Six Ways Royal Canoe Tackle Technology on 'Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit'

Six Ways Royal Canoe Tackle Technology on 'Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit'
Photo: Jaclyn Campanaro
There's a sprightliness to the 11 songs on Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit, the newest full-length from Winnipeg's Royal Canoe, out now on Nevado. The exuberant pop sextet have reined in the anthems from 2013's Today We're Believers, but retain the infectious grooves, smacking them against a seemingly endless trove of manipulated sonic textures, figuratively and literally dipping into a pool of sounds.
But there's a deeper, darker tension that lies below the surface, informing both the record's sound and ethos. As vocalist Matt Peters tells Exclaim!, much of the album deals with the highs and lows of technology: "I feel like I'm a data information addict. If there's information available, I wanna consume it. And there's this weird, low-level sugar high that you get from munching through information, like sports and news. News just keeps renewing itself, every day there's something to read and most of it's completely useless! But it's hard to resist."
But instead of letting the technological void suck them up, the band have embraced the digital world, feverishly incorporating new technology on both the record and their newly revamped live shows, jamming together analogue and digital sounds to make something new. "For us, it's always about taking the extremes and trying to force them into each other and see what comes out of that collision."
The isolating nature of technology impacted the lyrics...
"The biggest change [between Something Got Lost and its predecessors] is the words," Peters says. "On the previous record, it felt more optimistic and more wide-eyed. On this record, we'd been spending the previous three years on the road, and we had relationships that came and went, and friendships that were harder to maintain. When all you have is your phone to maintain friendships, there are only so many 'What's up"s and 'How's it going"s that you can send and respond to before it all seems too tired. I feel like we all went through that.
"Maybe the honeymoon phase is over, but we felt a lot of that disconnection from our social groups and our city and communities just because we weren't here. It seemed like every time there was a new [chance] to really get back into a social rhythm, it's like, 'Oh, gotta go, time to drive to Chicago.' That's great too and I love that lifestyle — we all clearly do, or else we wouldn't be doing it — but there are parts of me that suffer. Even in my day-to-day life, I'm on my phone. So much. I feel it's restricting my capacity to connect with people, even when I'm sitting with them."
...and the title itself.
"The album title, Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit, is all about that idea of feeling like you're funnelling all of your feelings and thoughts and communication through this stupid device and back down. In that process, what are you losing in there?"
Instruments featured on the album include a water bottle...
"We wanted to really explore new ways that we could take analogue, organic sounds, and play with them to still maintain that familiarity and organic quality and try to find the musicality in familiar sounds. The easiest way to do that is to throw a pedal on it, but we had time [and] we had this great space, so we could run organ sounds through all sorts of digital effects and analogue effects and pianos and process them and try to create instruments that we felt still had skin on them, but we could tell, maybe a more unique story with the stone. So that was a strong focus of the record as far as the instrumentation went.
"One of our instruments is a water bottle with a little bit of water in it, and there's a contact microphone taped onto the bottom of it. Then we have a pitch-affecting pedal on it, and so there's some really interesting musical things you can get out of this water battle. The harmonics when you move this pitch pedal up and down produce this really interesting musical tone that you wouldn't expect when you're hitting this thing and putting your ear up to it. Always trying to play the two against each other: the organic and the digital, analogue and electronic. Just seeing what we can do to find something that's fresh and new to us. That's always what we're looking for."
...and beluga whales.
"Our friend Andy Rudolph was part of a film crew, and he did some recordings with a mic that could go underwater of the beluga whales as part of a film he was doing the sound for in Churchill [MB]. When he came back, we were doing some playing around with some songs, and he told us about this idea of convolution, which is how you can take one sound, like a synthesizer, and you can affect its tonality and rhythm and frequency of that sound when you force another sound into it, like the beluga whale. It works both ways: it makes the beluga whale sound like a synth, and it makes the synth sound like a beluga whale. I don't even remember which sound we went with, but they both sounded really fucking cool. For the songs we were working on, we wanted something kinda watery. It was the perfect marriage."
The band is using bleeding-edge technology on their new record…
"For our live shows, we've got a few new instruments where we have these — for lack of a better term — orbs, which are these MIDI controllers and, when we hit them, they light up and they also will tell a MIDI device to play a sound of our choosing. [Rudolph] made these, and it's gonna be a lot of fun. It's gonna be a light show with sound, so when you hit it, it'll do both: it'll shine a light and also play a sound. You can play it like an instrument, but it's like nothing else that I've seen with MIDI. It's pretty exciting.
"We've just had way more time to prepare for this album, and we knew a little bit more about where we were at, and so it's nice to be a little bit more deliberate and try to put on a show as opposed to, "Hey, everyone! Here's our song," which is kinda what you do on your first record.
"Every song, there's a moment where there's that frustrating thing where you're looking at the puzzle and there's a piece missing, and you're like, 'Where the fuck is that piece?' and you're looking under the table. We had that moment like every song, but it was always there somewhere. We just had to experiment and get creative with how we were gonna play things. The orbs really helped us."
...but no laptops.
"We really don't wanna have laptops on stage. It's kinda just a stupid principle at this point but we want to be able to play everything live and have there be a performance aspect to every part of the show. For us, when I go see a show, that's what excites me. And not every band has the luxury of having a large group, but since we do, we feel compelled to try and perform everything.  And so that brings an extra degree of difficulty, it seems. And that doesn't mean that we don't use samplers — that's effectively what the orb is. But we want there to be some performance.
"For us, it's a matter of: let's record it, let's get it exactly how we want it on the record, now let's figure out how to play it after the fact. The huge advantage we have in that is that there are six of us, so there are lots of hands, lots of feet that can be utilized to try to pull it all off in the end."