[caption id="attachment_15490" align="alignnone" width="445" caption="Canasta | Photo by Sarah Hadley"]
“Take Five” is an interview series that focuses on Chicago’s ever-growing music scene by giving you insight on the city’s best local acts via the best source possible: the acts themselves. We ask five questions, and they give five answers. Here is the latest installment featuring Canasta.
Orch-pop band Canasta
began as a nonchalant experiment by Matt Priest in early 2002. Eight years, and two very welcomed albums later, seventeen members have come and gone and Canasta has finally found its musical synergy with the six current members: Jeremy Beckford
, Elizabeth Lindau
, Angie Ma
, Brian Palmieri
, Matt Priest
and Ryan Tracy
Over the years, Canasta has taken a “Stone Soup” approach to their sound by welcoming new members and letting them play whatever instrument isn’t already in the band. This relaxed, experimental attitude has turned out extremely well for them, allowing complex layers and beautiful orchestration to be a main part of carefully detailed songs. Their most recent album, The Fakeout, The Tease and The Breather
received high praise, so we caught up with four of the six members to inquire about the album and the band's the next step.
: So, tell me about the title for your album The Fakeout, The Tease and The Breather
. How did you come up with that?
: Well, our songs have a pretty complicated structure that have lots of little parts and pieces that don’t fit in to the typical terminology of first chorus, bridge, whatever. So we had to come up with our own names on what to call them. So when we were talking about song structure and were like, “Well, let’s play this section” we had to come up with little names for them. We would have a Fakeout section that sounds like you’re going to go into the chorus but you don’t actually go into the chorus. There all little terms that we came up with for pieces of our song that don’t really have names in normal song writing structure.
: Yeah, it’s poking fun at ourselves a little bit. Someone would introduce an idea to a song and in his or her mind it might seem like the most original idea ever, but oftentimes the rest of the band would be like, “Oh, you mean like a breather”, “Oh, you mean the tease?” Cause it’s true, there are little tricks that we use fairly often, so it’s poking fun at ourselves a little bit. Yet, now that the album is out it seems like, you know, as with all great album titles everyone wants to read further into them and figure out what the, uh, what’s the story behind it. Lots of people think it’s a condensed history of the band or something in the title. But, no, it’s not. It our own little joke.
: What inspired this album?
: Well, with six people, you get a pretty diverse group of influences coming together and I think that rings really true if you listen to the album. There’s a lot going on and you can kind of see where some people are coming from, but a lot of times it just blends together and it something that, I don’t know, can’t place my finger on.
: I think since it was such a long period of time and since there’s so many people involved, it probably isn’t just a short, tiny list of influences. But, I think that each individual song – cause you know some of those songs were a 3-4 month period of writing - so, each individual song has its own set of influences, I think of other musicians and things and places and so forth. There’s a song on the record called, “Reading the Map Upside Down” that we went on tour and we went down to Nashville…
: Memphis. And we went to Stacks Records which is a studio there, a famous soul and funk studio there, like home to Isaac Hayes for example. And, um, we did a live webcast session there and kind of got… well, not at Stacks… it gets complicated. But the point is, we met a guy who used to work at Stacks and was able to give us a tour of the place.
So, we came home sort of inspired to do something a little groovier, a little more soulful. We didn’t go 110% in that direction, but we sort of let it influence one of the songs. So, “Reading the Map Upside Down”, um, that’s got soulful vocals and that’s got some really great horn arrangements and it’s probably the grooviest thing we’ve ever done. So there’s that song and that has a pretty specific set of influences. But that’s probably the only song on the album that has those sorts of influences.
: I would say, what about the city of Chicago? Doesn’t the city of Chicago inspire our songs? I mean, when I think about our songs, I think of qualities like genuine and sincerity as opposed to being all about image and showing off. It’s much more about pride in the music and the craftsmanship in the songs. So, I would say its Chicago/Midwestern outlook on things.
: Yeah, I hear that. I didn’t think about it that way, but there’s probably a Chicago feel to it. Midwestern feel. You know, hard work, craftsmanship that sort of thing.
There’s a period of time where I was doing a lot of headphone listening and so there were a couple tracks on the record that when we were writing them, I was really hoping they would be good headphone music. I don’t really know exactly what that means, but sort of the kind of song you just want to wrap yourself up in, you know? Sort of envelopes you. So, there’s a song called “I Don’t Know Where I Was Going With This” that sort of has some of that.
