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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

Canopies' Bridge-Building Pop

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Current musicians are pretty much bridge-builders, experts who hop genres and blur multiple styles and eras. The enigmatic and energetic pop of Milwaukee's Canopies is a prime example. Sounds from '80s synth sit beside today's psych-pop revivals, while mid-'90s dream-pop accents take wing to ground the music with strong melodies, forceful beats and intricate execution.

Canopies' multi-instrumental chops aid in that driving force. Guitarist/vocalist Nolan Treolo works side by side with John Marston on bass and vocals; both play the keys. Craig Leren cinches together Canopies' sound with steady percussion. He's the rare drummer who seems just as comfortable with dance-driven workouts as spaced-out theatrics.

“We're all about cherry-picking our favorite elements from different genres and times and mashing them all up into something that hopefully sounds new,” Treolo explains. “The more we can blur the line between sounding like we're from 1967 or 2011, the better.”

A host of vintage instruments and analog synthesizers helped the band create that effect on their recent, self-titled debut EP.

“I've got an old Univox Mini-Korg that's all over the record,” Treolo says. “John has a vintage Roland Juno that we used quite a bit. I've got a real plate reverb, which is a sheet of steel about the size of a bed on a frame that we send sounds through, and they come back sounding like they were played in a concert hall. They were really common in recording studios from the '50s through the '70s but have become increasingly rare these days.”

Treolo mixed and engineered their EP last fall and winter with help from Paul Kneevers and mastering by Justin Perkins.

“To get the sound we wanted, we utilized a lot of old recording gear,” Treolo says. “We recorded the basic tracks to a great old tape machine and used things like ribbon microphones and other vintage recording equipment to get the sound we were after. It was a lot of work, but also really fun.”

To pull off that rich sound live, the band has brought in a couple of new recruits, Jake Brahm and Paul Trinko, for their upcoming first concert.

“We needed musicians with a lot of versatility,” Treolo says, “and, like John and I, they play a bit of everything, so you'll definitely see a round or two of musical chairs at our shows.”

On the EP, the trio avoids the wasteland of current pop lyricism by safely floating over the topics of relationships and love, instead bringing to light more cerebral opinions and ideals.

“I don't think we really worry about whatever trends are popular or not, and whom we might offend doesn't factor into the songwriting,” Treolo says of the music's lyricism. “We do touch on war a bit, but it's not in a very overt way. I think writing an anti-war song nowadays is pretty obvious. We all know war is horrible; we see the photographs and videos. An anti-war song isn't going to change much.

“For us, it's digging a little deeper and thinking about the psychology behind war and politics on a more personal level,” he continues. “Questions like, 'What got you to this point? How do you justify this to yourself and to each other?' I think it accomplishes more because it gets at the crux of the problem. At least it might get some wheels turning. We also don't get specific. The songs aren't about current events, but I think these ideas are still relevant to what's going on around the world. Popular culture tends to lean more toward escapism now. Love is a lot more fun than war and politics, and it sells.”

Canopies' first show takes place Aug. 27 at the Cactus Club with Worrier and Peshtigo.