Nerds make you dance SXSW 2016 edition: Canada’s Royal Canoe 

This should be a good year for Royal Canoe.

This Canadian six-piece (straight outta Winnipeg, Manitoba) has been making good music for a while now; stuff that seems like standard indie-rock, until they do something that makes you go, “Huh?”

At their early morning Canada House showcase at Friends, the band had a super elaborate stage set. Two drummers, a bunch of different synths and effects. Lead vocalist Matt Peters sings with a couple of mics, one for straight vocals, a second to weird out his voice with effects like a deep Laurie Anderson monster bass.

But Royal Canoe never get too deep into their nerdy rabbit hole. Their music has just the right blend of bounce, handclaps and sincere vocals. The lyrics aren’t overwrought, but when they come, in between the pulse of the music, Peters would burst out all emotive lines like, “I want to taaalk to you.”

You hear a little Britt Daniel in Peters’ voice, but then there’s this angelic falsetto. Not to mention four-part harmony.

Peters took a couple of straw polls from the stage, one about whether the new dividers on Sixth Street were helpful or not. The crowd booed them down. “See I kind of thought that it was good,” Peters said, “I thought it was for emergency vehicles. What happens if on of you guys trips in a giant St. Patrick’s day clover?” What, indeed.

There’s no point reaching for comparisons, because Royal Canoe are fresh, fun, and seem wholly their own thing, but without being self-consciously nerdy about the tech side. That could be because the band has mastered pulling their effects onto a stage show. They have a confident vibe.

And the hijinks aren’t strictly digital — one minute they have a funky beat that’s brilliant bedroom music, the next they’ve broken the beat down into compound rhythms, keeping everyone on their toes. Like Tune Yards, it seems like Royal Canoe could pull of a great unplugged set too.

On Thursday’s showcase the band played their singable track “Bathtubs,” but also a bunch of new material, and that’s the stuff I’m looking forward to next. Produced by Animal Collective and Deerhunter collaborator Ben Allen, keep an eye out for more of this danceable weirdness in 2016.

 

 

 


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