Canteen Knockout
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Canteen Knockout

Band Alternative Country

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Have you ever wondered what the dark side of alt-country would be? Throw away the image of a grungy disciple of Neil Young perfectly combining dirty riffs with a soulful twang stomp, and allow yourself to focus on the horror that would occur if there were ever a band to combine Bush X with GG Allin's country work. You can stop fretting about it, because Canteen Knockout, the year-and-a-half-old brainchild of local musician Andre Skinner, have fought against the dark side of alt-country and won. The evidence lies in their self-titled EP, which contains a series of well-crafted and aurally pleasing rootsy rockers.

"When we started, I tried to do alternative-type stuff, with the big choruses, and it wasn't really working with the rest of our sound," says Skinner during an Annex tête-à-tête. "This year we got into North By NorthEast because we didn't have an alternative sound. It's working for us."
The lineup has changed several times; a guitarist whom Skinner describes as "talented but high-maintenance" has left, as have a bassist and a drummer. Skinner's written all the songs, which might explain why the lineup can change without hassle. "These guys are a lot more subdued and easy-going. They just show up for rehearsal and play. They say to me, 'Oh, we've got a gig? Cool.' "

Skinner, the former drummer of jam-rap band Slit Slot, learned a lot from time spent with the dramatically different, often drunk miscreants. "I learned that you can't really give a fuck when you're onstage. You've just gotta play. Don't be concerned about the crowd or every little detail – you've just gotta have a good time. The more relaxed you are onstage, the better you are."

When I ask if he wants CK to be a hip band, he gets offended, thinking I'm referring to the Tragically Hip. "No, we don't. You can put that on the record, too. I don't care." When told that the question was whether Canteen Knockout want to become the kind of band that plays to the types who wear po' boy hats and listen to crunk/Frente! mash-ups, his answer changes to "Yes. Certainly we do."

And as long as they stay on the right side of alt-country, they'll be fine.
- NOW MAGAZINE July 2004


It's only a few short blocks from Chinatown to Queen Street, but for Toronto's Canteen Knockout and their affable frontman, Andre Skinner, the distance between is symbolic. "Two years ago, busking was my summer job. I'd grab my drums, go out to Chinatown for six hours and play," says Skinner with a combination of pride and jest. "Some days I'd make insane money, other days I'd just do OK. I didn't have a permit but Chinatown's so crazy that it was never an issue."

A lot has changed in the years since, namely Skinner had decided to pack up his drumsticks for the time being and concentrate on frontman duties for Canteen Knockout, an erstwhile collection of collaborators (singer/rhythm guitarist Skinner, lead guitarist Manrico Erasmi, bassist Scott Whitmore and drummer Paul Mates) that has been turning heads in the Toronto club scene since their inception last summer. While the band has only played a handful of shows to this point, Skinner is quick to recognise the difference between bashing away at his skins and actually taking the mic. "I'm confident in my voice but there are so many levels in singing and I'm trying to get my voice to a point where I can get some additional vibrado in it," he says. "That and songwriting are what I'm concentrating on; just getting up front and making a kick-ass show."

The band's self-titled debut EP (produced by Skinner himself and co-produced by Mark Doucet) was released in the fall and is a good indicator of the band's range. Whereas tracks such as "Bent Out of Shape" and "Hangers" are steeped in twangy guitars and rootsy sensibilities, others such as the dramatic "Chords Ring" stray closer to the dense, angsty sounds produced by Skinner's former band Pope Factory, a band that toured extensively within the US and was championed by Edge 102.1's Dave Bookman on a number of occasions. However, Skinner hopes that with time, the band will be able to smooth out their sound to the point where the dichotomy of their collective influences will become a bit less obvious. "I want to cut it down from such a wide range and have people come to expect a certain type of music," he says. "But at the same time, I look at a band like Wilco as my ultimate. They can go totally psychedelic and then straight country, and then just rock out too. I want to craft this 'Canteen Knockout sound' so when our audience hears the chords and vocals they'll know what they're listening to." With a pile of fresh new songs yet to be recorded and a number of gigs and contacts already lined up, you can expect to be hearing a lot more from Canteen Knockout in the coming months as they try to take advantage of the recent good fortune that has blanketed the Toronto indie rock scene in the past year. "I couldn't see any better time [to be in a Toronto band] because right now is just booming," Skinner says. "Three or four years ago I read an interview with an industry person in the UK and they mentioned how amazing it was that nothing was coming out of Toronto, because there were just tons of wicked bands just sitting there, not getting signed. I think we're finally starting to catch up." - Cameron Gordon
- THE SPILL MAGAZINE


You'd be hard-pressed to find a band more fittingly matched to the Silver Dollar Room's "anything goes" booking policy than Toronto's Canteen Knockout. By mixing country, rock, blues and other trace elements, CKO are the bastard child of Hogtown, just looking for a supple teat to nuzzle… or at least a shot of Piss Dru. Leadman Andre Skinner decided to pull back the reigns on this night, which meant that the band's set was awash in a more country-tinged approach than their recorded output would lead you to believe. Working backwards, lead guitarist Manrico Erasmi earned his keep by flashing some very impressive chops-the kind that make record execs and 14-year old girls from the suburbs buckle at the knees. Erasmi's twangy twiddling of his six-string was a definite standout yet it didn't overwhelm his bandmates efforts by a long shot. CKO were tight, taut and tested, allowing them to burn through such staples as "Bent Out of Shape" and "Sinner" with relative ease. Even the normally explosive clunker "Chords Ring" was castrated down to a mid-tempo groover. A cover of the Black Crowes' "Remedy" was probably the most obtrusive the boys got and it gave Skinner an opportunity to extend his vocals beyond his characteristic coo-something we hope to see a lot more of in the future.
- Cameron Gordon
- THE SPILL MAGAZINE


Discography

Canteen Knockout - Self Titled E.P.
Canteen Knockout - Navajo Steel (not yet release)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Innovation is great way to describe Canteen Knockout’s musical mission. Combining modern electric guitar sounds with sweet acoustic reverberations and straightforward rock-and-roll, Canteen Knockout is a sound that both soothes the ear and picks up musical momentum.
Canteen Knockout’s inception was in the studio in 2002, with songs written and recorded by André Skinner. It is now established as a solid four-piece outfit with Alex Maxymiw on lead guitar, backing vocals and pedal steel, Scott Whitmore on bass, André Skinner on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and Ben Adivi on drums.
André Skinner: No stranger to the Toronto music scene André has played with the likes of Pope Factory, Slit Slot and many other projects from power pop to jazz. With influences from many different styles of music, Canteen Knockout’s sound has quite a wide range with very distinct vocals tones and catchy melodies.
Alex Maxymiw: A music verteran in his own right, Alex has been involved in music all
his life and has been playing live for the better part of 15 years. As an ex member of country band Luther Right and the Wrongs he is a perfect addition to Canteen Knockout's coutry/rock sound.
Scott Whitmore: Keeping it simple is the key to great music, and this is a philosophy Scott Whitmore certainly practices bringing out great grooves and solid bass lines he is the perfect accent to the band’s roots rock sound

Ben Adivi: A very busy man on the Toronto music scene Ben is currently involved in 2 projects as a drummer and is often hired to play sessions and gigs around town. Ben Adivi has studied with some of the best teachers in the business, and played in a variety of genres, from folk to rock to jazz. He brings a great passion, joy and diverse musical range to the rhythm section.