idea of going all-guitar on the next album just to fuck with people. I think it would be pretty funny. 6 guitars, no drums, minimal vocals. Hits all day.
Lyrically the album is often bordering on the obscure. The lead single 'Bathtubs' alone has the lyric, 'the bathtubs in the hallway, are here to stay'. Firstly, what inspires you lyrically, and secondly, would you say you write to serve the purpose of the melody, or to create meaning?
At the very beginning of the song writing process the words are driven by the melody, but they often take over and can drive the song into strange places. All of the words on the record have a very personal connection to us. If the lyrical aspects of a song don't resonate for us on an emotional level it would make it very difficult to pinpoint its identity. The song,"Bathtubs," you mentioned is about our practice space where we wrote all of the songs and recorded large chunks of the album. At one point years ago each room in the building used to have a small bathroom with these beautiful claw-foot tubs. The gentleman who owns the building now, pulled the tubs out of the rooms and placed them in the narrow hallway when he was converting the building into studio spaces...that's where they stayed for years. I believe he had the intention of refurbishing them and trying to sell them, but it never happened. They just became these obstacles we always had to avoid every time we wanted to be creative. It seemed like a good metaphor for our own struggle to try to make this whole being-in-a-band thing happen.
'Today We're Believers' seems to me to move between many genre's from indie and pop to funk, and as you mentioned before, rhythmically there is definitely a hip-hop influence. Do you feel that the bands environment and being from Winnipeg has had an influence on your sound?
I think being from Winnipeg has had a big influence on our lyrics and perhaps the giant spectrum of weather, the extreme hot and cold through out the year, might have an impact on the sorts of songs we write during those seasons. I don't think that we're necessarily a band that sounds like Winnipeg though, or at least historically the music that has come out of Winnipeg.
I am often hearing that modern music isn't as creative or challenging as previous eras. As a relatively new band, how do you view the quality of modern music, and how do you feel music listeners will discuss 'Today We're Believers' in say, ten years time?
I think its more that music is just more polarized than its ever been. Right now in modern music you have the just unforgivable shit on the mainstream radio, but then also an incredible thriving experimental scene that, with the help of the internet, has perhaps just as big an audience. There is just very little of worth in-between, which I guess is why a "cross-over" hit is so rare. So I think the quality of modern music is can be very high, but also lately has been increasingly short sighted in its scope. A lot of bands popping up that seek to have a niche following by doing something new, but mine such a small musical "territory" that they rise and fall with a niche genre's fleeting popularity. They sort of get downloaded for lunch and we all move on. In response to the last question I really hope people are still discussing Today We're Believer's in 10 years time, that would be incredible. I hope it doesn't feel too dated. There is this song by Beck, "Get Real Paid", that perpetually sounds like it was written 20 years in the future… I'm not sure our record is quite there yet, but that's sort of our goal.
You will be touring the UK in November in support of the new album. Can you tell us when and where you will be playing?
Yeah just check the royalcanoe.com and its got all the dates there
Would you say there is a difference in playing in the UK in comparison with other places, and as a band, do you prefer playing live, or recording?
I wouldn't say this is specific to the UK but we've found that audiences across the pond tend to be more open to live music. There is perhaps less DJ culture and people are more into to checking out a live band in their evenings. I've always thought of myself more as a recording artist than a performer although we've heard from many people that our live show is what sold them on us, but I'd still say I prefer recording.
The album, alongside lead single 'Bathtubs', is out in the UK on the 23rd of September. Beyond releasing and touring the album, do you have any idea about future plans for the band?
I think we're all trying to make a career of this so we plan to just keep going, release and tour this album, record another, and do it again. It's something we really enjoy and at this point we don't really know what else we would do.
Royal Canoe's debut album, 'Today We're Believers' is out now. You can see the bands tour dates by visiting their website, www.royalcanoe.com
It's on songs like 'Exodus of the Year' and 'Show Me Your Eyes' where the band show their strengths though. 'Exodus of the Year' is a no showboating beauty of a song that doesn't need to rely on being quirky to be brilliant, and for the first time shows a sensitive contemplative side which is inclusive of brass and string sections. If Sigur Ros were to write a mainstream song, 'Exodus of the Year' would be it, which as a massive Sigur Ros fan, is huge praise indeed. On the other hand, 'Show Me Your Eyes' is a fun, uptempo dance floor filler of a track that with its various entwining rhythms almost begs you to jig along to it. If this track doesn't get remixed and put in clubs I will be very surprised.
It isn't all good news for Royal Canoe though, and five or six fantastic songs aside, there are at least three tracks on the album that are quite simply put, very average. I often wonder why bands feel they have to have albums with thirteen plus songs when they only have ten good tracks. It is to the detriment of 'Today We're Believers' that the average songs seem to be wedged in between the great ones, but on the strength of seventy percent of the album I think this should be forgiven. After all, 'Today We're Believers' is a debut album, and it is a fantastic stab at a tired NME styled fanfare that already seems to be slowing down with bands like Temper Trap and Yeasayer releasing poor follow ups to fantastic albums (with Alt-J sure to be next on that list).
So if you want your summer continue despite rain pummeling your windows, or you want something that is easy on the ear but still challenging in its own right, then 'Today We're Believers' is definitely for you.