Dodging Stereotypes and American Dreaming: A Conversation with Canshaker Pi

Pavement defined a generation of lo-fi, underground, indie rock in the early 90’s with nothing short of cult status. They created an entire genre of rock and roll, aptly titled slacker rock, that has made a resurgence on the scene in more recent years. Creator and Pavement’s frontman, Stephen Malkmus, hasn’t let up on his grip of the intelligent underbelly in indie rock. More recently he has begun producing young band’s he sees immense potential in (quite possibly one of the most massive compliments in one’s musical career), and thus, he discovered the Amsterdam-based quartet Canshaker Pi.

Canshaker Pi

Canshaker Pi has released some undoubtedly killer slacker rock tracks, but in no way is that the only sound that they have accomplished in their time as a band. The foursome has endearingly been called “noise haphazardry” by a number of publications, which the band sees as a more fitting genre for themselves. They find their sound to be more eclectic than being merely slacker, but that is something the listener will have to decide for themselves.

Malkmus flew to The Netherlands to help produce Canshaker Pi’s eponymous debut LP that was released last year. The outcome? A highly energized, noise drenched, attention gripping album. Each track finds a way to barrel, crashing head first, into the next. A number of tracks don’t even reach the two minute mark, yet create something so full of youthful punk-like lyrics, ambitious electric guitar, and eardrum blasting percussion that there is nothing left to be missed.

The foursome, comprised by Willem Smit (lead vocals, guitar), Boris de Klerk (vocals, guitar), Ruben van Weegberg (bass) and Nick Bolland (drums), chose the song “JALS” to be the first single that was released off of the self-titled album. “JALS” is reflective of a frustrated teenager, which is exactly how young these guys were when they first got their start and began writing these songs. The irritable guitar parts meshed with some of the catchiest hooks in contemporary rock and roll make for an absolute banger first single. Their second single from the record, “What You’re Trying To Say,” is the ballad on the album. It is so reminiscent of 90’s grunge and garage that, as a massive fan of 90’s era music, it is impossible to not fall devilishly in love with the spacey song breaks and heartbreaking vocals.

Canshaker Pi met in high school in Amsterdam. While they day dreamed about skipping class, the windows at the school overlooked the iconic music venue, Paradiso. Maybe staring out at a concert hall contributed to their interest in creating a band, but whatever it was, they created something that immediately was well beyond teen years.

On August 18, 2017, now (all but one) in their early 20’s, Canshaker Pi released a new single, “Indie Academy.” As the band has changed and grown, so has their music. “Indie Academy” seems to be a far cry from the band’s previous works. They may have hated the term “slacker” so much that they have gone in a completely new direction to separate themselves from the stereotype. As a result, the single is borderline bubblegum, complimented by a glittering high hat and a less raucous noise guitar. The harmonies during the breakdown are anthemic and the composition of the track itself seems less spontaneous and more thought out than tracks prior. “Indie Academy” is one of 20 new songs that Canshaker Pi has recorded and ready to be released. We can expect another single due out in November and a follow-up LP, hopefully, shortly thereafter.

Atwood Magazine had a chance to catch up with Canshaker Pi on their day off in the midst of a European tour. Read our conversation with the group on touring, their biggest inspirations, and how they interpret their sound below.

Watch: “JALS” – Canshaker Pi

A Conversation with Canshaker Pi

Atwood Magazine: Hey, how’s tour treating you?

Canshaker Pi: It is our first long tour, it’s been really fun so far. We’ve really enjoyed it, we’ve had great shows and a lot of people digging our music so it’s pretty cool. We still have like 4 weeks to go. We’re having a day off so the spirits are pretty high today. We just went to a huge super market and bought a lot of food and now we’re going to a swimming pool and everything to chill out for the day, so it’s all been pretty good. We’re having a lot of faith in the rest of the tour, but you get tired of course.

Speaking of this tour, you're playing October 14th at Paradiso with Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg of Pavement). You met in a high school that overlooked Paradiso. Do you find it pretty cool to have gotten the opportunity to have played there and be playing there again with an innovator of slacker rock?

Canshaker Pi: It’s really cool. Of course, it’s always fun to play your hometown. It’s a great venue and it’s been a real honor to play with someone who we’ve listened to so much and who’s inspired us a lot. So that’s quite cool and it’s going to be cool to see our friends and family again after a month. And it’s one of the most beautiful venues in Amsterdam so we’re really looking forward to that one.

