This week we’re featuring a great band from our neighbors up north, Royal Canoe. The six-piece band from Winnipeg, Manitoba released their EP Extended Play back in late February, ultimately resulting in a solid indie-rock record of catchy harmonies and complex sounds. Royal Canoe is currently in the final stages of releasing their first full-length album. And we’re positive it’ll be filled with more of that funky Royal Canoe sound. We got to speak with Brendan Berg (bass, keyboard, vocals) from the band about Extended Play and the challenges that went into making it, their latest music video for Hold Onto The Metal, and what you can expect at their live shows.
Check out our interview with Royal Canoe and take a listen to their EP below.
Introduce yourselves and what each of you do for anyone who hasn’t heard you all yet. And how did you all get together to form Royal Canoe? Also, what’s the origin behind the band name?
The band began as a recording/side-project of Matt Peters that morphed into a full-fledged band after those involved in the live-incarnation of the project started writing and recording new songs together. It’s been over 2 years since we shifted into this new mode, and the current focus of the band feels entirely distinct from its origins. I guess the name kinda came along for the ride. It was originally lifted from a headline in a local newspaper after an official visit to Winnipeg by some 3rd-rate member of the Royal Family.
Canada has always been bursting with some amazing indie/pop bands such as yourselves. How has Winnipeg, or Canada in general, inspired the various sounds that we hear on Extended Play?
I’m not sure if to us the musical-style feels particular reminiscent of Winnipeg or Canada, but lyrically the majority of the record is driven by our experiences back home. Winnipeg is a very isolated, extreme place that gets so unbearably cold in winter it’s almost uninhabitable and then every year summer comes and it’s like the whole city is on E. It’s the kind of environment that really plays with your emotions and character – Brutal and beautiful all at the same time. A lot of people retreat to artistic expression as means of coping.
Speaking of Extended Play, there is so much complexity in sounds through out the entire EP. You’ve all recorded a pretty great series of videos taking us behind the scenes and in the studio during the recording process. But tell us about how the six of you decided on these sounds and these lyrics to put together the tracks.
Most of the sounds were created while fiddling and tinkering with synths, pedals, samples, whatever we could get our hands on really. It’s such a fun, exploratory part of the process and for us constructing tones and writing songs are one and the same. But, it wouldn’t be unheard of to spend a whole afternoon and only be happy with one little “whoopy” sound. It felt a little ridiculous sometimes.
Were there any challenges while putting the record together?
I can’t even count how many lyrics, chord progressions, tones, and drum loops we ditched over the course of recording this album and EP. That being said, sometimes you need to become aware of what you don’t want to do before you can find what feels comfortable. I think we all feel that after the last two years of really diligent work, we have our process and sound much more defined than when we started. I guess discovery is always the most exciting part of creative work, but it seems like we have a better idea where the starting point is moving forward.
With the release of your EP back in late February, how has the reception been so far?
The reception has been really encouraging so far. It feels great. When you cut yourself off and spend a bunch of time really focused on a project you’re not always sure how people are going to react. We are really excited to see how people receive the full-length.
You all hit up SXSW again this year. How different was the experience the second time around?
This year SXSW was busier than last year and since we had less time to roam about it just whirred on by. We still had a blast, though. But, always strange to see like ten better-looking versions of yourself walking down the street.
As mentioned before, you all have such complex sounds, creating such challenging and catchy tracks, but there is also that hint of hip-hop that adds on to the rhythmic sound. What other musicians inspire that Royal Canoe sound?
As would be expected, our influences are many and very diverse stylistically. But there are a few artists who have been particularly influential and whose influence can probably be more easily discerned from listening to our music. This list includes (but is not limited to): Outkast (and both Big Boi and Andre individually), Beck, The Knife (and Fever Ray), James Blake, Dr. Dre, Animal Collective, and Bibio.
The music video for “Hold onto the Metal” was just released and we’re taken for a pretty badass underwater party. It looked like a blast to shoot! Tell us a little about when you all made the video. When and where was it shot? Who came up with the concept?
The video was shot in the middle of this past winter. It was directed by our friend Michael Maryniuk. He also did the first video for the song Nightcrawlin. He’s a great guy to work with. He has such a distinct style that really suited the song. Most of the ideas came from a couple meetings we had while we were mixing the record. It was a crazy, busy time. A mix would be going to tape in the other room and we would be hopping back and forth brainstorming video ideas with Mike. One of those periods of time where you wish there were more hours in the day.
I don’t know about everyone else, but every time I get to “Caught in a Loop” I keep wishing there were more tracks left to listen to! From “In the studio” series of videos, you all were putting together your full-length in addition to your EP. What’s the progress on the album and when can we expect it?
We just finished mixing the full-length so now we’re looking to find a nice home for it.
We’re really excited to see the band play out here in DC with The Sea Life and Western Affairs. For those, like me, who haven’t seen you live, can you tell us what we can expect at your shows?
We’re very excited for our first visit to DC as well. For those who haven’t seen Royal Canoe live before, prepare to be amazed by the amount of people and instrument we squeeze on to the stage –six keyboards, two drummers, four vocalists – we’re often so cramped in on the stage that the only direction we have to move is up and down. We keeps the grooves deep, sing lots of harmonies, and keep our hands very busy with a myriad of special sounds we painstakingly created over long ours cramped up in our rehearsal space. It’ll make you want to move, but with some of our songs the tricky part can be figuring out just how to dance.
Thanks for taking the time out, guys. Got any last words for everyone out there?
Our pleasure. Thank you for taking the time and supporting what we’re doing. We’re thrilled to feel love and excitement coming back at us from all of these unexpected places, and we can’t wait to come share that excitement with the fine folks of Washington DC. Cool Runnings!