Royal Canoe paddle to Calgary

In 2006 former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov played his first public chess game after a brief retirement. It was also the year that Matt Peters — frontman of Royal Canoe — and friends wrote a love song to Kasparov from the perspective of his super-computer opponent, Deep Blue.

“Me and some friends were just sitting in a basement somewhere and we’re kind of chess fans, I guess, and we were playing guitars and there was a chessboard there,” says Peters. “Kasparov came up, and the chorus line was thrown out there, and we’re like, ‘Okay, “Kasparov, my heart versus Kasparov,” How can we turn that into song?’ The only other person in Kasparov’s life I could think of was Deep Blue, so it became this idea of Deep Blue falling in love with Kasparov.”

Though the friends and collaborators who originally worked on the debut album, aptly named CO OP Mode, are no longer involved in the project, Peters remains at its core. The CD sat on a shelf for four years but finally saw the light of day with its release and the band’s subsequent tour this July. Peters has secured a new crew of musicians to carry on where the original incarnation of Royal Canoe left off.

“I got all these guys to rally around it,” says Peters. “We played a bunch of shows and finally it was like, ‘We want to do more things, but we may as well release this record because we’re proud of it.’ That’ll hopefully open up the door to other things.”

The current membership sees Peters draw from his experience and connections in the Winnipeg music scene. The band features members from other local groups like The Liptonians and Peters’ other project, The Waking Eyes. For Peters, the hardest part hasn’t been maintaining a consistent sound with many musicians from different projects playing a CD they didn’t write, but instead scheduling practice times.

“The hardest thing is, logistically, trying to figure out how we are going to have enough practice time because everyone has so many other obligations,” he says. “Sometimes it’s kind of tricky. ‘Okay, we’re going to practice three Wednesdays from now from 6-7:30 and the fifth Wednesday from 9:15-10:30, at which point Joey has to leave.’ It’s ridiculous.”

Despite these hectic schedules, the band has managed to schedule a tour of Western Canada this fall with the aforementioned Liptonians — though hopefully with a better start than their last tour.

“We were driving for about three hours . . . heading west and we had rented this van from a friend. I spent all this money getting this trailer in good shape and it was just this huge ordeal and we finally got everything ready,” he recounts. “We head out and we don’t even make it to fucking Brandon — we hit a semi on Highway One.”

Though no one was hurt, it was a close call for everyone involved and the van was pretty much a write-off. Royal Canoe persevered and managed to get back on the road, only missing a show in Regina — which is good because there aren’t many bands roaming around Western Canada singing love songs about Garry Kasparov and the IBM computer that beat him in that fateful 1997 match-up.

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