Up-the-creek with Royal Canoe
Fresh off the release of their sophomore album, Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit, Royal Canoe is relishing in the excitement of a new record while playing on the North American leg of their tour.
A mosaic of rhythmic hip hop, experimental alt-pop beats and complex indie-rock, this six-member outfit from Winnipeg, Man are experts at crafting an intricate web of catchy sounds that are unpredictable, uncomfortable and fantastically disorienting.
The Silhouette had a chance to chat with two members of Royal Canoe during this year’s Supercrawl: Matt Peters, lead vocalist, and Matt Schellenberg, vocalist and keyboardist.
Since their critically acclaimed debut in 2013 with Today We’re Believers, Royal Canoe has graced stages the world over with gigs at festivals such as Osheaga and Bonnaroo, as well as toured with massive bands Bombay Bicycle Club and Alt-J. Schellenberg and Peters discussed the differences between opening for such renowned artists versus playing their own shows.
“There are definitely a lot more people [at Bombay Bicycle Club and Alt-J’s shows],” Schellenberg said with a chuckle.
“I mean it’s kind of a different feel when you’re opening [compared to] when you’re headlining… when you’re opening you kind of feel like you’re there to warm up the crowd… whereas when you’re headlining it kind of feels like you are the event. So it’s a different mentality but in the end I think you still just to like put on a great show,” added Peters.
“With [Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit] we’re actually at a spot where we can for the first time ever attempt to put on a [big production show] and I think touring with those other bands and watching what they’ve done on that level of production and how many people come together to pull that off has been really inspiring.”
Although Royal Canoe rocked their set at Supercrawl this year, it wasn’t the band’s first go at Hamilton’s signature music festival. Last year’s their performance was cancelled due to a torrential downpour right before their set. Despite an light drizzle this year, the show went on successfully. It had been three years since Royal Canoe’s last album, and their fans eagerly awaited to see how Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit related to its predecessor.
“I definitely think [our new album] builds on [Today We’re Believers]. I feel like on that last record there was a lot of exploring what our range was. There were some songs that maybe fit a little bit more into the reflective indie rock world and others that pulled more from a darker, heavier hip-hop sort of groove,” explained Peters.
“I think on [Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit] we’ve focused more on that latter influence; that’s not to say there aren’t still beautiful moments of reflection, I don’t think you could do what we do without having that vulnerability, but it just feels like we’ve taken our favourite part from last record and really pushed those further and explored those areas… we just have a better idea of who we are.”
Earlier this month, Royal Canoe introduced the “Royal Canoe house call,” where fans in their hometown were encouraged to gather their friends together for a listening party and invite the band over to hang out.
“We [went to 20 parties in one night] and the very last house were these younger kids who had all these party hats they made that had deep-cut Royal Canoe lyrics on them that they had written out…[these were lyrics] that you’d have to be a fan to know…” Schellenberg said. “It was awesome.”
“It was so neat because you got to literally enter someone’s house and just [spend time together in this] intimate listening experience… you’d get that in a show too I guess but it’s just so different when you’re meeting [these people] and can have a real conversation in their space,” Peters added.
In a genre where music often becomes formulaic, this band subverts familiarity by tinkering with harmonics and textures to get strange, digital noises while keeping their sound organic. They are unafraid to try new things and use instruments in unconventional ways, resulting in adventurous tracks. This is experimentation refined.
“I think that we’ve finally managed to hone our sound into a more cohesive thing [on Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit]. If you already knew Royal Canoe you’ll be excited about this progression and if you didn’t then this is a great spot to jump on because it’s the thing we’re most proud of that we’ve done [thus far],” Schellenberg said.