Royal Canoe with Close Talker
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Where: Lucky Bar, 517 Yates St.
Tickets: $12 at Ditch Records, Lyle's Place and ticketweb.ca
Winnipeg rockers Royal Canoe choose to work at a deliberately measured pace. But when they finally get around to doing something, they tackle it with full-on intensity.
The group embarked on a tour last week in support of their most recent album, Today We’re Believers, which arrived to great acclaim in 2013.
As a means of making up for lost time, the band committed to a 31-date, 48-day tour of North America, which, at this time of year, can be a touch tricky, weather-wise.
Score one point for Royal Canoe: The six-piece group arrived safely in Kelowna on Tuesday, the sun shining brightly overhead. Their weather-related joy soon dissipated, however, when complications arose with the trailer hauling the band’s gear.
“There’s always something,” frontman Matt Peters said with a laugh.
“It’s usually the weather for us. We seem to attract a torrential downpour, unexpected snowfall or flash flooding.
“This time, one of our trailer’s wheels is really wobbling in a really abnormal manner.”
Due to the large amount of equipment they take on the road — six keyboards and two drum sets, in addition to multiple guitars and related ephemera — vehicle problems always come about, Peters said. Once, the bracket attaching their trailer to their van snapped off, stranding Royal Canoe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, following a show.
“These things are bound to happen when you drive enough,” Peters said.
Royal Canoe has plenty to keep them in vehicles and on the road at the moment.
The group, which earned a Juno Award nomination this year, released another new album this month, providing Royal Canoe with more new material to perform each night. Songs from Today We’re Believers are well-known to fans of the band. The difficulty, Peters said, comes when trying to insert songs from their recent recording, Royal Canoe Does Beck’s Song Reader, seamlessly into the mix.
Royal Canoe first performed a selection of songs from Beck’s Song Reader — a 20-song compendium written by the American alt-rocker and released exclusively as sheet music — in early 2013, as part of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival.
Four of the songs were recorded and released on YouTube. The band did little to promote it, which never sat well with members of the group. This month, Royal Canoe finally released it as a mini-album, with three new Song Reader tracks culled from their sheet-music source.
“It’s a really interesting project,” Peters said. “That tradition used to be the primary means of distributing music.
“A song in sheet music form would go out to stores and it would sell millions of copies.
“In your parlour you would have a small piano and for music you would gather around the piano.
“That would be your form of entertainment.”
Music-making, if not music-listening, has undergone wholesale changes in the decades since, Peters lamented.
“We have become a lot more passive in our entertainment. It’s interesting when you step back and look.
“You wouldn’t have been able to be that passive 100 years ago. You would have had to step up and be part of the creation.”
The framework of each Song Reader composition was there, though to a limited degree. Beck, who did not offer his version of the material until well after Song Reader’s release, designed the project to be a collaboration among strangers, his words combined with the ideas of others.
“At its core, we had a series of notes, words with a series of notes, and a little bit of suggested accompaniment with some chords. The songs weren’t as Beck-like as I thought they were going to be.
“We had to take some creative licence to pull them off in a way that we were comfortable with. In some ways, when you cover a song, you are used to leaning on someone else’s interpretation.
“That’s what made it so much fun.”