Canasta

Canasta

 Chicago, Illinois, USA
BandAlternativePop

Chicago sextet that plays an ambitious strain of majestic, ultra-melodic, orchestral pop, augmenting the standard rock set up with violin, piano, keyboard and trombone.

Biography

When Canasta throws around the term "long-awaited" to describe their upcoming album, "The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather," they aren’t just whistling Dixie. Considering the band has been a staple - perhaps even the unspoken centerpiece - of Chicago's orchestral pop contingent this millennium, it's hard to believe that this is just their second full-length. But Canasta doesn't profess to be any sort of lightning rod for the muses. As un-sexy as it sounds, the members are probably better described as pop craftsmen/women. Their composition process may take time, but it elicits serious pride in the end result.

Boasting a six-person line-up, Canasta has always augmented the standard rock set-up with piano, keyboard, violin and trombone. But despite an ever-changing roster that has included fifteen members (!), founders Matt Priest and Elizabeth Lindau continue to keep the orchestrations meticulous, the lyrics thoughtful, the melodies unforgettable and the sound uniquely "Chicagoan." But don’t get the impression they spend all their time cooped up in the studio and rehearsal space. Since forming, they've managed to live out one rock n' roll dream after another. They've toured the country - hitting CMJ and other festivals - and back at home, headlined the legendary Metro and held the prestigious Schubas residency. They've gigged with killer bands like Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Kaiser Chiefs, Devotchka, Sloan, Menomena, White Rabbits, The Lemonheads and The Delgados and even played a set for President Obama. Their songs have made their way into TV commercials, a movie trailer and NPR's programming and they’ve sold out pressings of both their debut EP, "Find the Time," and full-length, "We Were Set Up"...

...which brings us to the new album. It's a record that earns its lengthy gestation period and demonstrates a big step forward in songwriting. This album's louder moments are darker, denser and more dramatic than those found on past recordings, with harder-hitting drums, boomier bass and a swarm of buzzing synths. But conversely, its prettier moments are sparser and more heartbreaking, with vocals bordering on a whisper and the audible creaking and squeaking of piano pedals, guitar frets and violin strings. And along the way, the record flirts with elements new to the band, borrowing from the likes of disco, shoegaze, spaghetti western, gospel and blue-eyed soul. But in Canasta's hands, it never spirals out of control; it’s unquestionably still a pop record at heart. The album, the band's first for upstart label RWIM Chicago, was released late this Spring to grateful fans and glowing reviews. And despite the wait, now that folks have heard exactly what it was the band had been up to, it appears all has been forgiven and 2010 is emerging as THE YEAR OF THE FAKEOUT! (Typing that last part was every bit as fun as I'd hoped it would be.)

ARTSITS PLAYED WITH
Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Macy Gray, Kaiser Chiefs, Devotchka, Sloan, Menomena, White Rabbits, The Lemonheads, The Delgados, Lucero, Voxtrot, The Dears, The Posies, Jeremy Enigk, The Clientele, Crooked Fingers, American Music Club, Field Music, Longwave, Earlimart, Nebula, Imperial Teen, Califone, Annuals, The Cool Kids, Murder by Death, Pat Monahan (of Train), Third Eye Blind, Gin Blossoms, The New Amsterdams, Adam Green, Elf Power, Jill Sobule, Starlight Mints, Aqueduct, Natalia Lafourcade, Hello Seahorse!, Nicolai Dunger, The Rosebuds, The Acorn, The Ladybug Transistor, Eleventh Dream Day, The Earlies, Page France, Black Prairie, The Autumn Defense, Mucca Pazza and The Kingsbury Manx, among others

ACCOMPLISHMENTS
• Performed alongside Barack Obama at a fundraiser for his Democratic Primary Campaign at Chicago's Riviera Theater (capacity: 2,500) and later supplied music to a number of his online campaign videos
• Curated the esteemed "Practice Space" residency at Chicago's Schubas
• Headlined Chicago's legendary Metro, Double Door, Subterranean and The Hideout
• The song "Slow Down Chicago" appears in the trailer for the IFC feature film, "Diminished Capacity," starring Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda
• Appeared five times at the "CMJ Music Marathon" (NYC), as well as the "CMJ Rock Hall Music Fest" (Cleveland), "Midpoint Music Fest" (Cincinatti), "Broad Ripple Music Fest" (Indianapolis), "PLAY:stl Music Fest" (St. Louis), plus "Schubas' Tomorrow Never Knows Fest," "Wicker Park Summerfest," and "Guinness Oyster Fest" (all Chicago)
• Sold out initial pressings of "The Fakeout" (750+ copies), "We Were Set Up" (1,500+) and the "Find the Time" EP (750+), the latter two of which were self-released
• Heard on National Public Radio, major Chicago radio stations WXRT and WKQX (Q101), plus countless college and web frequencies throughout the country
• "Slow Down Chicago" was named one of the "Best Songs of the Year" by WXRT Radio
• Performed and recorded to benefit domestic-abuse, rape advocacy, sustainabl

