CANVAS (from l-r): Chris Vernon (guitar), Dan Marsh (guitar), Ricky Clarke (vocals), Jack Rogers (bass), Jon Vernon (drums)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
With their own unique brand of emotionally-charged post-hardcore, and strong insistence on doing as much as they can independently, Bedfordshire five-piece Canvas are an outfit that are fast making a name for themselves.
Immediately after bursting onto the scene in 2015 with debut single, ‘The End’, the band set off on the road, playing as many places and to as many people as they could. This saw them gain a devout following, as well as a record contract with label Basick Records.
Last autumn was a busy time for the quintet, what with the release of their debut album, ‘Worry’, which has so far won universal acclaim, and headline dates across the UK and much of Europe.
Having taken a well-deserved break over the festive period, Canvas recently went on another British headline tour. They gave me more insight into themselves when we chatted prior to their set in Derby.
How did the band initially get together?
CHRIS VERNON (guitar): When we first started, Ricky wasn’t involved, and neither was our drummer. It was me, Dan and Jack. We were all in different local bands, but the three of us decided that we would all get together, form a band, and see how it went.
Ricky, we knew from another local band, he eventually joined us a few years ago, and our drummer, Jon, is actually my brother, so when our original drummer left, we all thought, “Who’s the most convenient person to fill in?“, and Jon happened to be free at that moment.
We ended up sticking with him, and it all went forward from there, which was cool.
How did the name Canvas come about?
CHRIS: It came about by literally pulling out names that we all thought were alright. Canvas was one of them, and it was a name we kept coming back to. We thought of something that wasn’t too stable, because if we were a death metal band, we would have called ourselves by a super death metal name.
We wanted something that was vague, something that ticked the box. It seemed like a good name, it would look good on merch and those sort of things, so we went with that. It’s nothing too fancy, unfortunately. (laughs)
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
RICKY CLARKE (vocals): It varies, really. A lot of it’s done by someone who might have an idea at home, then they’ll bring it to the table, and we’ll all jam it out. We do a lot of fine tweaking, all as a group, we’ll all get together and thrash it out. We’ll strip out what we don’t like, and keep what we do like.
We like to mess about with things as much as possible, really, so when we finally head to the studio, we’re good to go, but then at the same time, we can be open to change, not too drastically, though.
CHRIS: It’s like myself or Dan, as guitarists, have written a big chunk of a song, for the most part, we can get quite precious about our own songs, so we can sometimes be like, “But we don’t want to do that to that!“, because you feel like it’s your baby, but we have got a hell of a lot better at compromising, taking a step back from our own feelings, actually seeing what works better as a whole, as opposed to what sounded good in my bedroom.
What inspires the band lyrically?
RICKY: Life. Everyday shit that we all go through, mainly the bad shit! (laughs) It’s so much easier to be able to relate to something and be completely honest about it.
There’s no point in the dudes writing the music, and then me and Jack writing the lyrics about something that’s completely irrelevant, like all of it is really personal, which is a great way to liberate yourself from your inner demons, I find, and Jack finds, obviously.
We just write about our life experiences, and the shit we’re going through right now, and what we’ve had to deal with in the past. We keep it real.
CHRIS: A lot of it is something that a lot of people can take from. Sometimes, it will be something very specific, but at other times, it may be something more broad, about how, for example, things might not be going the way you wanted to, something big and vague like that, or something that is more personal.
We get a mixed bag of it, really, but for the most part, it’s all miserable. We’re a cheery bunch of guys! (Both laugh)
Last October, you released your debut album, ‘Worry’. How was the recording process?
RICKY: It was fantastic, yeah.
CHRIS: We recorded it with a guy called Lewis at The Ranch studio, down in Southampton. We had worked with him before on a couple of singles, and he was a producer who really got what we were doing.
When we’re in the studio, we like to experiment, wherever that would be physical things like effects or whatever, or just with the whole vibe of a song, which is obviously a bit more loose, but yeah, he’s a fantastic person to work with.
We all just bounced off each other really well while we were recording. The studio itself was amazing, it was proper nice to record in there.
RICKY: Yeah, definitely. It made the whole experience as pain-free as possible. Lewis is very open to trying out different things, as well. We didn’t feel very pressured while we were there at all, which was great.
He’s very much on board with everything, a very wise dude. He really knows his shit, and like, it’s great when somebody else feels as connected to the music as much as we do, and he just understood what we wanted to get out of it.
