Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the other side of the stage at a festival? I took the time to chat with Matt Peters of Royal Canoe, who are performing on Saturday at Osheaga. Having played at many festivals over the summer, Peters really knows what it’s like to be a festival band. We also got to chatting about the different kinds of music being played at festivals and why.
Robyn Homeniuk (RH): How’s your summer going ?
Matt Peters (MP): It’s going really well. We’ve been on the summer festival run, so that’ been fun. We actually went from Halifax to Victoria. So we got to see the entire country in a matter of three weeks. A lot of driving, but it was great.
RH: Driving that far is very impressive.
MP: Yeah we were doing shows along the way.
RH: So a bit easier than doing it all in one go. So which has been your favourite festival so far?
MP: Bonaroo was really amazing, very fun. Just the numbers of bands that I have wanted to see there, the crowds were amazing with everyone in the festival mood – everyone was decent and well behaved. The whole festival had a great mood. I had never gone to Tennessee before, it was really beautiful. We’re from Manitoba so the difference was in the camping, I didn’t see a single mosquito down there. It almost broke my heart for a minute as I realized – oh wait in other parts of the world they don’t have these things; they just live comfortably. The grounds are very special and it was so beautiful. The lineup was ridiculous; other festivals have been really fun like Ottawa Blues was great as well.
RH: It definitely sounds like a good way to spend the summer in the very least. What do you find that’s different from a festival performance vs. a regular indoor performance in a city?
MP: When we’re doing our own show then you’re not going to have the built in crowd that you have with a festival. At a festival there are people who are setting up at the stage for the day, or you could also have people only going to see what they want to see. It can really go either way. The way the festivals are run, when you arrive you have a guaranteed audience which is really amazing. When we played Ottawa it was amazing – we got the sunset set. It was really special, there were a couple thousand people and just off to the left the Ottawa river near Gatineau with the sunsetting. Comparing this to a little bar in Regina it’s very different.
RH: How is Royal Canoe enjoying being a festival band? How is the music translating to the festival atmosphere?
MP: I think it works really well because there are six of us. And we’re all kind of busy doing different things on stage which I think translates well to a larger stage and audience. There is a fun summery quality to some of our songs and I think it’s nice to have this type of music especially at a summer festival. I think with our band it works really well.
RH: That’s always a good feeling to have. Do you have any different preparation techniques for the festivals?
MP: There is a serious time crunch at a festival, you get like 15 minutes for a change over and you don’t get a sound check. Everyone has to really be on their A-game when you’re loading on and off a stage with all of the gear. I think that when you’re watching you don’t notice this, the audience just takes note of when the band is playing and when they aren’t. The stuff that goes on right before you play and right after you play is sometimes the most stressful. You have to get all of your gear up there, then the technical crew and yourself have to make sure everything is functioning and do some sort of monitor check. And then suddenly you’re playing and as soon as you’re done you have to get all of your stuff off the stage because every second you’re on the stage you’re taking away from the next band. And they oly have a certain amount of time to set up. For us it’s like: be really entertaining and emotive… now fuck off as soon as the last song ends. It’s really fun and when it’s all done you get to really enjoy it.
RH: As an audience member at quite a few festivals, I seem to forget that this equipment change needs to happen and it’s easy to get impatient between sets. That kind of stuff actually has to happen, it isn’t just magically done.
MP: Yeah that’s what makes it sound good. To be honest, that’s probably why you see more DJs these days. The technical requirements for DJs is so minimal, you just need two channels. You just have to get your laptop and turntables up there and that’s it. You hook up to the two channels, then you’re playing. One of the many reasons you seem more DJs getting booked is because they’re just easier to manage. That doesn’t even touch on the reason the music is popular in a festival like that.
RH: Yeah when I was at Governor’s Ball, Jack White and Skrillex were on stage at the same time. The difference in the audience was really ridiculous. Skrillex had a rave going on whereas Jack White had a proper rock concert happening. The contrast is very bizarre.
