Call & Response: The Cansecos
The Cansecos (aka Bill Halliday and Gareth Jones) are a local disco band/production crew that are finally getting the attention they deserve. Their two studio albums (their 2002 self-titled debut and 2007's Juices! - both released via super cool Toronto label Upper Class Recordings) are stellar and have earned them lots of underground praise, but Juices! has been slept on a bit...until now.
Since the album's release, Bill and Gareth have formed a killer live band, put out one of last year's best DJ mixes called Showers and remixed their own album using disco instrumentals and called Juiced!. Both these bootleg releases are available for free download on the band's website, by the way. While you're there, you might see a blurb about their song "Raised By Wolves" being shortlisted for The International Songwriting Competition.
The Cansecos play Lee's Palace this Saturday with Edmonton's Shout Out Out Out Out. I spoke with Bill and Gareth about working at Abbey Road Studios, their new live show, and somehow we all get disco fever.
blogTO: You've been a band/production crew for longer than most people know. How did the band begin and what's changed over the years?
Bill Halliday and Gareth Jones: We've been messing around with music together since high school, but that feels like yesterday. Juices! is the first time we've been able to fully realize what we always talked about loving about music - we were able to use the gear we always dreamed of, finish the album in Abbey Road Studios (which is definitely a dream come true), and we've been able to bring our live show up to a level we're really excited about. This show at Lee's Palace Saturday and the following tour dates with Shout Out Out Out Out - these are going to be solid performances!
I love that you blur the lines between being a live band, DJs and producer/remixers. Which do you prefer the most?
Why, thank you! DJing is for fun - Gareth (aka Generous G) DJs for the Upper Class Recordings monthly at Unit (Queen West) called 'Weird Science' (next one is Friday April 24!). Remixing is always an honour and is good times when people you love and respect like Black Kids ask you to remake their song. Live gets more exciting with each show; it's a lot of fun to play these Juices! and Juiced! songs on stage. BUT there's nothing quite like making a record. Doing the three releases in a row - Juices! the studio record, then Juiced! the remix bootleg version of Juices! and the disco mix Showers - that's the passion. You make it and it stays that way; never ends or goes away.
What was it like recording at Abbey Road Studios? Did you use any gear the Beatles used?
As awesome as one could imagine. Not sure about the Beatles but we know the board used for the final mix of Juices! was the same board that mixed Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon!
Why was there such a gap between your debut album and Juices!?
We started working on Juices! not long after the first album was released around '04. It just took some time to get the Juices! sound right and get our hands on all the gear we wanted to use, and then to get the final mix done and all that. When you have Abbey Road at your disposal you want it to be just right!
Juiced! is a really cool idea. What inspired a bootleg mix of your own album?
It was sort of weird. We had just spent all this time making Juices!, which is a studio-intensive sound voyage. And then we started listening to all this disco stuff that was doing similar but different things - a little more straight forward but almost every disco track had these 10 minute sonic exploration jams in the middle of them, and that was awesome. And then just started messing around with putting our songs over top of these big instrumental jams in disco songs and it worked in a major way... and all of a sudden we did it to the entire album Juices! and bam! There you go, Juiced! - Juices! on disco steroids.
My favourite song on the album would have to be "Rise Up". What's that song about?
Neat! This song is a great example of The Cansecos double-teaming a track in the best way. Gareth started this one and it was a little more of a straight-forward dance song that I made messing around with Al-P's old out-of-tune mini-moog synthesizer, and then Bill jumped on the track and added all these syrupy sounds and that nice guitar lick and put that auto-tune glaze on the vocals and it ended up sounding so laid back but structured and written like a club banger type number. Such a sweet combination! Pretty good example of how we ended making Juices! sound pretty unique.
Your Showers DJ mix is amazing. How many disco records do you guys own? Are you vinyl purists?
Respect, and thanks. The disco collection has really been built over the last few years. Last year in Tokyo we picked up a Japanese print 45 of Billy Ocean's Caribbean Queen - incredible packaging and the all-important instrumental version on the B-side. I know, not really disco, but close enough. But yeah, the disco collection is pretty deep now. A lot of that crazy old stuff is hard to find on vinyl so most of it is digital. We both favour vinyl but are not purists. We root for it, for sure.
What can people expect to see/hear/feel when The Cansecos perform as a live band?
We've built this electronic wonderland for the stage to properly pull off a good blend of Juices! and Juiced! versions of our tracks. Our drummer "Stealy" Dan McCormick has created this hybrid electronic drum kit built into a real drum kit with a machine to his left for propelling all the background sounds, our bass player Princely P has an Eagle hand-carved into his wooden bass. There's cowbell, synths, guitars, singing... if someone could bring some lasers for us I think we might be ready for space! We keep it real up-beat and can seriously drop live recreations of the disco versions from the Juiced! release.
What do you like most about living in Toronto?
#1 has got to be the good food. #2 is Kensington market close behind Toronto's ability to lose most pro matches of any sport, and the completely random and unsatisfying schedule of the Queen streetcar.
What are your favourite spots in Toronto to eat, drink or shop at?
EAT - Utopia
DRINK - Squirly's
SHOP - Queen West
Shout Out Out Out Out, The Cansecos, DVAS (DJ set)
Saturday, April 25
529 Bloor Street West
Tickets $15 advance at Rotate This, Soundscapes
Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Angus Rowe MacPherson.
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