New York-based alt-rock trio Canvas (singer-songwriter Jerid Nowell, Billboard-charting producer/keyboardist Daniel Glavin, and drummer Jesse Rothman) have been building a loyal fan base in their home city, racking up over 250,000 streams across platforms. Operating their own record label and recording studio Penthouse Studios, the band has a DIY aesthetic to their brand of pummeling yet grandiose rock n’ roll.
On January 27th, the band released their latest single “Kamikaze Lightshow”, a track that melds the stadium-rock heights of Muse with the theatricality of Queen with the band’s own cultural point of view. The group took the time to discuss this latest jam with us.
The Indy Review: For those who aren’t familiar with your band, can you talk a bit about how you got started?
Canvas: We met through a random and fortunate series of events that led us all to what is now Penthouse Recording Studios, where we first began to collaborate. We eventually formed a band in 2014 and started gigging around NYC. Since then, we have been largely a studio band, writing and recording countless songs and ideas. The band has changed lineup a few times over the years, but the core members remain.
IR: What were some of the common influences you all shared, and what different inspirations did you each bring into the band?
C: We all crave originality in music that breaks the mold and doesn’t conform to whatever society deems popular in the moment. We all have unique musical styles and backgrounds. Jerid draws much of his inspiration from bluegrass, folk and rock. Jesse brings a more punk/rock background focused on interesting percussive rhythms. DG holds a background in Hip Hop, Pop, and R&B. These diverse backgrounds are what makes CANVAS so unique.
IR: Your latest single “Kamikaze Lightshow” has a lot of pomp and energy to it, even in the title itself. How did the song initially develop?
C: The song was conceptualized in 2015 while working on a new EP. As with most of our singles, we draw from our large database of records and decide on which one to finish and release. The song developed from the rise of social media and its effect on human behavior. We noticed that interpersonal connections had become less prominent and most interactions with each other were being carefully curated, making everyone’s life seemingly ‘picture perfect’. For us, we saw this change bring out a cannibalistic-type nature where people consumed themselves for the attention of others, and we went mad living in it. This song is our rebellious anthem against that.
IR: What were the stages the song went through in the writing process? Did it change a lot from the original demos?
C: Most of our songs take on different processes somewhat purposefully to keep things fresh and be true to our name. We developed this song live, but health issues had halted the process for this record and forced us to take a tour break for a year. This song didn’t change too much from the original demo, however, we did complete the writing on it more recently as the initial demo never had a second verse. We are ecstatic that we are now able to bring this record into the world while maintaining the same energy and feel as the initial demo.
IR: I’ve been told the song asks listeners to consider the ideology of “destroying yourself for the culture or destroying the culture for yourself.” While the first part of that I can understand, what does “destroying the culture for yourself” mean to you?
C: As the digital age becomes more and more prevalent, we have a choice to allow technology to replace the fundamental nature of human connection and surrender that humanity, or rebel against it. Like most of our songs, we enjoy creating a ‘spark’ through our music to potentially initialize new thoughts. With “Kamikaze Lightshow”, we implore our listeners to not forget what it means to be human and to not be so heavily invested in every new tech trend that emerges.
IR: I read the line “No quarter, Nowhere to run to. Not to worry cause the big man loves you!” as addressing religion’s ability to placate a populace. Was this the intention, and if so, how do you feel religion ties into the themes and ideas in the track?
C: It indicates that often, we can feel entrapped within technology by our own actions. This is not a religious reference, nor was this the intention, but rather a suggestion that society largely demands and embraces our own placation. We use our TVs, tablets, phones, and apps to box ourselves into disproportionate amounts of frictional media and frivolous distractions. However, we love when people apply their own meaning to our songs because we see that as a testament to high-quality songwriting.
IR: Something I really enjoyed about “Kamikaze Lightshow” was the theatricality of the vocals playing off against the heaviness of the music. How did you decide on that style of delivery for the lyrics and how do you feel they promote the meaning of the song?
C: We love to embrace theatrics, in some songs more deliberately than others. Sometimes, we may see aspects of a record like the vocal delivery as a challenge. For example, we could have taken the ‘safe’ route and recorded vocals which would have been expected by the listener, but in the name of innovation, we chose otherwise. The chorus chants and especially the lyrics “Everybody knows it” help to spotlight one of our mantras when creating music, which is “Be weird”. Tapping into our inner voice actor artistry, we layered several weird voices to give the song character and make it stand out. We feel all these theatrical vocals promote the meaning of the song because it further pushes the message to stay true to yourself and not conform. If people didn’t know we were crazy before this record, they will now!
The band may be crazy, but I’d say crazy good. Take a listen to “Kamikaze Lightshow” in our A Single Sit-Down Playlist on Spotify.