It’s that time of the month again. Cupid is slinging arrows and people are buying chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Anybody reading this who will be alone on Valentine’s Day, take solace in knowing that the boys from Crowns for Convoy love you. You don’t know who they are? Well, they are one of Toronto’s hardest working bands hitting the streets and clubs around the country just for you! They are even giving the gift of music with a free download of their EP this month! Bet you feel bad now…you didn’t even give them a Spiderman “Stick with Me” Valentine. Andrew Shenkman, the band’s keyboardist and multi-instrumental extraordinaire, answered some questions for OCR and shared exclusive content for OCR readers!
OCR: In the past, you have been members of various bands, solo ventures, and musical projects. All of these experiences have cumulated in the formation of Crowns for Convoy. How have those previous endeavours shaped or redefined how you approach this project?
AS: I really feel like the best way to grow as a musician is to play with other people. Each band I’ve played in has been a huge learning experience, including Crowns. I think that’s something we all have in common in the group, we really appreciate having a weekly opportunity to work on songs and dynamics with good players. I think that’s reflected in the songs we write, we’re really concentrated on getting everyone’s parts sitting just right with each other.
Since you are all well seasoned musicians, you have the versatility to perform as a five-piece band and tour in pairs. What changes do you have to make in order to accommodate a minimalistic gig?
Kyle does really cool solo versions of the songs with just his acoustic and a loop pedal, which is actually how the project started off originally, so the songs have always existed in both forms and we’ve been able to find ways to play versions in the middle depending on who was available. It’s been a lot of fun in the past. That said, other than Kyle’s solo gigs, I think we’ve decided to try and play only as the full band for now and have that be the sound people associate with Crowns for Convoy.
OCR: You guys spent a lot of time in the studio last year recording. Do you find the process of recording in the studio individually isolating after rehearsing and performing together as one cohesive whole or does it still feel organic?
AS: It’s always pretty bizarre when you strip the song you’ve been working on for so long down to these isolated components in the studio. You have to have faith that you can put it back together again and capture the feel of how it gets played live. Thankfully, we’ve always had a blast when we get into the studio and I think that takes a lot of stress out of the equation. We do a lot of cheer leading after each other’s takes and there’s a lot communal pizza eating that goes down, it’s a good time.
OCR: Last summer, Crowns for Convoy released its first six-song EP which will be available for free download in February 2013. The self-titled album produced the title track “Kingdom.” Were there any gems that didn’t make it on your first album that will appear on an upcoming one?
AS: We had a hard time cutting the setlist down to six songs. There was a four track demo we recorded before this EP that we made before we had a drummer, and we re-recorded two songs off that and left the other two. They’re actually two of our favourite songs to play. They’ll definitely show up on what we record next. Actually, why don’t we give you one of those songs to post-up!
OCR: Typically, in the music industry, bands are criticized if they stick to a formula that cranks out successful music and then get criticized when they attempt to go in a different artistic direction. When recording new material, is there a subconscious awareness of the music that came before? Is there pressure to change artistic your direction between albums to justify to listeners that you are giving them something new and fresh?
AS: We’ve been playing the songs on this EP for a little while now, but we’re still reaching a lot of new ears every time we play. I think the pressure to be true to what we’ve done in the past, to keep it moving, and be innovative is actually coming mostly from ourselves. That said, it’s nice that our first song cycle ended up having a lot of variety in terms of influences and styles, so the canvas of what feels like Crowns to us is pretty open. We can do the slow jams, we can do some synth-pop, we can do heavier material. It’s a nice environment to try new stuff in.
OCR: When listening to playbacks in the studio, is there a little voice in the back of your head that is self-conscious about your music? Or do you think, “naaailed it!”
AS: The atmosphere in the studio is pretty fun, so even when a take isn’t quite there and it needs another shot, it never feels like a big deal. Adam, our drummer, is a one-take wonder though, so he has never felt that emotion in his life. That asshole makes me look bad.
OCR: What is your writing process like? If you aren’t connecting with a specific song you wrote, how do you rework it?
AS: The songs often start with an idea or a skeleton and then we drag it down into the basement and beat it up a bunch. All the guys in the band have very different musical voices and ideas, so occasionally it takes a little bit of work getting it just right so everyone’s feeling it. At this point, we know it’s worth it because when it all clicks, then it really feels like a Crowns tune. Although every once in a while Kyle brings in one that feels totally ready to go from the start or they just fall out of the sky from jamming.
OCR: Can you describe the funniest or most outrageous moment you have encountered while performing live?
AS: That’s a hard one! A couple I’ve been sworn to secrecy about. Buy us some drinks at a show and they’ll probably start surfacing.
OCR: If there was one legendary music venue that you could play (whether it is still in operation or long shutdown) what would it be?
AS: Massey Hall!
OCR: What’s next for Crowns for Convoy?
AS: Playing live as much as we can. We’re really proud of our stage show and our goal is more exposure for new folks to check it out. Beyond that, we’re starting the process of putting together a batch of new songs that’ll hopefully make up the first Crowns for Convoy full length album. We’ll keep you updated!
Listen to Crowns for Convoy’s newest demo now!
Don’t forget to check out their website to get your free download. The countdown begins! (http://www.crownsforconvoy.com) and follow them on Twitter (@crwns4cnvy). While you’re at it, why not like them on Facebook too? (https://www.facebook.com/#!/crownsforconvoy?fref=ts)