Every time we’ve been there, he’s just absolutely killed it, so it makes for a good working relationship. It’s everything you could ever dream for.
CHRIS: Absolutely, I agree. (Both laugh)
How has the reaction been to the album up to now?
RICKY: I think it’s been great. I think it’s a very heavy listen, and the response that we’ve had so far has been fantastic. I didn’t think it would have gone down as well, and I didn’t think as many people would have been as able to relate to it as much as they have.
CHRIS: Yes, because we write stuff that is so sort of…dreary, I guess. (Ricky laughs) The response has been surprising, and I suppose it has been quite comforting that people have been as able to connect so well with it…
CHRIS: Because you don’t expect that. We write music, as selfish as it sounds, for ourselves, the music that we like. We talk about things that we feel about, and so, for the reaction to be much better than any of us expected, it’s been wicked.
RICKY: Yeah, we’ve had some great feedback, and it’s great to see how quickly people have latched on to it. As soon as the album came out, we went on tour, and there were some people in the crowd singing back our lyrics to us, and the album had only been out for a day.
It was mind-blowing, and they weren’t even singles that we had already dropped. Even when I think about that now, it still blows my mind. It’s just insane, really.
Speaking of the album tour, how was that as an experience, anyway?
RICKY: It was fantastic, man. Absolutely great. It was a very long run.
CHRIS: The longest we’ve done.
You played across Europe, didn’t you?
RICKY: Yeah, that’s right.
CHRIS: It was three-and-a-half weeks long, including the dates in the UK, so that was the biggest tour we’ve done as a collective, for sure.
Like the album, it just exceeded any of our expectations. Obviously, we had our better shows, and not so good shows, but there were a couple in there that we can say were the best shows we’ve ever played.
For one, our date at The Black Heart in Camden, that was completely sold out, which we didn’t expect at all, because we’re quite used to things not working out, so when they did start to, we were like, “Wow! This is really cool!”
Everyone we stayed with were so supportive and lovely, and we made a lot of new friends out on tour, so it was just a lot of beer, and having fun.
RICKY: Yeah. It was really nice to go out that long, as well. It was something we could really sink our teeth into, which was great. Every day offered something new, obviously, but yeah, on the whole, it was absolutely awesome, definitely my favourite tour so far.
CHRIS: Absolutely, I agree.
The band are playing in Derby tonight, as part of their UK headline tour. How is the experience, for you all, of playing live?
CHRIS: It’s quite cathartic, I suppose. It’s something that is my favourite part of being in a band, absolutely, because if you don’t like that bit, it’s all a waste of time! (laughs)
Everything we do live is completely natural, there’s no craziness or anything like that. We’re all very much in the moment, because it’s something that resonates with us. You need to feel it. That’s the best way to describe it.
RICKY: I think it’s very easy to just forget where the hell you are, and as clichéd as it sounds, whenever I have to sing the lyrics or whatever, it just takes you back to the start of everything. You feel very connected and, like Chris just said, in the moment.
Wherever we’re here or practicing at home, you feel exactly the same way, which is kind of weird. It’s your own little space, isn’t it? Wherever that takes you. (Both laugh)
CHRIS: To be honest, I don’t really know what it’s like live. (Both laugh) I wish I could hear it!
What have you got planned for the rest of this year?
RICKY: Well, whatever we can really get. We want to keep hitting the ground running. As always, we take what we can get, and we’ll do all that we can to play wherever we can.
CHRIS: We’ve got a couple of things in the works, which represents a step up for us, I suppose.
They’re bigger and better things than what we have ever done and ever thought we would do, because our expectations are always quite low, but yeah, there are a few things we’ve got lined up this year that we can’t really say anything about at the moment, but all will be revealed very soon.
RICKY: We’ll just say that we’re going to be very active. A lot more touring.
CHRIS: Maybe a cheeky single along the way, too.
‘WORRY’, THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM CANVAS, ON BASICK RECORDS, IS AVAILABLE NOW TO STREAM, DOWNLOAD & PURCHASE FROM SPOTIFY, iTunes, AMAZON MUSIC, GOOGLE PLAY, DEEZER, SOUNDCLOUD, THE BASICK RECORDS WEBSITE & THE LABEL’S BANDCAMP PAGE music.basickrecords.com
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: