Thinking outside the genre box

Royal Canoe’s set at The Mansion melds together an array of genres 

Royal Canoe frontman Matt Peters performing at The Mansion on 13 September.
Royal Canoe frontman Matt Peters performing at The Mansion on 13 September.

Royal Canoe is a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts — a band of sewn-together genres.

The band took their bombastic set to The Mansion this past Sunday, along with their openers HIGHS.

The six-piece Winnipeg outfit crowded the stage, heaping on microphones and stacks of keyboards. 

Every sound on the Juno-nominated Today We’re Believers was dutifully recreated. Seamlessly switching instruments, the band fed off an enthusiastic crowd.

Up-and-comers HIGHS also brought their own brand of spirited indie pop to the forefront. Expert three-part harmonies showcased the musical chops of these Toronto indie favourites.

However, there were some snags. Technical difficulties cut a new Royal Canoe song short. 

“You didn’t even want to hear that song,” vocalist Matt Peters joked on stage. “It didn’t even make the album.” 

The Journal spoke with Royal Canoe’s guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist and tambourine shaker, Bucky Driedger, to explore the band’s eventful touring past.

In 2013, the band’s musical equipment was stolen. This resulted in fan donations totaling $9,600 to replace the lost gear. 

Luckily, Royal Canoe’s current tour through the North-Eastern Seaboard has been kinder. The tour’s misfortunes were limited to a rained-out Hamilton show. 

“We set up the stage and waited and waited and waited,” Driedger said. “We just drank the free beer and saw The Sadies and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.” 

No influence or genre is spared in Royal Canoe’s writing process. Hip-hop beats overlay infectious indie rock melodies, with wide-ranging samples left to fill in the gaps.

“There are six people in the band. So, that leads to a pretty wide variety of likes. It’s still pretty diverse, but we’ve honed in on what we do.” Driedger said. “We all like a lot of hip-hop music. So that’s reflected in the rhythm section but the songs aren’t hip-hop songs.”

When asked about the band’s genre, Driedger gave a self-deprecating laugh. 

“This is going to sound lame, but music’s just music. People need to qualify things. Yes, you have to call it something and that’s not a bad thing. But when you’re making something, it’s not advantageous just to pick something and cut everything else off,” Driedger said.

The group has devoted itself to openness, and absorbs anything and everything into their songs. This includes their hometown of Winnipeg.

“Winnipeg has its own culture, and its pros and cons. The harsh shifts in weather, especially,” Driedger said. “The songs I write in the winter are darker. In the summer you’re less self-conscious about being overjoyed.” 

Five years of workman touring and recording have made Royal Canoe more confident experimenters. Driedger says they’ve found their voice

“Leading up to the first record, we were still figuring out what we were gonna sound like. We pulled these snapshots, trying to mine different musical areas,” Driedger said. 

“But now we know what the essence of what we like to do is.”

Royal Canoe plans to release their next record for summer 2016. 


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