Royal Canoe

By Nicholas Van Doeselaar

Pulling their name from a news headline, Royal Canoe has been a Winnipeg synth-pop band of choice for over a year now. What used to be a recording project for Matt Peters (Waking Eyes), the band has been filled out with members of the Liptonians and Tele and together they embrace the old, wooden, and royal sound their name gives off, yet still adventuring headfirst into electro territory as a means of complimenting their sick hooks. Matt Peters and Bucky Driedger were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about where the band has been and their upcoming Extended Play.
Stylus: When did you come up with the idea of Royal Canoe and how did you know it could be something?
Matt Peters:
There are two phases that we went through in the beginning. The first phase being me on my own recording songs for fun with friends that weren’t really anything. After 10 to 11 songs, I figured that it could pass for a record. I then gathered some friend musicians to help me out with polishing the songs and playing parts for the recordings and then made up a name. After about two years of doing nothing with it, other than giving it to my friends to listen to, I thought that maybe we should do some live shows, so I called up Bucky Driedger and Matt Shellenberg (from the Liptonians) who I know as good musicians. We didn’t know if it was going to be just playing a few songs and a few gigs or having a CD release party if I ever got around to burning the CDs. But then we got around to writing more songs as a group and that formed this new shape which is Phase Two, which is happening right now with being a band, not just a solo project or side project, but an actual band. This was about a year and a half ago and since then we have been going through the stages of asking ourselves questions like “What is Royal Canoe? What do we do? And what are we sound wise?” or “What do we look like?” All the stupid shit bands think about, even if our name was good enough.

Stylus: Where did the name come from?
I was at a coffee shop and my friend who works there saw me struggling to find a name and she pointed to a headline saying Royal Canoe, and that’s pretty much how it happened.
Bucky Drieger: I guess that name goes better with us now as a grand thing, us being more of a body on stage and being a good way to portray our sound and story as a “royal” thing.
MP: I like the feeling of the name as being a Lodge or pretty much how the Lo Pub here looks with the fire place and wooden supports and warm feel. When we were making the cover for the album, I wanted a wood paneling background so on Google images I typed “Wood Paneling” and the first image that came up is our album cover. Sometimes when you listen to your sound, you have an image that comes with it and at that time it was wood paneling, not too sure if that’s us now so much, we are sort of coming out of the closet with our ideas.

Stylus: Do you guys have a certain look and sound that you want to grow on?
We like the think of our sound as very visual, there’s a lot of different textures and tones going on. We did that “Night Crawling” video, which I think really showed what our sound is and what we kind of want our “look” to be. When we watch it, it’s a very energized experience and us as a band are really into it. I think it all blends really well.
MP: We have a long ways to go yet but we do have ambition to create the “look” so we were very focused on the music part of things. I think now we are going to work on getting our sound and look at the same level. It’s so frustrating when you see a band and their look doesn’t match their sound at all. Not saying you need to go to a stylist, but sound like you look and look like you sound.
BD: If you saw tUnE-YaRdS, you notice that they all have a bit of paint across their faces, and that’s it. It’s crazy how well that tied the band’s sound and look together to make a complete package. It truly enhances the experience.

Stylus: What inspires everything that is to do with Royal Canoe?
Just creating an album and having that accomplishment. That makes you wonder what’s next? What am I gonna do now? It’s always going to be different and pushing on what you’ve done before and strive to make it better and different and new. Hearing and seeing reactions from the crowds and fans really helps motivate us to say “Wow, we have done something great, lets keep going.” You always gotta be fresh with what you do. As of now we are a very strong band and we work very well together. That is the most important thing you can have in a band is a strong attachment as band mates. We try and capture in our sound who we really are and what we mean to be, what our interests are and how we live day to day and having that goal is really exciting, to try and make something that we love to listen to and hopefully others as well. Not saying that it hasn’t been like that for me in the past, but I’ve just matured over the four years working on Royal Canoe. I’m not joking on how long it took. We still have aside two-plus records worth of songs sitting dead on a computer that we worked on over the years, trying to make something of it, and after four years we finally got it.

Stylus: Anything good that you would want to work on in the future?
I think there is some really good stuff on there and I think if we wanted to go into a different direction, we could have hopped on one of those trips.

Stylus: Is it a different style of music?
It’s not that different, it’s not country or anything, but it is different. I think right now what we are doing is exactly what we want to do and we have all bought into it.  What we are doing is pretty contemporary and if you’re going to do that, you don’t wanna sound exactly like someone else. If you’re doing something that’s a little more retro, it’s easy to say “Ok, we’re going to a do a Beatles sounding song or a little Rolling Stones, and a little of this.” If you’re trying to come up with something original, it’s much harder because its something you have to articulate, but you can’t because you haven’t heard it before.