Lyrics

All This Dust

Written By: Matt Priest

Lived my life inside a fuse box
Put my doubts up on the stage
Stored our secrets in the basement
A mason jar of jealousy and rage

All this dust, it will destroy you
The photographs they make it hard for you to breathe
Throw your pennies to the mice and
Lock the door tight when you leave

I've been thinking you should settle down
Send a postcard when you do
I'll let the angels know you'll be around
Just in case they manage to get through
And they ask for you

Your piano is on fire, dear
It’s always one last cigarette
Rest a spell and sit for me here
And I will trace your silhouette

The moment to decide is drawing nearer
Sometime between this stoplight and the next one
Happiness lives in your rearview mirror
But you’re blinded by the setting sun

An Apology

Written By: Matt Priest

Ed wasn't like the other boys
So someone said,
"I'll bet he goes for boys" and we agreed
We made jokes and I made friends
With all the guys who'd never speak to me

A family moved in up the street
In English they chose not to speak
We couldn't grasp that ideology
So we threw eggs and I threw up
The next best thing to an apology

But somehow
We turned out all right
For awhile they had to wonder
If our fear would pull us under

When I was eight I tempted fate
A big mistake
I told a girl she meant the world to me
I broke down when she broke up
And spent the rest of recess in a tree

I wasn't always thin like this
A TV lovin' kid
I’d walk to class while insults followed me
They grew quiet as I grew up
But when will I get my apology?

Heads Hurt Better

Written By: Matt Priest

Locked inside that room of yours
Sounds as though your feet don't touch the floor
We’re stuck staring at your door
For three dark days and four bright nights

But then we haven't had enough time
To figure this one friend to friend
As the tempers and temperatures rise
We do damage time won’t mend

Ideals get the best of me
You're left with the worst
Vices meant for testing me
Somehow they got to you first

Heads hurt better when drowned this way
But when do monkeys become demons?
And all that mattered dissolved one day
You stop breathing and she starts screaming

But you never spent enough time
Making sure she understood
That without her vigilant eye
All that drowning does no good

Ideals get the best of you
She’s left with the worst
Vices meant for testing you
Somehow they got to her first

What would it take to bring you home?
The lions wait for you at home
You swore you couldn't stay with us at home
What would it take to bring you home?

Plan Your Escape

Written By: Matt Priest

Scour the starless skies
All night
For certain signs of life
And plan your escape

Soon you'll realize
they've lied
Your future has been faked
And it's still taking shape

Turn a deaf ear to
The din
Of gravity's commands
And loosen its hold

But think it over, think it over
There's far too much at stake
At least that’s what you're told

Get yourself convinced
That it's
Never been a matter of if
Just a question of when

Best say your goodbyes
Right here
Cuz chances are that most
Won't see you again

Collect your thoughts and catch
Your breath
The flight ahead will put
Your will to the test

"Clear the runway, clear the runway,"
You'll cry, wind at your back
A pilot, so possessed

Stranded in an airport hangar
Fuel lines frozen through
Engine stripped
Wings were clipped
Before you ever flew

Magazine (Songwriter on a Train)

Written By: Matt Priest

Gazes cast from eyes behind a magazine
Sitting, casting actors from the throng
You don't see him
But he sees you

This is the sound of an absent son
Guilty, he fears, of a bond undone
A secret he thinks is his
Cuz he sends 'em a card every Christmas
And he always will
He needs a great idea
And you fit the bill

This is the sound of a poisoned man
(He thinks he knows you so well)
Muddling through with a drunken plan
(It's not his story to tell)
A secret he thinks is his
Cuz his work's done on time with a deadline
So he'll always be fine

Gazes cast from eyes behind a magazine
Sitting, casting actors from the throng
You don't see him
While you're busy saving change on gasoline
Unwitting, he is saving you in song
You won't hear it
(So what good’ll it do?)

