Toronto band Crowns For Convoy is keeping alive the spirit of contemplative, bluesy folk-rock in the vein of Dave Matthew Band in their carefully crafted compositions. Their recently released EP Kingdom is a collection of songs that showcase vivid imagery, layered instrumentation and soft, scintillating harmonies, and is but a prelude to a future full-length album release.
OTM invited the band to crowd onto the virtual couch (now with more fluffy cushions) to chat in the lead-up to their Canadian Music Week set about the music they thrive on, Spice Girls and why Rush can’t get laid.
OTM: The Mayan Calendar was lyin’! Now that we’ve lived to see 2013, what albums are you looking forward to this year?
Andrew Shenkman (Keyboards, Vocals): New Queens of the Stone Age!
Adam O’Connor (Drums): Toronto’s own, Sean Pinchin. That guy’s unreal!
Eric Weigensberg (Lead Guitar, Vocals): I just pretend Evil Empire is released every year.
OTM recently was able to scratch Roger Waters from the“Bucket List of bands/artists to see before I die”. Who’s on top of your musical Bucket List?
Andrew: Prince and Fleetwood Mac… preferably a double bill
Adam O: Pearl Jam….and Aerosmith
Kyle Duffin (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar): A lot of the artists on my bucket list are dead, unfortunately. Jeff Buckley is gone, so is Elliott Smith. I’d love to see The Books play a show, but they’re also done. A lot of my 90s alt-rock heroes would be here – Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, I Mother Earth are on my list. I’d also love to see a set by Kid Koala, or Four Tet.
Eric: Haha, there’s more than one, but there’s a band from New Orleans called Galactic that I’d love to check out.
Last year, “Gangnam Style” exploded onto the scene. If you could dictate the song or trend that would become the viral monster of 2013, what would it be?
Kyle: I’m not a fan of internet trends. I find them a bit tedious, and the exposure they get – albeit a positive thing for the careers and inevitable successes involved – starts to grate on me after a while. I’m not very technologically savvy, so I feel that being responsible for some sort of massive internet trend would be a bad thing on my part…I don’t want to be accountable for what might follow
Eric: Man getting hit by football? I hate viral videos. Just didn’t find “Gangnam Style” that great.
If you could recruit anyone to direct a music video for you (Go wild! You’re not footing the bill), who would you choose and what song would you want them to tackle?
Andrew: Michel Gondry
Kyle: I’d love to see Gore Verbinski tackle our tune “The Kingdom”. He’s got such an unusual and somehow undefinable directorial style. He seems to fit comfortably in the same vein as David Fincher, or Christopher Nolan, or even Ridley Scott, but it’s harder to point out what makes him an individual as a film maker. You see one of his films, and if you’ve seen his stuff before, you just know it’s him. “The Kingdom”, I think, has the same position in our repertoire. It’s just one of those tunes that isn’t too out there, that isn’t too unusual, and yet seems to stand alone. If you took the time to pick it apart, you could probably find the reasons that it’s a standout song amongst the others in our set, but I think its merit lies in the ways that its unusual without being too in-your-face about it. You can place that song anywhere in our live set and it will just fit. I think Verbinski’s dark tendencies mixed with his child-like playfulness would make for an interesting take on the material.
Eric: The dude who did that awesome Justice video. Quite possibly for a crazy remix of maybe “Loveliar” or “Sentinel”?
Name five essential albums you can’t live without.
Andrew: Notorious B.I.G – Ready to Die; Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire; Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians; Elliot Smith – New Moon; Beck – Odelay
Adam O: I don’t really listen to a lot of music, to be honest. I like Songza.
Kyle: Soundgarden – Superunknown; Tool – Lateralus; Radiohead – Kid A/Amnesiac (I consider them one album, call me a cheater); Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians; Four Tet – Rounds
Eric: Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire (twice!); Every Time I Die – The Big Dirty; Misfits – Static Age; Soundgarden – Superunknown.
Adam Jenkins (Bass): Miles Davis – Aura; LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening; Justice – Cross; Astor Piazzolla – Tango: Zero Hour; Bad Plus – Give
What was the last great book you read?
Andrew: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Adam O: On Bullshit (Frankfurt)
Kyle: The Passage by Justin Cronin. Just such a fantastic read. He sits on that line between being a high-brow literate and just wanting to have fun with fiction. I thought it was a refreshing and disturbing take on two genres (post-apocalyptic meets vampires) that have just become overwhelmingly saturated over the last few years.
Eric: Game of Thrones book 5
Adam J: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
Your favourite guilty pleasure?