Stylus: What specific bands influence your sound?
I guess you could say Outcast, and Andre 3000 for what they do for the production mainly. And Beck, I guess if you want to call them mainstream influences, we aren’t really shy about that. There are songs off the album Midnight Vultures by Beck, and there are many tracks where it’s exactly what I want my music to sound like.
BD: Everyone that was a teenager in the year 2000 will have Radiohead as an influence, even if you don’t like them, you wont be able to avoid it. It’s hard to name bands but more little pieces of things that you like about them. I like lots of percussion and guitar things that TV on the Radio do. You just take little snippets of everything, which then becomes your own.
MP: For instance Fever Ray and The Knife, we might have some same sounds as them but we have different ways of putting it together. We have finally gotten over the phobia of being too scatter brained and not staying on a straight track, which was the trouble we had for four years. Now I think we have it under control.

Stylus: When I listen to Co-op Mode, every song is very “Royal Canoe.” It has a very distinct sound to it, and when I listen to some of your new stuff, it too is very Royal Canoe, but so different at the same time. What are changes that you are making from the last album to the next?
What holds true from the first to the second album is the appreciation of certain grooves and styles that we’ve grown to love. We do a lot of 16th note pushes that are very technical but we just all appreciate deep grooves.
BD: When the new record is done, Co-op Mode is going to be very different from it, but there will be very many elements that stay true that drew us to love our music. Now we have two drummers, one analog and one acoustic, and that’s a big change from Co-op Mode. Lots more keyboards,  falsetto vocals and octave vocals and a lot of bass. There is also a very different lyrical style from the last record.
MP: Co-op Mode, all the songs were hanging off contrasts between comedic and tragic elements, all about characters pretty much. It’s an easy way to make a quick song. Say, just a painting at value village, let’s make a song about it, there is a story in there. Everything from the last record is from an external position of us being the observer. Nothing is directly connected to us or about us. Every song on the new record is personal and connected to Matt, Bucky and I, who are the main lyric writers in the band. All the songs are much more serious? Not sure if that’s the right word to use but on those same lines.

Stylus: There’s a new song of your album talking about Bathtubs in a Hallway. That’s pretty wacky, what does that mean?
Not everyone would know about that unless you have been to our practice space. We’ve been in that space for a long time and in someway it’s a nice reference to our space and connected to us.  “Night Crawlin” would be the only one that is in the least connected to us. It was about the second song for the new record that we made and it was built mainly from out old Co-op Mode style.

Stylus: I noticed that all of your videos are pretty much taken off of the Internet. Why is that?
Back in the beginning we just wanted to have content up. “Oh we need more things for people to see!” It just helped get people to notice what’s going on with us, but right now we are trying to get a little more focused on what we put up. Things that have meaning. We aren’t trying to just be more serious, but we do want to take more time in everything. “Night crawling” is a video that is still up and that took a lot of time and thought and we are proud of it, and we are currently working on a new video and other interview stuff that will go up that’s more recent, which is more connected to where we are at right now as a band.

Stylus: Why are you releasing an EP rather than just releasing an album right away?
For the album, we had about 14 songs that we wanted to have on it, but some of them were a little bit longer and we didn’t want to have a long, slow album, not a double album or anything. The good thing about an EP is that you tell people, “Ok here we are, this is what we are doing” and then you go from that into the record.  There will be some crossover tracks from the EP to the record, but we don’t know for sure which ones yet.
BD: Here in Canada, whatever we release will be what the people hear first, so instead of having a long 75 min album that people have a hard time grasping, it’s nicer to give them a taste of what’s going down and to stay tuned if interested. It’s also easier for someone who hasn’t heard of us before to not be overwhelmed but have a good idea of what we are. A lot of people I know listen to full records, but a bigger percentage of people don’t, they listen to select tracks and buy singles, and whatnot so an EP is really best for everyone.
MP: Like we said earlier, we are making a new video for the song “Hold on to the Metal.” The director, Mike, who produced the video for “Night Crawlin” is doing this next video as well and we are starting that in a few weeks. Our flow right now is going to be video, EP, album and not sure what will be in-between.

Stylus: Are you going to be touring after the EP is released?
The EP is coming out sometime in February and after that we will tour Canada and the US after that until the album comes out.
MP: That’s how far in the future we know exactly, but we are open to  be able to play a lot of show sand do whatever we can.

Stylus: What are you future dreams as a band?
I think mainly I want to be a band that is consistent with bringing out new material on a regular basis and not one of those bands who only releases something every three to four years.  We love the idea of EPs, where the public is always having something new to listen to and keeps them interested.  We also want to have things released close to the time that it was actually created. Kind of like South Park and how every episode is made a week before it comes out and often they will reference things in culture and the news that happened that week.  We hope to have lots of courage and not worry too much about anything.

Stylus: OK, to end this off, what would you tell or have someone read about Royal Canoe if they have never herd of it before?
That is a very hard thing to say, maybe after we are done the record we could tell you more about it, it’s not like “Oh try our Hot wings, Why? Because there hot!” there is just nothing to that.
BD: Basically we took a lot of time and care to this music and we made it the best we can and the music style and progressions were made from everything we had and to have someone give it try would be amazing.

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