The Musical Mad Scientists of Canada's Royal Canoe
Those who showed up early to the Bombay Bicycle Club show in April at Crescent Ballroom were privy to the layered experimental sounds of Winnipeg's Royal Canoe. The sextet, making its inaugural trip to the Valley, stood like a group of mad scientists over their boards and laptops to create avant-garde hip-hop influenced loops of sound with the tight precision of a Swiss watch, never missing a beat. Imagine six Roxy Music-era Brian Eno's huddled over their knobs and dials bouncing to the sound of their own beat and singing into a vocoder without a Bryan Ferry standing over them in jealousy and you've got the idea.
"There's a lot of tasks onstage," describes vocalist and guitarist Matt Peters, "Every night you have to be on your toes. There's always something challenging coming up. We all prefer it that way, though. I give our audiences a lot of credit. They want to be engaged in that way. They want to see a performance. They want to see people working. It's not to say anyone couldn't do what we're doing, but I feel like the audience responds well."
After opening up for the likes of Alt-J and of Montreal, the six-piece is headlining behind their Juno-nominated (Canada's equivalent to the Grammys) Alternative Album of the Year Today We're Believers at Pub Rock on October 19. While the 12 tracks on the album were largely manufactured at computer, it does have a certain homemade and experimental feel that was constructed by the band over a number of years.
"I don't ever feel like our songs are finished actually," laments Peters, "I think if we were given the opportunity we would probably work on some tracks forever. We can always add something or take something away or find new gaps to fill or parts to embellish. I think at some point maybe you get exhausted with a song. Some are just more obvious than others. Some songs are just naturally designed to be finished. Some songs are just a struggle and you have to work so hard but in doing so you discover something new about the song that you never expected. There's always a vision at the beginning but we're always discovering something new in the writing process."
This approached also boded well when they took on six of Beck's Song Reader, which received attention from Mr. Hansen himself, or his Twitter page anyway.
"[The two projects] have their own challenges," says Peters, "On one hand, with our album you're working with a completely blank slate. The responsibility to us as a band is to find whatever is working. When you're working on someone else's music, you have to depend on what someone has created already. We all found it really enjoyable and rewarding to take someone else's creation and mold it into something that's ours."
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