Adam O: Watching reruns of Friday Night Lights
Kyle: Any reality show on the History Network. I could watch American Pickers, Pawn Stars, or Cajun Pawn Stars any day of the week, all day. Except for Canadian Pickers. I love Canada, and am proudly Canadian, but those guys are just so uncool. And they buy the stupidest shit.
Eric: Mr. Noodles
Adam J: Reddit
Share with us something that fans would find intriguing, but no music writer has managed to draw out of you yet.
Andrew: Crowns for Convoy was almost a hip hop band
Adam O: I have never seen any of the Indiana Jones movies…or Star Wars.
Eric: I’m actually a pirate. YARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
Kyle: I have a bad temper, and it’s been developed through years of insecurity and a lack of confidence. The rest of the guys know it well, and can see it happening when it develops. I’m not proud of it, but I am proud of this band, and sometimes I can get too attached to an idea we’re working on, and can be pretty acidic to the writing process as a result. That being said, the confidence I’ve developed to combat that temper has been garnered from working with the other four members in this group. My insecurities sometimes spawn from the fact that I am constantly and acutely aware that the rest of the members of Crowns for Convoy are pound for pound better musicians than I, and that the music I write wouldn’t be half as sophisticated without their input. It can sometimes set me off, but I’m infinitely thankful for the patience of my fellow band mates for dealing with it and taking it with a grain of salt. They can see me working on it, probably more viscerally than I can, and they have been very gracious in their understanding. I couldn’t go on with this project without them.
I think the band’s just as fortunate to have your passion, Kyle. It feels almost wrong to divert to lighter fare, but Eric did bring it up, so… The great debate of our lives, gentlemen: who would win, ninjas or pirates? More importantly, why?
Andrew: Ninjas…. because ninjas
Adam O: Ninjas — you can’t hear or see them coming. Pirates are always drunk…if they’re not, then they’re not real pirates.
Kyle: Pirates. Ninjas would be all like, “We’re hiding behind smoke and around these corners and in the shadows in shit”. And pirates would be all like, “Well, we shot just about everything because we don’t hide from any sons-of-bitches”. And ninjas would be all like, “Dag…didn’t think that through…well, that didn’t work out well”.
Eric: First of all, I think it comes down to where they’re fighting. If on the water, pirates hands down. On land… I’d still give it to pirates, but it’d be a better fight. How often do you find a pack of ninjas? It’s usually just one, but with pirates, you get a whole ship.
If you were to be sponsored by a board game, what board game would you proudly bear the name of?
Adam O: Don’t Wake Daddy, you remember that one? I hate waking up in the morning.
Kyle: Scrabble. Or Pictionary. Both, if possible. Can I say both?
Eric: Don’t WAKE DADDY. Or Koo Koo NAUTS.
Spice World: terrible movie that should have never been made, or five clever, self-deprecating women taking the piss?
Andrew: Fantastic character work by Alan Cummings
Adam O: Isn’t that a store at Scarborough Town Centre?
Kyle: The latter. Love those girls.
Eric: Definitely the latter. Hated the movie when I was kid, but there’s some comedic value to it all now. I just thought there would always be an N’Sync movie…
I think you and Vanessa (Goodnight, Sunrise) would be down with an N’Sync flick! Thinking of concerts you’ve attended as a fan/spectator, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen someone else do in an audience?
Andrew: Someone yell at Kyle for singing along at an Iron & Wine Concert
Kyle: I saw Iron & Wine play at The Pheonix, and was totally enamored by their set. I sang along in harmony with all the words, just really involved in the music. In between one of the songs, a girl next to me said “I know it’s easy to get lost in the music, but your singing is really distracting”. It totally threw my buzz out the window, and really bummed me out the rest of the show. All I could think was “This place is huge, stand somewhere else if you don’t like it. Also, it’s folk music. I’m surprised everyone else doesn’t join me”. Rule of the stairs though, I guess. I didn’t have the guts to confront her, so I just put my tail between my legs and shut up.
Eric: Some dude trying to grab me, and then after I stopped him, telling me I ruined it all…… PCP will do that to you.
Bastardizing a Metric lyric: who’d you rather be, The Tragically Hip or Rush?
Andrew: The Hip!
Adam O: The Hip!
Kyle: The Tragically Hip. They’ll party. And get laid. How many girls do you see at Rush concerts? My girlfriend supports my answer.
Eric: The Hip. Always. ALWAYS. The Hip.
Chicken or the egg question: which usually comes first, the music or the lyrics?
Adam O: The music, always the music… scratch that, the beat.
