Musical improvisation can be really fun to see in a live setting, and it’s been a trademark for the guys in Canopy from New Haven for the past few years. It’s an integral part of their brand of psych-rock that has an emphatic effect on the senses. It’s also a quality that guarantees that they’re going to be a bit different each time they perform live. On June 3 at Pump House Music Works on 1464 Kingstown Road in Wakefield, Canopy will be exhibiting their musical approach on stage. Local duo The Berger Boys are going to be kicking the night off at 7 p.m.
I had a talk with vocalist and guitarist Pete Bouteneff ahead of the show about the group’s improvisational approach, the band originally being based in Vermont before settling down in New Haven, having a few live recordings online and plans to release a new studio album within the next few months.
Rob Duguay: Canopy has been known to have a raw, unfiltered musical approach while touching upon numerous musical styles. What would you say is the major inspiration for how the band sonically operates?
Pete Boutneneff: It’s hard to pinpoint the exact inspiration, but we all have a deep love for musical improvisation and the kind of real risk taking that can entail when we’re playing a song. We try to hold ourselves to a standard where we’re not afraid to go completely off the beaten path and just have trust in each other as bandmates that we’re going to find some kind of landing point somewhere. The real inspiration for us is to just be fearless, let it all hang out and not try to hold ourselves to a certain expectation from an improvisational standpoint. A lot of the bands that influence us kind of do a similar thing, the Grateful Dead is an obvious one along with Phish and some of the newer bands in the scene like Twiddle, Lotus and Dopapod. We just want to embrace that improvisational spirit, the jam band spirit.
RD: Did Canopy start in Vermont before getting settled in New Haven?
PB: Yeah, that’s true.
RD: What made you guys want to make the move to New Haven?
PB: There’s a couple parts to that. We formed in Vermont and we played for a few years up in Burlington, but New Haven is actually one of the places where we would come down and play gigs. They were at this place called Pacific Standard Tavern, which was a great venue that unfortunately closed during the pandemic. We fell in love with the city just through that way from coming down, playing for a night and hanging out. We have some really good friends down there and our manager Joe Hartz also lives there too.
The actual catalyst for the move was that our original bass player sort of decided to go into a different direction with his life. The drummer, Cale Williamson, and myself are both from Connecticut originally and we felt that we had run our course in Vermont by that point. We didn’t have a bass player, we were both up there working jobs that we weren’t totally attached to and we both have tons of friends and family in Connecticut so we decided to head back home. I’m the only one who actually lives in New Haven proper, everyone else is kind of scattered around the state but we all live within an hour of each other. It was more for necessity and timing along with already having a history with Connecticut to begin with, we also found our new bass player once we moved back.
RD: That all makes sense. On Canopy’s Bandcamp page, you guys have a few live recordings from places like the State House in New Haven, The Nutshell in Lake Huntington, New York and at The Bitter End in New York City. How did you guys go about documenting these shows?
PB: That Bitter End recording, which is pretty old at this point, was offered by the venue. They told us that if we paid a little extra they could get us these recordings, mix them down and send them our way. With that Nutshell show, it was kind of part of the package of being booked there. They gave us a video and audio package, which was cool. At the State House, it was a similar sort of thing but we actually hired a videographer who also recorded from the soundboard. Anytime we can hook a computer up to the soundboard to grab the raw tracks that are being fed through and then send it off to someone to mix it and master it, we usually take advantage of it.
RD: What are your thoughts on playing Pump House Music Works? Is this going to be Canopy’s first time playing there?
PB: It is, it’s our first time playing there and our first time playing that part of Rhode Island. It’s going to be our first time in Rhode Island in quite a while, actually. We used to play in Providence a bit at this venue that used to be there called The Spot that we really loved.
RD: Yeah, I used to go there.
PB: We hadn’t been back since whenever they closed down. This will be our debut at the Pump House and we’re super pumped, it seems like it’s a cool little space and it seems like they have a good scene there.
RD: It’s a beautiful room. After the upcoming show, what are Canopy’s plans for the second half of the year?
PB: The plan is always to just keep booking constantly, sending out emails and filling the calendar, which is starting to come together for the second half of the year. We’re working on a new album, we got everything recorded a couple months ago so we’re basically in post-production right now. That should be out at some point in the summer, so that’s pretty much locked and ready to go. We’re getting it mixed and mastered along with getting the artwork figured out, but we’re very excited about it.
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