Cannons on touring, TV & creating timeless music

Cannons on touring, TV & creating timeless music

by Ollie Cox
9 min

We caught up with Cannons, the LA-based indie-pop trio formed of lead vocalist Michelle Joy, guitarist Ryan Clapham, and keyboardist and drummer Paul Davis, ahead of their first UK gig at London’s Heaven nightclub. Before the doors opened, there was already a queue snaking around the block as fans waited eagerly on the neighbouring streets of the North Bank of the River Thames, a sure sign of the band’s international presence.

When we meet, the band is sitting on a black leather corner sofa backstage, equal parts relaxed and energised ahead of their UK debut. Throughout the course of our conversation, the sounds of amplified guitars being tuned down below fill the room, mirroring the California sun-soaked sounds that would fill Heaven that evening. London’s appetite for Cannons comes as no surprise, as the band’s unique take on’ 80s-infused electronica, seen on tracks such as “Fever Dream,” has amassed more than 100 million streams. On top of this, the track has been featured in the Netflix series Never Have I Ever, a catalyst to the band’s cross-continent appeal and a move that allowed them to make music their full-time job. 

With this in mind, we thought it was right to speak to them while they were in London about music, pre-gig rituals, and a load more. See what we got up to below. 

How does it feel to be here in the UK? 

Michelle Joy: It’s very exciting. It’s my first time ever in the UK, so everything is very new to me. 

Ryan Clapham: It’s nice to get our music across the pond and play in front of people who appreciate what we’re doing.

Have you done anything super touristy since you’ve been here? 

Paul Davis: I saw Big Ben, that was fine. 

MJ: We stayed in the hotel to get some sleep. 

You’re playing at Heaven tonight, an iconic London venue. That’s got to feel amazing, right? 

MJ: It feels great. We’re super excited. 

RC: I think this was the first [tour date] to sell out. I know it was upgraded to this venue. I heard it’s a legacy kind of venue. 

How has the European tour been so far? 

MJ: It’s been incredible, I feel like we’ve had a warm welcome from everywhere that we’ve been so far, and it’s really cool to be so far away from home and see everyone singing the words. It almost feels like we’re a football team out here. People were chanting “USA” while they were waiting for us to come back on stage. 

There has been lots of excitement. I think a lot of people have been waiting years and years for us to come out here, and we could feel that from the audience. 

Berlin was the first leg of the tour. What was that like? 

PD: They were great. 

RC: Especially for the first show, they were really great. It’s always weird because you’re like, what’s the language barrier going to be like? 

MJ: They taught me how to say “fuck you.” 

RC: For our song, of course. 

MJ: Everyone was super nice. 

What was the first thing you did when you got to London? 

PD: We got Indian food, which was nice. It was close to our hotel, near Piccadilly Circus. Our tour manager is originally from England, so he had a spot in mind. It’s awesome. 

Your songs discuss modern-day issues while nodding to a host of musical references from the past, such as Fleetwood Mac. How important is it to look to the past when discussing the present? 

RC: I think it’s just something that naturally comes out. If you’re writing music, and you write a riff that you like, I think deep down in your subconscious, it resonates with something that you’re familiar with from the past. 

PD: I think we just have old souls. 

MJ: I think we all see the importance of creating music that isn’t just trendy for the moment but feels timeless. I know that when we were doing some writing sessions, Paul was telling me that he’d sit there and just work on the bass tone for a whole day. In each part of our music, we want to have longevity. 

RC: We want to listen to it. 

You have recently released your Heartbeat Highway album. Can you talk me through a typical day working on the project? 

MJ: We were touring for a lot of it, so when we were back home, we would be working on different pieces of songs from our own spots. Then, we would meet up together at Paul’s studio and finish writing songs and recording them. Like Paul said, we did have a couple of sessions where we worked with a songwriter or two, and those sessions would be a little different. We would go to the studio and write a song in a day. But all of the songs that just [us] write, we do little parts from home, and then meet up and take our time. 

How important is it for you guys to collaborate with other musicians? 

MJ: I would say probably not that important because there are so many ideas brewing between us that we really don’t need to. We have so many ideas, we don’t need anymore cooks in the kitchen. But I’m sure there are [things] that we can learn from people and [their experiences]. We treat those sessions as exercises, and if something cool comes out of them, we’ll use it. 

You guys are based in LA. Does that have an impact on the music you make? 

MJ: I think so. 

RC: ‘90s hip-hop was really big in Los Angeles, like the whole Dr. Dre sound and stuff. When we first started Cannons, Paul was really trying to tap into that style of production. A lot of people say that we have this chill “driving down the streets” kind of music, and I feel like that resonates with LA somewhat. 

MJ: I’m not from LA, but [it] is my first time living in such a huge city, so that whole experience to me was super new and comes through in some of the lyrics. 

Your music was recently featured in the Netflix series Never Have I Ever. How does it feel to have your music featured on a series? 

MJ: That was a big moment for us because before that we had just been writing and releasing music on our own and all working full-time jobs because whatever we made from music was never something that could make this be our main focus or anything. So when Never Have I Ever used our song, they used the entire song for the most important part of the series, and it shot up to Number 1 on the TV and song charts, Shazam, everything. We got signed with Columbia, and this became our full-time job, being able to tour and just write music for a living, which is sick. 

RC: I did learn something really interesting. That song was actually used before they had the intent of actually using it for the show. So, like they were all fans of the song. They were like “This is a great song to smooch to. Let’s continue using it.”

What were the last songs you listened to this morning? 

MJ: I don’t even think I’ve listened to music since we started the tour. 

PD: As far as the plane ride goes, I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Ocean ZZ Top. older stuff. 

MJ: The Human League, “Empire State Human.”

RC: Yeah, it’s pretty eclectic. 

PD: As we were driving to the airport, I put on The Smiths in my headphones. 

@cannonstheband by Cameron Driskill

You’re performing this evening. Do you have any rituals that you have to do before you go on stage? 

RC: A nervous pee. 

MJ: I like to close my eyes and breathe in and out ten times and tell myself that it’s going to be the best show that we’ve ever played every single time. 

RC: We usually have a 1-2-3 chant and it’s usually the funny word of the day. 

What is today’s funny word of the day? 

RC: I wouldn’t be able to tell you. 

MJ: It’s very random. It can be anything. They’re all pretty lame. 

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share? 

RC: We’re excited to be here and to work on new music between shows. 

MJ: We’re grateful for all the support, and the fact that we can do this as a job, we can be in Europe, play music. 

If you had to describe the feeling of being on tour in Europe right now as the result of your music being featured on a Netflix show in one word, what would it be? 

MJ: Heaven 

More on Culted 

See: Women-owned brands we love: the shopping guide

See: Unpacking Tyler, The Creator’s relationship with Louis Vuitton

in other news

Comment

JOIN THE CULTED COMMUNITY TO GET THE LATEST ON FASHION, ART AND CULTURE