Deli Magazine

Interview with Canasta

- by Jason Behrends

Canasta is one of the hardest working bands in town, and honestly one of the best. What is remarkable is that they do all their own PR and have still managed to keep their name alive and relevant on a national level. 2010 saw the release of their tremendous album The Fakeout, the Tease, and the Breather. It also saw them win the reader's vote on our Best Emerging Artist of 2010 poll.

Matt Priest of Canasta was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. .

Deli: Where did the band name come from?

Matt Priest (MP): When the band originally began, we had a more old-timey sounding line-up (acoustic guitar, violin, piano, trombone and vocals). So we were looking for something that conjured up imagery aligned with that. And we were also kicking around the idea of naming the band something in Italian or Spanish. So someone suggested Canasta - which means “basket” in both languages – it didn’t take us long to make it official. We all knew it was an old card game that grannies played, but other than that, it seemed like a fairly neutral word that folks had heard and could probably spell, but could also be easily appropriated for our own uses. And then some internet research revealed all these sets of playing cards, with terrifically quaint artwork and typography which could be incorporated into our posters, website, etc.

Deli: What are your biggest musical influences?

MP: The biggest influences are probably Belle & Sebastian, The Delgados, Mercury Rev, Doves, Elton John, The Flaming Lips, Kraftwerk, Tears for Fears, Yo La Tengo, Nick Drake, Wilco, Tori Amos, They Might Be Giants, Queen, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Faith No More, Aimee Mann, The Sea and Cake, Portishead and Stereolab

But with close to twenty members throughout our history, the list of “other influences” gets pretty long: Air, The Beatles, Ben Folds Five, The Beta Band, Irving Berlin, Björk, David Bowie, Jeff Buckley, Calexico, Cat Power, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Clem Snide, Donovan, Field Music, Stephen Foster, Philip Glass, Guns n’ Roses, James, Lambchop, Luna, The Magnetic Fields, Massive Attack, Momus, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead, Saint Etienne, Sigur Ros, Skid Row, Sloan, Elliott Smith, The Smiths, Stars, Super Furry Animals, Tortoise, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits

Deli: What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?

MP: In no particular order… David Axelrod, Yeasayer, Das Racist, Dusty Springfield, Trashcan Sinatras, George Michael, Julianna Barwick, The Streets, Stryper, Belong, Ulver, Queens of the Stone Age, Wendy Carlos, Midlake, Wolf People, Shugo Tokumaru, High Llamas, Staff Benda Bilili, Grinderman, Menomena, tUnE-YaRdS, Fang Island, Wild Beasts, Cornershop

Deli: What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?

MP: The first concert I ever attended was Living Colour / Urban Dance Squad at the Aragon Ballroom in 1990 and I was pretty sure it was the greatest thing I’d ever experienced up to that point in my life. I was hooked.

My first record: Perrey & Kingsley - The Essential Perrey & Kingsley My first cassette: Various Artists - Original Soundtrack, “Ghostbusters” My first CD: Bruce Springnsteen - Tunnel of Love My first digital download: Blossom Dearie - Blossom Time at Ronnie Scott's

Deli: What do you love about Chicago?

MP: It’s absolutely the best city in the world for the modern day renaissance wo/man. One can jump into a number of artistic arenas - music, literature, theater, improv, dance, cuisine, studio art, etc. - without necessarily being forced to commit to any single one.

Deli: What, if anything, do you hate about it?

MP: Not a whole lot, other than the usual stuff that perennially put us on the lists of “Most Stressful Cities”: the traffic, winter weather, cost of living, etc. Actually, I kinda hate it whenever Chicago displays that nasty chip on its shoulder concerning its perceived inferiority to LA and NYC. Those are both great towns, but we’ve got everything we need right here!

Deli: What are your plans for 2011?

MP: We’re currently working on very cool, elaborate music videos for two songs from The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather and any day now, our recent Daytrotter session should be up online. But otherwise, beyond this Empty Bottle show, we’re gonna play some outdoor festivals and street fairs this summer, save up some dough and then record some new material this fall. And if all goes as planned, it should sound decidedly different from the Canasta we’ve all come to know and love.

Deli: What was your most memorable live show?

MP: Kraftwerk @ The Riviera Theatre in 1998… UN-BE-LIEV-A-BLE.

Deli: Can you name a few other local bands you feel particularly close to on an artistic level?

MP: The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Brighton MA, Warm Ones, REGO, Zapruder Point, Dastardly

Deli: What's your favorite thing to get at the deli?

MP: A sweet potato knish!

Canasta will be performing tomorrow night at The Empty Bottle as part of The Deli and Betta Promotion's show with Soft Speaker, Dastardly, & Secret Colours.






The Fakeout, the Tease, and the Breather