MP: Yeah they both played at Bonaroo as well, you’re very right. We played another festival that had DJs playing earlier in the night, and it was really obvious that Dubstep is the generational divisor. I don’t know if it’s black and white but I remember back when I was 18 or 19 I loved Daft Punk and electronic music. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Back then there was a big bass culture. It was mostly underground but there were artist like The Prodigy and Daft Punk that were part of the mainstream too. It seems like now at these big festivals people are just going fucking nuts to this DJ. It’s all whether or not you like that kind of thing I guess, but you’re right watching a DJ performance and you compare that to a rock show. On one hand I want to say that electronic music is less engaging, but it isn’t. In a way people are responding to it so immediately and it asks something different of you as an audience member.
RH: Have you ever been to Osheaga before?
MP: I’ve never been to Osheaga. I’ve heard a lot about it and the lineup this year and in past years I’ve really wanted to go. Obviously I would have loved to played at it in past years, so it’s cool to do that this year. It’s one of, if not the, biggest festival in Canada. It’s a huge honour.
RH: Is there anything in specific that you’re looking forward to specifically in Montreal or at this festival?
MP: I’m most excited – well it’s hard to tell what I’m really most excited for – to see Outkast. They are definitely one of my favourite groups of all time. That’s going to be really fun. Montreal is such a beautiful city, I have lot of friends there. Winnipeg and Montreal have a weird connection, Winnipeg is one of the big feeders as far as people go. So many of my friends from home have moved out there and moved back, I think especially the franco-Winnipeg community plays a role in this movement. I have the lucky opportunity to spend time there, every time I get to go back it’s great. I’m constantly fighting the thought “Fuck why don’t I moved here?” but then you come home to your town.
RH: Yeah, I’m pretty lucky to live here. So Outkast is your must-see of the day?
MP: Yeah they weren’t playing for years, and now they are.
RH: This is their reunion tour, not to make myself seem young but I’m technically younger than Outkast as a band. At Governor’s Ball they were definitely the most influential headliner with the largest audience, but I’ve noticed for Osheaga people are very excited to see Arctic Monkeys. To compare them to Outkast seems very odd to me.
MP: Yeah Arcitc Monkeys were also a headliner at Bonaroo. I saw that and thought “What, really?” I remember listening to their first record, but since then I haven’t really heard a lot of their other stuff. I’ve gone to Europe a few times and they’re huge there. I always thought it never really got past the first record here. But here they were at Bonaroo and they’re getting these big headlining bills.
RH: Yeah I was pretty into them in high school. I saw them at Madison Square Garden at their sold out show, I was surprised they managed to sell out MSG. They’re really living they dream right now.
MP: They sold out MSG? Wow I had no idea.
RH: Yeah, I was in the front row for that – great experience.
MP: So you’re a pretty big fan of Arctic Monkeys then?
RH: I guess so. Even as a fan, I can’t believe how popular they are becoming. I don’t know if that makes me an asshole…
MP: No, I don’t think so (laughs).
RH: Any last words for the Montreal audiences?
MP: Not really, I’m just really pumped to be coming there. We’ll get to stick around for a few days, it’s gonna be a great week. Are you gonna be there at the festival?
RH: Yeah I’ll be there.
MP: I actually have a question for you, logistically. I’ve heard it’s hell to get off of the island where the festival is hell – is this true?
RH: Yeah, it’s hell. You can drive there from downtown, but I’m definitely going to be either taking the metro or a bike across. If I could I would get a boat or something… but that’s not going to happen.
MP: Will it take like an hour?
RH: From where I live downtown, it should take 20-25 minutes. But there is one bridge to get there, and it closes every Saturday night for fireworks. I really don’t know what they’re doing with that. The festival has been going on for a while, so no matter what the crowd will be insane but I’m confident they’ve organized something. Maybe a shuttle service, but I’m not sure.
MP: Sounds good. Well it was nice talking to you, hopefully see you there.
To stay in the loop with Royal Canoe, follow them on Facebook. Royal Canoe plays at Osheaga on Saturday August 2 at 1:15-1:55 p.m. on the Scene des Arbres Galaxie stage.