Band Interview: Nineteen Canteen

Nineteen Canteen Band Photo 2

So first of how did you all meet?
Dave: I’ve known Garry and Mikey since we were kids. Garry and I have played in bands together since we were about 15-16 years old.
Garry: Dave and I have known each other since we were about 4 years old and Dave has known Mikey even longer. Toby is the newest member of the band. We invited him along to an audition and he blew us away.
Mikey: Dave and I’s parents have been friends for about 40 years so I’ve grown up knowing him. The first time I met Garry might have been at a band practice, I can’t remember knowing him and not being in a band together. Toby is a newer member of the group but has been playing with us for almost a year has definitely settled in well.
Toby: I don’t know who these people are.

Where are you all from?
Dave: A small village called East Calder, just between Livingston and Edinburgh.
Garry: Like Dave, I grew up in East Calder before moving through to Glasgow after high school. I’m now back in East Calder with my wife just a few minutes from where we grew up.
Mikey:  I grew up in Edinburgh. You know, ‘The Big City’, unlike these country boys.
Toby: Country boy reporting in. Spent my formative years in the Solway Coast area down by Dumfries. Now happily residing in the no-man’s land that is Paisley.

How long have you been playing your respective instruments?
Dave: I picked up my brother’s acoustic guitar when I was about 14. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I remember hearing bands like Blink-182 for the first time and instantly deciding that I needed to learn how to play guitar… loudly.
Garry: I started off playing the trombone when I was about 10. Once I got to high school I was introduced to different instruments and in 3rd year I chose the drums as my second instrument. Pretty quickly drums took over the trombone which I’ve now not played in years.
Mikey: I was given a guitar for my Christmas when I was about 12/13 and picked up bass at school as a second instrument. These guys had an opening for a bassist in one of their many bands when we were about 16 and I’ve been a bassist since. There was also that year when I tried to learn drums … it became apparent pretty quickly that you can’t get far with the coordination of a drunken orangutan.
Toby: My dad has always played guitar so there’s always been a few around the house that I’d pick up and strum incoherently. I started playing properly when I was probably about 11 years old and got my first electric not long after. Living in a fairly remote area, I wasn’t distracted from practice by means of a healthy social life! Recently I’ve been more invested in the production and engineering side of audio. Joining this band has got me picking up the guitar a lot more again and helped shake off some rust.

What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
Dave: I’d say it’s probably considered alternative rock. This is such a hard question to answer because we try not to limit our songwriting to a particular genre. Our music is definitely rock at its core with twists of funk, blues, surf, and punk thrown in for good measure. We love our vocal harmonies too.
Garry: We just try to write music that we enjoy to play and listen to. At the most basic level we are a rock band but we try to be open to any influence that can make our songs better.
Mikey: It’s such a simple question but one that we struggle to answer on a regular basis. As the guys say our music can be boiled down to alternative rock but we all listened to a lot of punk rock and blues when we were younger and I think we have carried those influences into our songwriting today.
Toby: Each song explores different flavours from different genres, but there’s a definite common thread that binds them all together. Defining that common thread is pretty tough. It’s something I admired when listening to the band before joining, and part of the reason I contacted the guys to get an audition.

What are your influences?
Dave: I listen to a bit of everything, Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Haim, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Beach Boys and Alkaline Trio. I’ve also been really digging the new Alex Lahey record, who I stumbled across randomly thanks to a facebook ad.
Mikey: I definitely agree with Dave on some of our influences. Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Beach Boys for sure can be seen in some of our instrumentation and vocal ‘styling’. I would for sure include Pearl Jam and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers in that list. I think all bassists, at some level, wish they were Flea.
Toby: When I was younger I mostly listened to rock bands from the 80s. I had a concrete slab of a song book which had tabs for essentially every song from AC/DC up to the Stiff Upper Lip album. I think bands like that still have a fair influence over my playing style. I gravitated towards heavier bands later as I think as a guitarist the music offered more of a challenge and something to work towards. The style of Nineteen Canteen has encouraged me to be more tasteful with my playing and turn the gain down, which is good but means I can’t hide my mistakes behind a wall of distortion.

Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?
Dave: We used to stay away from covers, but then we started doing a rocked up version of ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls and it became an integral part of our set for years. We’ve since got bored of that, but we like to throw in a verse and chorus from Taylor Swift and Shania Twain from time to time as a bridge between songs, loaded up with some four-way harmonies of course.
Mikey: Generally we write and play our own music and throw in a cover every couple of gigs. The covers that have stuck around tend to be the more light hearted ones – ‘Down Under’ by Men at Work got some playtime.

What if anything does your name mean/why are you called that?
Dave: ‘Nineteen Canteen’ is just a vague phrase for someone or something that has been around forever without being too precise. We used to go by the name The Pacific Blues but we felt that it didn’t really reflect what we were about, even though we add some elements of blues to our music we’re not a blues band. When Toby joined the band we decided it was time to rebrand. I guess ‘Nineteen Canteen’ is a pretty apt name seeing as 3 of us have been in bands together since what feels like forever.
Toby: The name is something we felt doesn’t carry many strong pre-existing connotations, and is fairly blank canvas for us to develop and infuse with our sound and imagery.