Canshaker Pi is shaping up to be a great contemporary slacker rock band, do you feel like that’s an accurate description of your music?

Canshaker Pi: We’re not really sure, we’ve heard it a lot, but we don’t think all of it is that “slacky.” We don’t know, it’s just rock music because that pretty much covers it. Haha. I don’t know, if people think we sound like slacker rock, it’s a hard thing, people hear what they hear.

Are there any slacker rock bands or musicians of any genre who have been major influences for you?

Canshaker Pi: Well, of course we’re big Pavement and Sonic Youth fans, and dEUS fans too, that’s a Belgium band but it’s not that slacker-y, I guess. We listen to a lot of those bands, of course, and we listen to a lot of other stuff too.

How was the recording process having Stephen Malkmus acting as a producer for your self-titled debut LP?

Canshaker Pi: That was great! We were all really scared at first, of course, but he was a really, really nice, intelligent guy who knew what he was doing and he was very respectful to us and what we were doing. He helped us out a bunch and it was one of the coolest things ever.

Indie Academy sounds more mature and polished than the old stuff. Has a lot changed for you as a band with song writing and recording this time around?

Canshaker Pi: “Indie Academy” we recorded together with like 20 songs, which we still have yet to release. So, it’s one of 20 new songs, of course you change as a band, but it’s not really easy to say in what [way]. But, it is very different than the stuff that’s on the record and EPs. Now we’re touring around and seeing how we can get more people to get into our music, so we’re not really sure what to do with these songs yet, we’ll probably do another single in November and eventually we’ll release a second record.

Listen: “Indie Academy” – Canshaker Pi

What does the next year look like for Canshaker Pi?

Canshaker Pi: We’re going to release a single in a little over a month and we’re trying to get some more touring abroad done in December and hoping to play Eurosonic. We’re just hoping to do more showcase stuff and hoping to do another cool tour with a cool band. We’re trying to play as much as we can and see if people like our music and if people want to keep listening to it.

If your music was the soundtrack for a movie, what movie would it be?

Canshaker Pi: I’m not sure. We watch a lot, a lot of comedies, and sci-fi, and Star Wars, and stuff like that. It would be pretty cool to do a sci-fi movie.

Have you ever seen 10 Things I Hate About You? Because I think that would be the one.

Canshaker Pi: No. Haha, alright, we’ll check it out.

Now that you've conquered your hometown venue, where is next on the checklist for dream places to play?

Canshaker Pi: We’d love to go to the states, obviously, most of the bands that we’re into are from there and do a lot of stuff there. That’s kind of what we’re hoping to do, book gigs and have people showing up. We’d love to play Japan, that’d be amazing. It would just be cool to go to Japan. I heard that in Japan it’s really awkward to be the last one applauding so the applause will stop all of a sudden because no one wants to be the last one clapping.

Besides (obviously) Excelsior Recordings, what are some of your other favorite record labels?

Canshaker Pi: Our favorite record label that has done the coolest stuff is maybe Rough Trade, we’re really into the stuff that they’re doing. And 4AD and Domino and Burger Records, stuff like that. There’s a dutch label called Subroutine Records, which they’re doing all the cool bands. It’s a really cool label. There’s another small dutch label called Milkcow Records that pressed our EPs on vinyl for us because we had already released them digitally and they hit us up saying, ‘we really, really want to release it on vinyl if you guys are okay with that.’ So, they pressed the vinyl and everything and that’s really cool.

Any bands that are really cool coming out of Amsterdam?

Canshaker Pi: We’re really big fans of Hallo Venray, The Homesick, Rats On Rafts, The Ex, and Scram C Baby, they’re really cool. And Apneu, they’re really, really cool too. We just kind of met through playing the same festivals, most of them [the bands], because Holland is really small. You see the same people quite often, so everybody pretty much knows each other.

What is the band’s biggest vice?

Canshaker Pi: We met through high school, we were friends before actually having to work together which gets pretty hard if someone fucks something up or forgets or we get messy about stuff. It is kind of hard to tell or say to each other, ‘hey man, that’s not cool.’ We get kind of snappy around those kind of situations. We’ve [been friends] for like 8 years now, some of us 5 years.

Any final words?

Canshaker Pi: We’d really like people to listen to our music, that’d be great.

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I am a journalist, writer, blogger, and the occasional booking agent. I am a feverish supporter of local music, but have enjoy music that expands cultural and local boundaries. I can be found at live shows, museums, or yoga studios. I’d love to be in touch with like-minded individuals.