Bowling Green band Canago talks identity, future plans

Chris Rutledge

Canago is known for energetic and highly improvisational live shows, but the members feel the band has much more to offer.

When the Bowling Green quintet came together in 2009, they bonded over a shared love of the jam band, Phish.

While the members of Canago certainly love to jam, they don’t consider themselves a jam band.

Jam bands are bands that rely heavily on improvisation, like the Grateful Dead and Umphrey’s McGee, both influences for Canago. Though they have no problem being likened to those bands, they aren’t fond of the term “jam band.”

Guitarist Robbie Neighbors sees the term “jam band” as something that labels a fan, not a band.

“When you think of a jam band, you just think of stoners that have nothing better to do but follow a band around and mooch off of society,” he said.

Neighbors doesn’t agree with this generalization, but he realizes it’s there.

Singer/songwriter Craig Brown said pop sensibility and appreciation of well-written songs are what make Canago different from jam bands.

“If someone can sing along to your song, and they’ve never met you, I think that’s pretty cool,” he said. “We wanted to do that, but keep the musicianship.”

Bassist Jason Williams said one reason the band shies away from the term “jam band” is because jam bands tend to struggle financially.

“It’s like saying ‘I don’t want to make money,’ almost,” Williams said.

And Canago needs money to support, well, Canago. The band members all live together, and Brown said they focus most of their free time on the band.

“Pretty much everything we do is to support this,” Brown said.

Most of the members have lived in Bowling Green for several years, and went to WKU.

Like many local musicians, they have all played in several different bands around town. Neighbors likes to refer to it as an “inbred music scene.”

And while Canago might not have a lot in common with other local bands musically, they are still very involved in the local music scene.

Williams’ younger brother Lee is the bassist for Sleeper Agent. And long before Morning Teleportation was opening for The Flaming Lips, Canago was helping them get a spot at Starry Nights Music Festival.

“The core of this band has been involved with Starry Nights from the beginning,” Williams said.

It’s because of this involvement that the band got to open for Cage the Elephant and Manchester Orchestra when they played on campus in September, which is the largest audience they’ve ever played to.

“We were definitely honored to be able to do the Cage thing,” Williams said. “A picture from that is the background on my phone right now.”

But the band say their biggest achievement so far came when they sold out Glassworks Rooftop in Louisville this year.

Neighbors said it was like getting a trophy.

The band is currently recording a batch of songs at their home. Williams said he’s not sure if it will turn in to an album or just an EP, but that the band is going to take a different approach than they did on their debut album, Fun.

“It’s going to be a slow and intricate process,” he said. “We rushed our last project.”

Brown, the principal songwriter in Canago, said he feels like storytelling is lost in commercial music, and he will try to be more lyrically cohesive on these recordings.

His biggest influences as a songwriter are Paul Simon and Paul McCartney, but he is also inspired by the weirdness of newer bands like MGMT and Dr. Dog.

“They’ve given me the courage to realize that people will listen to it,” Brown said.

With that in mind, Brown said he continues to write weirder and weirder songs, many of which end up being too weird for Canago.

“But I don’t want to not write it, because then it will just be forgotten,” he said.

While the band take their time recording the new tracks, they continue to focus on their bread and butter, their live show.

“On the album we give a taste, and then live we’re going to expand upon that and explore and have fun,” Williams said.

Williams said one issue that comes up when playing in Bowling Green is that there are so few good music venues in town that allow people underage to attend.

“Very rarely in this town do we get to play to people under 21,” Williams said. “And there are a lot of people in this town under 21.”

Canago will get the chance to do that this Wednesday at Ellis Place. The show starts at 10 p.m. and is for ages 18 and older. Morning Teleportation will open the show.

“We always make it a point to go out of our way to make the live shows exciting,” William said. “This is an opportunity for a lot of the younger WKU students to come see us.”