A Finely Tuned Balance: Royal Canoe Discovers Creative Edge in Destabilization

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Manitoba Music has teamed up with Fresh Radio for a new monthly spotlight on local music, dubbed Manitoba Fresh to introduce audiences to a stellar slate of buzzworthy local artists emerging on the Canadian music scene. Featuring on-air segments and online performances via Fresh Radio, and in-depth band profiles right here on manitobamusic.com, Manitoba Fresh continues this month with Royal Canoe. Tune in to 99.1 Fresh Radio and stay tuned for so much more...    

By Jillian Groening

The struggle to produce imaginative, original material is very real. Ask any artist with a deadline.

Between the desire to be taking constant creative risks and the temptation to fall into the secure comfort of a predictable artistic pattern (a death trap for many a band), lies a shifting, magical middle ground. Searching for this nebulous place has lead one of Winnipeg’s favourite indie rock acts on a wild, crazy and endlessly productive creative path.

With five albums under their belts, including a live rendition of Beck’s Song Reader, a 7-inch and a four-song EP, the prairie poster children are in for world domination with the release of their latest and greatest recording, Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit.

Set for lift off September 15, the new album brings together the groups’ six bright minds to form a colourful and catchy piece of musical wonderment.

Recorded in famed Winnipeg locales, at the band’s jam space above The Good Will, where bands from Novillero to The Weakerthans have rehearsed, along with Winnipeg’s Private Ear Recording Studios with John Paul Peters, and mixed in Atlanta, Georgia by Ben Allen, the record has taken a long journey from threads of songs strung together in-between tours to the full blown, polished set.

“It’s crazy how when you start a musical thought or that initial spark or whatever you want to call it that starts an idea, and you see it all the way through to the end there are just so many steps along the way,” vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist Matthew Peters explains. “There are so many factors you don’t even think about when you start the process, little hoops you have to jump through. And a lot of it isn’t about the music, which is the funny part.”

Striking this balance between letting the creative juices do their thing and setting up the production and business end of the job is a game Peters is all too familiar with. Forming Royal Canoe as an indie supergroup from the Winnipeg bands The Waking Eyes, The Liptonians, and TELE, the band quickly became the primary focus for multi-instrumental members Brendan Berg, Bucky Driedger, Matthew Schellenberg, and rhythm section Derek Allard and Michael Jordan.

While having many hands on deck can be tricky when it comes to finding couches to crash on when touring or scheduling rehearsal time, the sheer amount of energy, focus and innovative brain work six band members brings has been endlessly beneficial to the JUNO-nominated group.

“It’s our secret weapon of sorts,” Peters divulges. “It keeps us ticking and it definitely helps with distributing tasks and responsibilities.”

While working to make sure creative needs don’t get eclipsed by industry requirements, the group is also fighting the constant battle that is not getting too comfortable with their creative process. Remaining passionate and inspired without letting the tedious day-to-day decision making take the lead may as well be a full time job.

“It can be a dangerous thing,” Peters says. “You have to watch that your structure isn’t too structured and that your creative process isn't too bound by routine because I think that can poison your work. Our MO has been that if we keep changing the process and keep challenging ourselves, that we will be able to keep ourselves interested.”

Always searching for exhilaration and that new, perhaps uncomfortable zone in whatever project they tackle, Royal Canoe is fresh from a desert video shoot, where Peters found himself steaming heavy monks’ robes in a Southern Manitoba hotel room. After months spent working on promotion and music videos, organizing choreographers and cinematographers, the rock outfit has finally been able to focus on the music. Headed on a two-month tour as soon as their album launches, Peters is more than excited to get on stage.

“Last week we were able to just play our songs and it was almost an emotional experience,” Peters explains of the beautiful ebb and flow between creation and industry work. “Just knowing how much we’ve put into it and finally getting to do what it’s all about in the first place. So heading out on the road, I guess it’s the combination of all the time and energy we’ve put into the album in the last two to three years and it’s got us feeling really fortunate to get to share the songs. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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