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Royal Canoe straying away from the mainsteam

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Royal Canoe straying away from the mainsteam

Winnipeg band won't let success dictate their sound

With Royal Canoe’s most recent release, Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit, debuting on Sept. 16, it was something that felt a bit anti-climactic for vocalist Matt Peters. “We’re feeling pretty great,” Peters said, while watching the Toronto Blue Jays play for their post-season lives against the Baltimore Orioles.

“(But) when you put out an album, so much of the work and the promotional side of things, a lot of it happens before you release the record.”

The band had been working on the songs for two years. When the album finally dropped, it felt ordinary for Peters.

“It was like, ‘oh, okay, I guess our album is out now,’” he said. “There really is no climax.”

That album, which the band dubs SGLBHATO phonetically, is the sextet’s third studio album and the follow up to 2013’s Today We’re Believers. Today We’re Believers featured the band’s breakout hits “Bathtubs” and “Exodus of the Year,” songs that propelled Royal Canoe into the indie rock mainstream.

But if the band’s most recent release is any indication, Royal Canoe isn’t going to let mainstream success dictate its sound.

“If you’re a really successful band, there’s gotta be so much pressure to make something that will appeal to the same audience,” Peters said. Despite the success of the aforementioned Today We’re Believers, Peters wouldn’t call Royal Canoe a “really successful band,” which meant there had been less pressure to create something similar to their previous record.

Even so, Peters said there were similarities from the previous record. “A few songs on the previous record were really hinting at the driving, dark hip-hop groove that we all love,” he said.

SGLBHATO is, for all intents and purposes, a mosaic. Its blends of indie pop, funk, jazz, R&B, and other odd synth sounds are unlike anything ever created — for better or for worse.

Peters drew inspiration from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead!, two albums heavily influenced by R&B and jazz.

“There’s so much interesting musical content,” he said, citing the aforementioned albums as well as others bending the genres. He added the album is musically complicated, but so are the band members’ music tastes.

The lyrics on their latest record are different, too; Peters said they are a lot less optimistic than on their previous albums. “It was a response to our touring cycle,” he said. “(And) being away from our friends and family.”

The album certainly heads in all sorts of directions — the repetition in “Love You Like That” can be a bit jarring at times, and the altered vocals in “I am Collapsing so Slowly” pouring out of your speakers can be so slow it can make you a bit impatient.

But with the experimental sounds come moments of brilliance — the altered vocals in “Walk out on the Water” are a bit mesmerizing, the interlude-like sound of “New Recording 270” leaves you wishing the song were three minutes longer.

But when Peters and the rest of the band play their live show, all their songs take on a whole new life. The aforementioned vocals in “Walk out on the Water” would play when the band would hit clear orbs that lit up on-stage.

Royal Canoe performing at the Up+DT Music Festival.
Royal Canoe performing at the Up+DT Music Festival.

Peters alters his vocals again in the bridge of “Bathtubs,” much to the delight of the crowd, as it’s arguably their most well-known song.

The band impressed the crowd at the Needle with their unique instruments. Unfortunately, the band recently had all its equipment stolen. And though they lost the aforementioned orbs, they still were able to play the next shows on their tour, with a little help from some friends.

The show at the Needle was around 70 per cent new material, and Peters said that’s about average for their performances. “There are some songs from the older record that we still love to play, though,” he said.

Royal Canoe’s performance during the UP+DT music festival was something the band couldn’t duplicate on a record — but it made the performance itself even more special.

“As we’re getting deeper into the digital age, and you find so much of your communication funneling through technology, there’s something about how it obscures what you want to say,” Peters said.

Perhaps the studio recordings obscured what Royal Canoe wanted to say — but their message was loud and clear in their live performance.

Cover photo supplied.