Kyle: I’d say that, all in all, more lyrics are written more often than the music itself. I write them on napkins and scraps of paper and in my phone (because it’s handy and saves them and keeps them close) and whatever else is close at hand. If I get a riff going, I’ll start digging through all the words I’ve saved and see if any of them fit. If something does, then by technicality, the words came first. Just as often, though, I end up just having to cater to a vocal line that has come to me along with the guitar, and write words to fit the melody instead of trying to cram something pre-written into the process. I’d admit that in the end, the songs that are done that way tend to be the best, and end up seeing the stage more often than not.
Eric: For me, it’s always the music.
Adam J: Music. Half of the shows I’ve seen, you can’t understand a bloody word of what the singer is saying anyway.
The music industry can be daunting at best. What keeps you going in a world flooded with talent, each person or group jockeying for listeners and airplay?
Andrew: Playing good music with good musicians in front of good people.
Adam O: My creativity. I’m always thinking of new ways to promote the band, different marketing ideas. I really have nothing else to do in my spare time.
Kyle: My band members do. I’ve got a solid group of guys who believe firmly in what we’re doing. They all come from different angles on how modern music is engineered and written – all have different influences and experiences – and I think that our sound comes largely from they way they pull those things out of the little tunes I write in my living room. I’m confident that Crowns for Convoy is refreshing without making a deliberate attempt to be for this reason – it’s five different people with five very different playing styles working on the same result, and it’s refreshing. The competition is stiff, but we haven’t played a show yet where we didn’t make a few friends and hold our own on the stage. As long as we keep being gracious to those who invite us out to play, and keep making friends with the other acts trying to do the same thing, I see no reason to quit.
Eric: Easy, we just keep pluggin’ away at it. I’ve been playing music since I was 6; it’s just what I do and we just keep focusing on doing what we do at each and every show. I guess that’s easier said than done as an indie band, but you just go out there and have an awesome time and meet some cool people along the way.
Adam J: I like playing music. If no one heard me, I’d still be playing.
Your first concert: who was it, and how old were you? More importantly, how was it?
Andrew: Jurassic 5ive, it was awesome.
Adam O: Electric Circus at Canada’s Wonderland. I think I was 12 years old. Had a season’s pass and ended up at the park for the show. Kinda sucked!
Kyle: First official concert was Deftones with Thrice and Thursday opening. I guess I was about thirteen. I had never heard of Thrice then, and they are now one of my favourite bands ever and one of my biggest influences (they only just missed my “albums you can’t live without list” with their work on Vheissu…it was a tough call). Thursday was badass, though I haven’t touched their music in a long time. I’ll forever be a Deftones fan. They opened with “Minerva” and totally blew my mind.
Eric: CKY (remember them?) at the Opera House, I think I was 15 and I walked with a buddy of mine from Osgoode Station all the way to the Opera House on Queen East cause we were unaware of the streetcar. The sound kept cutting out so the band said fuck it and just started taking requests. Awesome first gig.
Adam J: I could be wrong, but probably Sharon, Lois & Bram. I don’t know how old I was. And it was probably pretty good as I’m sure I was running around like a maniac the whole time.
In the spirit of Shaun Of The Dead, what was the second album you ever bought?
Andrew: Barenaked Ladies – Stunt
Adam O: Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire
Eric: Limp Bizkit – Significant Other
Kyle: Alapolooza by Weird Al Yankovich on tape cassette.
That was the second CD I ever bought! Cool points for you. The best music-related film ever made?
Andrew: The Last Waltz
Adam O: Walk Hard
Kyle: This Is Spinal Tap
Eric: The Blues Brothers
Adam J: Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense – Directed by Jonathan Demme.
The world is ending in ten minutes. You can listen to one and only one song before the world ends. What song do you go out on?
Andrew: “IZ-US” – Aphex Twin
Adam O: “Killing In The Name” – Rage Against The Machine
Kyle: “Everything in its Right Place” – Radiohead
Eric: “No Son Of Mine” – Every Time I Die
Adam J: “Sports” – Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job. On repeat.
What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Kyle: A barrel chest and cheese-grater abs. And unicycle skills. And juggling skills. A bigger, fuller beard.
Eric: Lotsa shows and NEW FUCKING MUSIC.
Adam J: The best year ever of your life. Until the following years, which will be even better.
Thanks so much, guys! I look forward to the unicycle solos during “A Warmer Place”.
Obviously, these guys are great fun, which means you should check them out in concert. You can catch Crowns For Convoy at CMW March 22nd at 9pm (Rancho Relaxo). Consider it a warm up to their Cameron House gig on March 28th.
Speaking of that gig, OTM has passes to give away all week, as well as download codes for their cerebral new EP, Kingdom. Care to score some swag? Head here for details on our ever-growing CMW Giveaway!