In case you hadn’t noticed, New York’s DFA release a lot of good records.
One this year particularly stood out, a 12″ called ‘Fire Eyes’/’Dancing With Silk’ by an act hitherto unknown to us, Canyons. The work of two Australian dudes named Ryan Grieve and Leo Thomson, these two infectious and immediate tracks navigated a sonic territory somewhere between Chicago jak-house, New York boogie, disco and afrobeat, and knocked out socks off – we haven’t been this excited about a band who reference Grace Jones, Larry Heard and Liquid Liquid since we first heard LCD Soundsystem.
Head over to their myspace where you can stream both the DFA tracks alongside the ravishing ‘Blue Snake’ and dubstep-meets-LA-psyche jam ‘Big City Lights’; you’ll quickly understand why we’re raving about Canyons. As well as making their own music, Ryan and Leo also run the respected label A Hole In The Sky, and with a remix for Juan Maclean on the way, not to mention a studio album coming out on Modular in 2010, now’s the time to acquaint yourself with their seductive and far-reaching sound.
Hello Ryan. Who or what is Canyons?
“Canyons is Ryan Grieve and Leo Thomson.”
Tell us about A Hole In The Sky, some of the music you’ve released and acts you’ve looked after…
“Hole In The Sky is our little label we set up, initially to release our music and Tame Impala’s (then known as the dee dee dums) the way we wanted to do it. Each release is a run of 500 copies. In terms of acts we’ve dealt with and released there’s been The Delicate Genius who does great edits and DJs out of Melbourne, Tame Impala as I mentioned before who are buddies of ours from Perth and are taking over the world right now, ourselves as Canyons and the first release was some of our own individual tracks under other names – Fred Cherry and The Templates.
“We’re about to release a 12″ from our good buddy Jacques Renault which is all done; we just have to decide on artwork. Also almost finished is an EP by our partner in LA, Scotty Coats, which is sounding amazing.”
Tell us your brief history to date…How did the band come into being and why?
“Canyons initially came about after we started Hole in the Sky together. We didn’t really have any other artists aside from us on the roster so we came up with some pseudonyms in order to give the impression that we had more going on. Canyons was one of the names we came up with. It was the first time we had worked together musically and it wasn’t long before it became apparent (at least to us) that there was a little bit of magic. We put out our first record, the Lovemore EP, on Hole in the Sky and it got some nice feedback from people that we admire musically. Which inspired us to keep the Canyons ball rolling.”
Your debut album is due out on Modular in 2010. Have you finished it yet? What can you tell us about it?
“We haven’t finished our album yet, but we’re working on it everyday. It’s probably going to be out mid 2010 and hopefully you’ll like it! We’re recording a bunch of people and also playing a fair bit of stuff ourselves on it. We’re hoping it will be something that is as enjoyable to listen to in a variety of contexts – it’s not going to be simply a collection of dance tracks. We really want to write an album that has some longevity to it and that a lot of different people can feel and connect with.”
Do you produce yourselves or do you work with other people in the studio?
“We’ve never worked with a producer as such but if we can’t play an instrument well enough we ask a friend who can to come in and lend a hand. We try and pick the right person for the track and explain what we want and either play them demos of it or references from other things we want it to sound like. Generally it’s us in our room yelling at monitors and trying to get a good vibe up.”
You’ve just released a 12″ on DFA. How did you hook up with the label, and do you have plans to release anything else through them in the future?
“We initially hooked up with DFA after Justin Miller and Jacques Renault put one of our Hole in the Sky releases in a mix they did. We got in touch to thank them for supporting our music and then Justin expressed an interest in what we were doing. We began sending some stuff over and it just happened from there. We don’t have any more original stuff in the pipeline for the time being as we’re signed to Modular but we’ve just finished a remix for Woolfy which will be out on Rong/DFA soon, and we’re also about to start on a remix for The Juan Maclean.”
That 12″ features two vocalists – who are they?
“Delilah, who sings on ‘Fire Eyes’, came out to Australia from Baltimore I think in the 70s. She’s a blues and soul singer firstly, she’s done everything from infomercials to a record on DFA now. Ryan heard her singing a cover of ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ at a party and was blown away. She sounded exactly like Grace Jones. We had some of the music for ‘Fire Eyes’ and knew it would be the perfect fit.
“Ai Hibino was one of Leo’s old housemates. She loves karaoke but she’s never really sung before and we had some of the music for ‘Dancing on Silk’ and wanted a really naive and fun angle for the vocal. It was one of the easiest, fun and stress-free studio sessions we’ve ever done.”
What’s the music scene in your hometown like, and how do you fit into it?
“It’s a great scene for indie rock and drum-and-bass. It’s pretty interesting as it’s the most isolated city in the world so some cool stuff definitely comes out of Perth. People there are right into music but every ‘scene’ is on a very small scale and for us that was a little frustrating. We don’t have a big part to play in our hometown music scene; we just go back to see our mums’ and play the odd gig every now and then.”
Any current bands or producers you’re into at the moment?
“We’ve both been feeling the new Motor City Drum Ensemble stuff. A band called Acrylics have some great songs also. We saw a mind-blowing set by Lovefingers when we were in New York recently.”
What’s the best thing about being in Canyons?
“Not sure what the best thing is. There are lots of good things. We were best mates before we started Canyons and we still are now, that’s a pretty good thing. Having a supportive record label helping us out is definitely really great too. We’re almost always on the same page musically which is definitely one of the reasons we work well together.”
Any upcoming releases or plans you can tell us about?
“Just the aforementioned remixes. We also have a 12″ of two new Tame Impala remixes, alongside a couple of Tame Impala originals, coming out on Modular any day now. Plan-wise we’re just heads down in the studio writing new music until we finish our album. We’ll also be putting together a live band early next year.”