This is the sound of a bitter mom
Stripped of the future she counted on
A secret she thinks is hers
Cuz she flouts at her neighbors' big houses
And she always will
He needs a great idea
And you fit the bill

This is the sound of a cluttered wife
(He thinks he knows you so well)
Stumbling through her double life
(It's not his story to tell)
A secret she thinks is hers
Cuz her nights don’t collide with the daylight
So she's always alright

Gazes cast from eyes behind a magazine
Sitting, casting actors from the throng
You don't see him
While you’re busy saving change on gasoline
Unwitting, he is saving you in song

Brother, he will find you
If he's got a mind to
(Just wait)
Better be resigned to
Leaving it behind you
(Too late)

Mother, he will find you
If he's got a mind to
(Just wait)
Better be resigned to
Leaving it behind you
(Too late)

Brother, he will find you
If he's got a mind to
(Just wait)
Better be resigned to
Leaving it behind you
(Too late)

Mother, he will find you
If he's got a mind to
(Just wait)
Better be resigned to
Leaving it behind you
(Too late)

Shadowcat

Written By: Matt Priest

Jesus talks in red
To separate the things He said
Every night I read
And memorized the famous parts
Just before I’d go to bed

All the rest appeared in black
As the authors recalled
The best they could while looking back
So careful not to confuse
The difference between the two
Don't speak for Him
He won't speak for you

You can try, but you won't pin this on me
You were broken before we came to be
Don't you dare claim to know what He wants for you

You stopped by to talk
Suggesting that we take a walk
Then you delivered the news
The reasons that you gave amazed
I wished they'd heard the quotes you’d used

After all the time we spent
Dodging pressure to bend
How could this be heaven sent?
And the church we passed by
For three years I tried
But couldn't bear to set foot inside

Ten years on
I think the anger's finally gone
Since then I've learned
To separate the things He said
From all the phrases you have turned

Now it's clear that we just weren't meant to be
But not for reasons you gave me

Slow Down Chicago

Written By: Matt Priest

I'd like to ask this town to slow down
Selfish, I know
But I think it's come to this.
I'm losing my breath and I'd take a break
If I thought I could
But the things I've been doing
To keep this town moving
Would surely be missed

From the corner of State and Madison, I cried,
"Chicago Slow Down"
A few folks glanced over
But none broke their stride
That's when I found

This town it breathes on its own
With or without me
The skyline wakes up whether or not I get out of bed
El trains, they rumble along
And headlines will happen with no help from me
And when I can't keep it all up
I’ll sing, "La, la, la, la"

It kills me to ask a thing of this town
Not mine alone
A burden I'd hate to be
I’m losing my step
And as I fall back
My life is living itself
But the seeds I've been sowin'
Could keep this town goin'
If only she'd wait for me

From the 95th floor, I looked out and I prayed,
"Chicago Slow Down"
But the teeming streets shrugged off
the plea that I had made
That’s when I found

Choosing Sides

Written By: Matt Priest

He'll be close by
Twice a week, you'll see him
So don’t cry, my dear

You're old enough to make your rules
About caffeine, cassette tapes and
The cable TV

Dinner's in the microwave
I'm off to work
And leaving you a key

Despite what I said
I'm moving downtown instead
I'm sure we'll (he'll) find a spot
To put your bed

I've asked he knock
He lived here once
And thinks he can just walk right in

She won't come down, but sends a note
"It's the first, where's my check
And why is it late?

Let's stay out of each other's way
Let me know which functions
And which dates"

I need more time
Three houses and I'm behind
Here's some paperwork For her (him) to sign

I know this must feel like
You’re choosing sides
No one's wrong or right
But soon they'll ask you to decide

Don't feel any pressure
I know he'd (she'd) agree
She'll (he'll) always be your mom (dad)
But don’t you think you're better off with me?

Don’t you think you're better off Don't you think you're better off Don't you think you're better off with me? (x2)

Mountains of Molehills

Written By: Matt Priest

This setting is perfect
At home, amidst your things
A quiet you can't trust

Soon he will appear here
To order and adjust
Angles, numbers, names and dust

He visits when you are lonely
And thoughts wander his way
Invades because you're bored

He lives in the mirror
Hides in every drawer
Look beneath your feet
He's blanketing the floor

Mountains of molehills rising up
Words become a page
Speckles become stains
Home becomes a maze

Obsessions, they feed and feast on time
Minutes become days
Seconds become years
Moments become life
Where did it go?

