Stealth Like a Canoe – Interview

A new, hip and alluring band, Stealth Like a Canoe, is bringing melodic love songs back to the windy city since Rue Royale left for the U.K.  Indie/Folk/Pop duo SLAC has a simple equation that is definitely working. Honest love songs from ironic lovers. Coincedently, Adam confirmed that, “Nicollette is his.” (In my interview with the band.) To get more of SLAC’s story, music and plans for the future check out the interview below.

This interview is long overdue. So, let’s get to know Nicolette and Adam better…

Let’s first set the record straight for the readers that might not already know the answer to this….so is there more going on between you two besides your music?

Nicolette: We only started Stealth Like A Canoe over a year ago, but we’ve been collaborating for over 7 years.

Adam: She’s my girl.

What is Stealth Like a Canoe’s story? (How did you meet/working together?) And, what is the significance of your band name?

Nicolette: We met in an open mic in Ypsilanti, Michigan at this bar called the Tap Room.  Neon martini sign out front with bubbles “popping”–classic.  I clapped for a guy on stage, thinking he’d finished when he’d really only paused awkwardly in the middle of his song.  Adam leaned over, grinned, and said, “You must have really wanted him to finish.”  I giggled like an idiot, realizing my mistake, and even though I hadn’t actually made out what Adam had said to me. We struck up a conversation and the more we talked, the more we realized we liked each other.  Sometimes things like that go the other way.  We had much in common to begin with because we’re both enormous dorks.  Most of our conversations were dominated by biological anthropology.  Adam is the genius behind the band name.

Adam: So the band name… Yeah… I ride my bike a lot, and for a long time there, I didn’t have lights on my bike, so people would just walk out right in front of me without looking and nearly get killed. Besides swearing and swerving and all, after I got past them, I started to feel good about my silent ways. I kept saying to myself (in my head), “Damn: I’m so stealth. I’m just so stealth.”

Nicolette: And utterly modest…

Adam: And then, because I watched a lot of Westerns when I was growing up (all my dad watches, still, to this day, are Westerns), the first thing that comes to mind when I say ’stealth’ is canoe. I kept going, I’m stealth like a canoe. I’m stealth like a canoe! It just seemed so apt. Such a strange mantra, but playful too. It’s entirely too long for a band name, but I like the fact that it’s long. What other band has a simile in their band name?!

Have either of you been involved in other music projects?

Nicolette: I was once in an “old timey music band” in Ypsilanti, MI.  The intention was to evoke the sounds of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and some even older honkey tonk sounds.  It was a great idea, but we mostly just sat in one of the other guy’s basement, played instruments badly, and got drunk.  Adam and I have always worked on our own solo stuff.  SLAC was the result of both of us wanting to have back-up live, and when our sounds started to really fit, we decided to run with it.

Adam: I used to do weird rap songs at the end of our Stealth shows. I have a little drum machine and I write these over-the-top beats and pair them with the dirtiest/silliest lyrics I can come up with, and then sit and play live in a chair with bad chair dance moves. It’s quite a lot of fun, and I even got Nicolette to sing super dirty on one of them, but after a while, we stopped ending our show with them, because it was just such a different monster than Stealth. I think it mostly confused people, which I sort of enjoyed — like ending a romantic comedy with a shootout — but I think we have a lot of good Stealth songs and it’s just strange to have a band that sings folk songs one minute and then raps the next. I mean: I don’t think it’s that strange… I sort of thought that could be our thing for a while: the band that plays love songs for a while and then closes out with dirty dance rap… The thing is: we already have a tough enough time coming up with what genre we actually fit in. Adding strange dance rap doesn’t help that… But maybe someday… Never say never, right?

What makes SLAC unique? And, why should people that haven’t heard your music listen it?