And then there’s another song called, the last song on the record, which is called “Plan Your Escape” is headphone-y, at leas in my mind it was. So, there’s that. I remember that being kind of a thing for me. I was like, “Oh, let’s make headphone songs”, but I wasn’t thinking that from the very beginning and I wasn’t thinking of that right at the end. There was just a period in the middle. I was like, “Oh, let’s do that”.
And then there was a period of time where I wanted to do something more angular. Something that was more along the lines of Elvis Costello or Ted Leo or even the clash or something. Of course we don’t really sound like any of those bands, but there’s a song called “Magazine” on the record and so those bands were kind of an influence in that song. It was kind of like we had never tried writing a song along those lines before, so let’s try and do that.
So, yeah, each song probably has its own individual set of influences and inspirations I would think.
: How did you put this album together?
: It’s been a pretty big stretch of time for this last batch of songs. Um, four, five years? Some of them were written before I even came to the band.
: Yeah, it’s been like 3 ½ or close to four when we started laying them down, but today it’s been five.
: Yeah, we’ve probably spent the last 3 solid years working on the songs that you hear on the album and that’s how we focused on it.
: I remember, and this is right before [Jeremy] joined the band, but we had, um… we liked the last record, we were proud of it, but we thought that it was kind of scatter shot, sonically and thematically and emotionally and stuff. And not that we think that everything should sound the same, but we wanted a record that we thought hung together a little better and sort of sound like a complete picture, you know?
So, I think we talked about what some of our favorite things were about the last record. More favorite moments, favorite songs and sort of came up with a list of things that kind of defined those and we decided to shoot for making a complete record of songs that all sort of fit within themes that we thought we did best. The themes, both sonic and lyrical and everything that we thought we were most adept at doing.
And so we were definitely aiming to make something that was, something that was a whole more than last time. So, hopefully that is the case. And you know occasionally if we have a decision, a tough decision to make about a song, like a direction to go or something, sometimes we’d sort of remind ourselves of what we were kind of aiming for over all, the overarching feel of the record. And that would help us sometimes kind of direct it.
: What is going on right now with you as a band?
: Angie’s real new. That’s why she hasn’t been able to say much about the other stuff.
: Yeah, that’s why I’ve been silent. I represent the newer half of the band. The two other people that aren’t here and me didn’t join since, what? The last 9 months?
: Pretty much right as this album came out is when you guys started playing shows.
: Yeah, so we’re definitely just, you know, added on to all this history. And a lot of this summer was just us learning all the parts and learning to groove again as a band. Because there’s definitely, was it a history of 17 people in the last 8-9 years?
: Yeah, that’s true.
: So, there’s a lot of us wanting to grove again and grove as well as past lineups have. So, there’s a lot of that and talking about where to take it since we just sort of recently gotten that grove done.
: And you’re talking about a synergetic grove, more than an actual funk rhythm grove. I mean, that’s part of it certainly, but the kind of grove where people see a band and don’t start thinking they just started playing together a few months ago.
: Yeah, yeah.
: We’re actually having a band meeting tonight to figure out where to take things next. I mean, we’re going to keep writing music and playing shows but we kind of going to take things up a notch and sort of do things different above and beyond what bands always sort of do. So, we’re talking about different sort of approaches to song writing or different sorts of recordings we might be able to put out that aren’t necessarily traditional. Or where we can go and play that we haven’t played before. So, we’re talking about doing hopefully something interesting and new and something we haven’t already tried before. But I’m not sure what that’s going to be yet.
: Well, I was going to ask you about the future, but the future is unknown, right?
: Well, the immediate future we’re definitely playing as many shows as possible. We have a round of shows coming up in December. On of them being here in Chicago at the Double Door, that’s Friday, December 17.
: With a band from Champaign called Elsinore and we have some other Midwest dates with that band as well.
: Yeah, first order of business is to promote the record that we already released. We love the record, we’re proud of it; we want people to hear it. It seems as though when people hear it a large percentage of them enjoy it. So, it’s just a matter of getting it out to as many people as possible.
And so we’ll definitely be playing shows and sending out press kits and handing out fliers and all the things that bands normally do. That’s the immediate future, but as far as the long-term future, um, hopefully something above and beyond the usual write an album, release it, tour on it. We’re trying to shake it up a little.
Catch Canasta on Friday, December 17, at the Double Door! Get tickets for only $10 at Ticketfly.com!
Stream and purchase The Fakeout, The Tease and The Breather at Canastamusic.com By Britni Day \ comments