Do you have a process for writing your songs? /Which of you writes the songs?
Dave: We’ve just started writing new material with Toby recently and our process has definitely changed. Now that we have four members that can sing we’re putting a bigger focus on four-way harmonies. Toby is also bringing a completely new set of influences to the mix too and I feel like our overall sound is getting better… richer, maybe? There are more counter melodies between the guitars and vocals and I’m really pleased with how the new tracks, and even the reworking of older tracks, are turning out. Back in the day we used to start with the drums first. Garry would come to us with a cool drum beat he’d made up and we’d write the music around that. Lyrics and vocal melodies were always last, but now I feel like we’re looking at the big picture more and realising that the vocals are what most people listen to and we’re mature enough to realise when a guitar doesn’t need to be doing something flashy if it takes away from the main part. There’s always a time and a place to let rip.
Mikey: I agree that our songwriting process has changed recently and I think Toby has added a fresh new ingredient to the mix. We spend quite a long time jamming new tracks or ideas and tend to develop these over a number of sessions.

What are your rehearsals generally like?
Dave: Loud and coffee fueled.
Garry: Constantly interrupted by my mooching dogs.
Toby: Those two statements sum it up perfectly.

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?
Dave: This one time, at band camp…
Mikey: We have played a ton of gigs over the years, with more than a few mishaps along the way. It might be showing our age a bit but we played at the Barfly in Glasgow not long after moving through and managed to convince a decent portion of the audience that Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) was directing a music video for us.  We also played at a tiny venue called The Twister Wheel where an overly enthusiastic lighting engineer managed to give us sunburn.
Garry: There was also the time Mikey joined a mosh pit in the middle of a song while still playing the bass and hurt his ankle so badly he could barely walk. Commitment to the show!

What song do you remember most from your childhood?
Dave: I used to listen to cassette of dinosaur songs as a kid. A particular song about the Tyrannosaurus Rex is still stuck in my head to this day.
Mikey: I vividly remember getting a bus home at night when I was about 13 listening to Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ and realising that I wanted to be in a band. Other than that I was mostly terrorised by my sister’s Savage Garden and Boyzone albums.
Garry: ‘Killing me softly’ by The Fugees and pretty much any Queen song.
Toby: From when I was really young, possibly ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ by Bon Jovi, it’s pretty cheesy now but it’s the good kind of cheese, and provided a kick of adrenaline for my inchoate brain.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Dave: Picking a band name! Trying to settle on something that everyone was happy with has been a long and tiresome journey.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?
Dave: Our first EP Between Waves is available on Spotify, iTunes and the like. We also upload any new content to our YouTube channel.

Have you released anything yet/if you have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?
Dave: We just released a video for our Stranger Things inspired song ‘Stranger Things Have Happened’. The music from the show was just so incredibly 80’s and we loved that about it, so we took one of the instrumental tracks and built a song around it by adding lyrics and writing a chorus for it. The whole thing was written and recorded within a couple of weeks and the video was shot by my brother, Ross, who’s an extremely talented videographer. Our first ep Between Waves has gone down well with fans, but we released that in 2015 and our style has evolved just a little bit from then. We’re going to be recording a new EP in the new year and aim to start releasing new material in the spring of 2018.

Toby: The Stranger Things inspired track has been received really well which we’re pleased about. I think it was roughly two and a half weeks from the point that the idea was conceived to having the final produced song and video, so it was pretty full on. Dave’s brother did a great job on the video production side of things, we’re pretty lucky that someone with that talent was able to tolerate us long enough to do a video shoot. We introduced synths in this track as a tribute to the Stranger Things OST, which is new ground for the band. People have responded positively to the new vibes, so it’s maybe something we’ll subtly experiment with in our upcoming material.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Dave:  We’ve played all over Glasgow and Edinburgh. I love playing shows at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow – the crowds are always great and the sound engineers do an amazing job. Favourite gig though has to be when we opened for SWMRS at the O2 ABC and the venue was packed! The atmosphere was just amazing and the whole crowd were right in to it.

We have a shows lined up to ring in the new year. We’ll be headlining the Old Town Street Food Festival in Edinburgh on Jan 1st at The Three Sisters, then on to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow on Jan 17th as part of the lineup for their annual New Year’s Revolution shows.

What do you think about downloading music online?
Dave: I prefer to stream music. It’s just so easy and convenient to use something like Spotify and have access to pretty much all the music ever! That said, I’m starting to miss some aspects of physically owning music and I’m considering getting myself a record player and pick up some vinyls.
Toby: I echo Dave’s sentiments here. Spotify is my go-to for day-to-day listening, although if there’s an artist or album that I particularly appreciate then I much prefer having a physical copy. I think with vinyl, you’re typically more invested in it, and it’s easier to appreciate it as a body of work rather than just a file on a computer composed of 1s and 0s.

What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
Dave: The rise of streaming has caused a lot of confusion, as artists and record labels have clearly struggled to adapt and make sense of it all. You’ve got the likes of Taylor Swift who are very outspoken against music streaming due to significantly lower royalty rates compared to digital downloads and physical sales, but that’s where the market is and it’s where the industry needs to be. It looks like they’re starting to figure out tho, which is good.
Toby: Rifts have definitely opened up due to the way people consume music now. The royalty rates for streaming services are incredibly low, as Dave mentioned. A positive of streaming is that the convenience of it has drastically reduced music piracy, so I guess any amount of money is better than none. I think if you want to survive as artist, you have to have a modern and realistic idea of where your income will come from, as its almost impossible to survive primarily on album sales as many artists traditionally did.

And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?
Dave: I’ve heard you shouldn’t meet your idols, but I think I’d have to choose Professor Brian Cox. I’m fascinated by the universe, space, physics and the like and that man seems to know his stuff.
Toby: Maybe Augustus, an emperor’s banquet during the peak years of the Roman Empire would be quite something. Either that or a meal with ravioli connoisseur/talented musician Joji.

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