Nicolette: Simply put: We write love songs.  We’re both huge saps.  Both have a ridiculous flair for the melodramatic both in funny and sorrowful ways.  We’re still getting our bearings as a band.  Songwriting is shared between us both and so we intrinsically have very different sounding songs.  That being said, we both have a hand in the other’s music at almost all times.  It’s melodic at times, driving and rocking as well.  I’d say that even with as much humor as we try to infuse, there’s still a lot of melancholy and nostalgia in everything we do.  But mostly, we try like hell not to take ourselves too seriously.  For us, it’s about having fun on-stage and with the music.  Live show are really important to understanding our music.  The more we’re having fun, the more the audience gets to be involved.  We saw a Jens Lekman show at the Logan Auditorium a little ways back–the man knows how to make a show more than what’s expected.  He is quiet and playful and his show was amazing because of the amount of fun that all the musicians on stage were having, and because of all the call and response and interaction with the audience.  My hope is that we can create a similar entree into our music.

Future plans? What do you have going on for the rest of 2009? (Tour/Recording/etc.)

Adam: We have some recording things lined up. A few with friends, and then a stint in a big studio. We’ve only ever recorded in bedrooms or at home, so the idea of a real space is appealing: get someone on the boards who does it full-time.

Nicolette: Once we are satisfied with a few tracks, we’re planning to put out an EP and tour with it.

Musical influences?

Nicolette: I tend towards the folk and the rock.  Cat Power, The Kills, The Dead Weather, Jose Gonzales, Andrew Bird, Tom Waits, Mates of State, Jens Lekman.  But when I was growing up my mother inculcated The Supremes, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, The Carpenters, and The Eurythmics.  Loads of pop music and Motown.  I’ve always loved and always returned to classic female singers like Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin who sing like they’ll break your heart and then tear it up.

Lately, I’ve been crazy about Electroclash/ Electropop.  La Roux’s “Bulletproof” really gets to me every time I listen to it–that hook!  So smart.  Calvin Harris’ album “I Created Disco” is stupid-good.  And I’ve always been a huge fan of Peaches.  What girl wouldn’t be?

Adam: When I was just a lad, I sort of modeled my voice after Eddie Vedder. I remember listening to Vitalogy on repeat while riding the bus to swim meets, and just being transfixed by his vocal abilities. I even made a recording of myself, singing Daughter, and when I listened to it, I couldn’t believe how much I ran all my notes together. I sounded like a goof. I never enunciated anything.

Then I joined The Balladeers, this singing/dance group at my high school, and I fell for Gershwin and Cole Porter and all those golden-age songwriters. I found out that singing could get girls (which is a revelation in itself) and since that whole crowd was the theatre crowd, I found my soft spot for musicals. I was only in one musical ever (because I’m a terrible actor) but I still find myself writing lyric-centric, story songs. Or I can blame that on Dylan: I went through my Desolation Row on repeat phase too. That song still blows my mind.

I like guys that sing in falsetto. There’s something inherently vulnerable about it. I like vulnerability in music. If someone is willing to show me that soft side, I’m hooked.

Are you looking to be signed or go the DIY route?

Nicolette: If being signed meant that we’d get everything we’d ever wanted, sure, I’d take it.  But, honestly, it never really works out like that.  I’d love the help that having a label would provide, but it’s nice to be in control of %100 of SLAC.  DIY is hard work but worth it.  I’m really proud that we’re designing and making our own t-shirts, promotion materials, creating/updating our website and funding everything on our own.  What’s important is making music, by whatever means necessary.

Lives outside of SLAC? (Jobs/Hobbies/etc.)

Nicolette: Sometimes (a long time ago) I used to make paintings.  Reading.  There’s a book called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark, and there’s a sensibility about it that, in hindsight, makes me think that our songs would fit amongst the chapters.

Adam: I work in a bookstore. It’s not very glamorous, but I have to say I still like it. I’d like to write the screenplay to Gremlins 3 or the music to World War Z: either one would make me really happy.

Last record you listened to?

Nicolette: The Dead Weather’s Horehound–I’m infatuated with Alison Mossheart.

Adam: Something I always love to hear on my iPod is this album called “Music To Die For.” It’s this ridiculous compilation with all these super popular, angsty classical pieces, and whenever it comes on, I just have to grin, because it makes my life way seem way more tragic than it actually is. It’s so heightened and intense and there I am, just riding my bike to work through the park… The juxtaposition of my normal life with this insane music always puts me in a good mood. I mean: Moonlight Sonata! Come on! Music To Die For indeed.

Stealth Like a Canoe has a big show tonight, January 13th at the Empty Bottle. Go check them out!

And, check out their music of course! :)

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