Jul 09, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Winnipeg indie pop collective Royal Canoe has returned, sharing their new album, Sidelining. Their first record since 2019’s Waver, the band took an entirely new approach to writing and recording their latest work.
As the band explains, “The songs were drawn from three separate recording/writing sessions spread out over the course of two years. During this period, we were experimenting with a new approach to the studio – Instead of obsessively demo’ing, we would try to write and record songs from scratch in the studio with no preconceived ideas/lyrics/demos. At the time I don’t think any of us knew exactly what we were making. Would it be an album, a series of EPs, or just an experiment? We were just trying to trust ourselves and the moment, and not get lost in the details.”
The resulting record is once again a fascinating mesh of genres, blending minimalist grooves, stuttering rhythms, rapped features, textured trip-hop, and more. The band’s consistently creative production and freewheeling approach to sound are here in spades, now with an added dose of improvisational freedom. The band can rush between the spacious bliss of “Feels Good” to the dense rhythmic textures of “Butterfalls” with unrestrained ease, willing to simply follow where the song leads.
The band has also gained a reputation for unorthodox approaches to sharing their music over the past decade, most recently performing an outdoor concert on instruments made of ice. True to form, the band has also come up with another new idea for the release of their record. At 5:45 PM CST today the band is having fans go play their new song “Surrender” all at once and as loud as possible, whether from their porch, car, or window. Fans can sign-up on at royalcanoe.com/porch where they enter their address and get a link to the song.
Listen to the full record below, out now via Paper Bag Records. The band also shared some more thoughts about Sidelining and their “Porch” stunt. Read our Q&A with the band below.
What is the inspiration behind the “Porch” stunt, Why did you choose “Surrender”? What do you want people to take away from this event?
(Matt Peters) For all of our album releases, we’ve tried to create some sort of event to bring all of our fans/friends together and make the day memorable. One time we hopped on our bikes and rode to 30+ houses across Winnipeg to have impromptu listening parties. For the last record, we made a treasure hunt that sent people all over the city searching for clues that led to a boombox with the only copy (at that time) of the album. For our latest album, Sidelining, it was obvious a few months out that we weren’t even going to be able to have a record release show/tour like we normally would, so we came up with the idea of coordinating a mass remote-listening party. At 5:45 CST pm on Friday, July 9th, all of the participants are going to point their speakers out their windows, or set them up on their porches, and blast our newest single, “Surrender” at the same time. Anyone can sign-up on at royalcanoe.com/porch where they enter their address (which populates a map with the participants) and get a link to the song. We’re hoping that knowing we’re all listening to a song together at the same time replicates some of that shared sweat/experience of a release show. And at the very least maybe it will really confuse some unsuspecting person who’s walking around at 5:45 and hears a bunch of houses blasting the same song.
This question is for each member who wants to answer. What are your top favorite tracks on the LP and what do they mean to you personally?
(Matt Peters) I’m usually a sucker for the slow-jam on the record, so I’m going to stay on-brand and pick “Alexandria.” This song features our good friend Begonia and it’s split into two perspectives. The first verse is about realizing that I was subconsciously putting this subtle pressure/expectation on my partner to be aggressive with how she followed her ambitions and dreams – without being aware enough to understand that that wasn’t really the right approach for her. In the second verse Begonia lays out the response: Not everyone needs that hustle to find self-worth. And don’t mistake “my silence for a lack of direction.” The sad-parade outro that ends the song and the album gets me every time.
(Michael Jordan) Oof. I feel like my answer changes on any given day, but today let’s go with “Summer Stay.”
This was one of the last tunes we wrote/worked on so it still has some of its new car smell. I love songs with good layering and a steady build and this one has those elements. The pay off is Bucky ripping a great solo with Matt P. harmonizing it on synth (honorable mention to my recorder solo on “Remmin’”). Lyrically this song brings back great memories of summer festivals we have played along the way.
Sidelining is out today! Congratulations! What do you want to say to all your fans? What’s the future plans for Royal Canoe? Will you be touring? How have you been spending the last 18 months?
(Matt Peters) Thanks! Yeah, it’s kinda surreal after the past 18 months to do something that we would consider “normal” like releasing a record. We’re all fully vaccinated (plus two weeks) as of Wednesday, so tonight we’re actually going to get to hang out with each other in person for the first time in many months – it’s pretty amazing that it coincides with the day of our record release.
The response to the singles we’ve put out has been overwhelmingly positive and I can’t wait for everyone to finally hear the record. We’ve been at this for over ten years now, and we’ll keep making records and taking on absurd projects as long as our fans will have us. I’ve got a feeling that we’ll be heading out on tour sometime early next year. It’s like there’s been this dormant part of my personality just waiting around in my subconscious for the last year and a half. It’s going to be a real trip to access that feeling again.