By Brenlee Coates
Nominated among heavy hitter and eventual winner Arcade Fire in the category of Alternative Album of the Year at the Junos, Royal Canoe is one of the biggest success stories to come out of the local music scene this year.
The band will be touring its acclaimed album, Today We’re Believers (TWB), for the majority of 2014.
“This year I calculated we’ll be away for about 200 days,” says singer-guitarist, Bucky Driedger.
“We have very forgiving employers.”
Though they didn’t win the Juno in their first nomination, they’ve earned accolades like being named best-of-fest by The New York Times and one of the top bands to see at this year’s SXSW festival by Spin Magazine.
The six-piece band has a reputation for putting on energetic shows and playing each element of its complicated sound live each night.
“I think that’s what makes it not get boring,” says Driedger.
“I think we’re challenged every night to be better and make things groovier and continue to improve. It keeps it exciting every night to play.”
The band experimented to find its inventive sound for three years before releasing TWB.
“It took a while, but it was all a really fun process to get there,” says Driedger.
“We took a lot of time to write a lot of songs that were no good but they were just kind of about figuring out what we were going to sound like. For us it was important to take that time and be really proud of what we had before we pushed it out there.”
The sound is eclectic, mixing electronic and hip hop elements, rock, and a little of everything in between – while sounding deliberate and smoothly produced.
“I think we draw things from a lot of places, and a lot of it has to do with trying to find new sounds that we haven’t heard before.
“I think we all draw in terms of our rhythmic stuff from hip-hop music a lot, and also electronic music, and like, I don’t know – Pink Floyd – and whatever.”
“We try and make music that sits on a groove and kind of has an important rhythmic aspect,” says Driedger.
Whatever you want to call it, their “alternative” music has made waves in Winnipeg and beyond.
The musicians credit their loyal following and the local scene for allowing them to explore their sound and harvest the kind of music they’re proud of.
“We still have the heart of our core of fans in Winnipeg and Winnipeg’s been so great. It’s been such an awesome place to develop – and kind of work on music and play shows and get started,” says Driedger.
“It also feels like we’re starting to make some little pockets of (fans) in other places as well now which is obviously exciting too.”
The band has done two tours in Europe and saw more people come out the second time around.
“Europe is great – it’s really an interesting show culture there. In a place like Germany, let’s say, there’s a willingness of people to go out and see a band that they haven’t heard of from Canada.”
Royal Canoe took off after the Junos to begin its North American tour as opening act for Bombay Bicycle Club for six weeks.
The summer will consist of festival spots at the Evolve Festival in Nova Scotia, the Regina Folk Festival, Osheaga in Montreal, and others to be announced.
In 2015, Royal Canoe will go back to the writing process – though, Driedger thinks it will come a lot quicker for them than the last record.
“I think after (touring) we’ll probably need a rest, but rest means work on the new album,” he says.
“We already started writing songs for it and have a bunch of ideas which we’re excited about. But starting next year we’ll start doing it in earnest.”