It's been nearly a week now
Since he's shown his face
This is a test

Must seize any moments
He might've once possessed
Cuz you know better than to rest

He strikes under deadlines
When you've got places to be
Your schedules, he ignores

He's got you living in fear of
What lies beyond those doors
Where chaos reigns supreme
And the control ain't yours

Mountains of molehills rising up
Words become a page
Speckles become stains
Home becomes a maze

Obsessions, they feed and feast on time
Minutes become days
Seconds become years
Moments become life
Where did it go?

Appreciation

Written By: Matt Priest

Wasted my days
So numbered, so few
Wish I'd been warned
So much work left to do

Frying some eggs
I'd picked up that day
That was the scene
When they took me away

Spiders in corners
Flies on the wall
This is my audience
They've come to see

The man who'll be changing
The outside from inside
Maybe, just maybe
They'll appreciate me

Get a reason to see it through
Set up... Been set up by the voices that asked me to
So let 'em scoff
Then let 'em turn
Their heads when they're ready to learn

My days here are full
Fleshing out plans
Sharpening wits and strengthening hands

I don't mind the wait
The world will need time
To move beyond defining
One's worth by one’s crime

You've clipped my stories
Read them in secret
One of these days
You know I will go free

I know you're out there
I'm dying to meet you
Maybe, just maybe
You’ll appreciate me

Get a reason to see it through
Set up... Been set up by the voices that asked me to
So let 'em scoff
Then let 'em turn
Their heads when they're ready to learn

Discography

"THE FAKEOUT, THE TEASE AND THE BREATHER" (2010)
This is Canasta's long awaited sophomore full-length! Read more about it above.

"WE WERE MIXED UP" (2008)
While preparing demos for their follow-up full-length, Canasta invited friends of theirs to remix the songs from their full-length, resulting in "We Were Mixed Up." All in all, it's nearly 100 minutes of music, re-imagined by some of Chicago best and brightest, including members of OFFICE, The Hood Internet, Brighton MA, Allá, The Fake Fictions, Roommate and others. As a "thank you" to their fans, this digital-only release can be downloaded completely free of charge from the audio page of Canasta's website, www.canastamusic.com.

"WE WERE SET UP" (2006)
This is Canasta's first full-length album and included among the thirteen tracks are live favorites such as "Microphone Song," "Shadowcat," "An Apology" and "Sympathetic Vibrations," new songs like "Firenze," "Impostors" and "Heads Hurt Better," plus re-recorded versions of two classics from their EP, "Slow Down Chicago" and "Just a Star." The album features guest contributions from members of The Coctails, Poi Dog Pondering, Freakwater, Verbow and Archer Prewitt's band. The full album can be streamed at the band's website, www.canastamusic.com, and select songs are even available for download.

"FIND THE TIME" (2003, SOLD OUT)
This is Canasta's debut EP, which features four original tracks plus a unique arrangement of Kraftwerk's "The Model." The entire thing is now available as a FREE download from the audio page of Canasta's website, www.canastamusic.com.

"CROSSWALK: A CHICAGO BAND CATHOLIC HYMN COMPILATION TO BENEFIT VICTIMS OF PRIESTLY SEXUAL ABUSE" (2010)
The fine folks at Cherry Bomb, in an effort to raise money for S.N.A.P. (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), asked twenty-two Chicago artists to record heartfelt versions of popular Catholic hymns. Canasta contributed its take on "Praise to the Lord the Almighty," which manages to feel both swampy and spacey, simultaneously. The disc also features music by Office, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, The Aluminum Group, Danny Black, the Detholz!, Midstates, Nad Navillus and others.

"FREEZE-TAG: A COMPILATION BENEFITING CHICAGO'S TANGERINE ARTS GROUP AND RAINBOW HOUSE" (2002)
As the name implies, the proceeds from the sales of this compilation are used to help two deserving, nonprofit organizations based in Chicago. The winter/holiday-themed collection includes the first track Canasta ever recorded: a haunting waltz entitled "Rescue by Christmas." It also features music by Office, Midstates, The North Atlantic, Eric Ziegenhagen, La Makita Soma and fourteen other talented artists.

Set List

We usually play between 45 and 75 minutes, which is about 8 - 14 songs, one or two of which might be covers (Blackstreet, Elton John, Kraftwerk, Tears for Fears, Peter Schilling, Al Green, Belle and Sebastian, Simon & Garfunkel, Suzanne Vega). But if need be, we've got enough material to play as much as two and a half hours.