Canyons; Performing at the Crosby in Santa Ana on 3/2

Canyons playing in the park
Canyons playing in the park

Sound-wise, Placentia/Fullerton-based band Canyons are hard-Americana, but concept-wise, they're hardcore--Ian MacKaye-hardcore, that is --taking the music-first, straight-edge stance, giving-the-X to drugs and alcohol, and working the DIY. The band even belongs to an OC-oriented musician-outreach collective called the Revolutionary Poor. Co-founded by Canyons singer Jeremy Leasure, the organization advocates such hardcore (hXe) basics, along with nature-heavy jam sessions at the Santa Ana River, nearby parks and freeway underpasses. 

Together since September 2009, Canyons, which perform Tuesday (March 2) at the Crosby in Santa Ana, are quickly honing their no-frills approach--writing and recording songs whenever, booking shows wherever (all-ages preferred, of course), resolving creative differences however, and nixing partying whatsoever. We sat down with Leasure (vocals, guitar), Jared Van Ramshorst (vocals, guitar), Madison Woodward (bass), and Nicholas Nadel (drums) to discuss how they're keeping it real (and simple). 

OC Weekly (Jessica and Kady Bell): Can you explain your band name -- are you just really fond of rocky formations?

Jared Van Ramshorst: Well, we really couldn't think of a band name at first, so we kind of just tossed around a bunch of different names.

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Jeremy Leasure: Yeah, it's kind of like, out of a hat. I mean we wanted something really simple, generally one word.

Leasure: We're big fans of nature, but we don't have any preference over canyons or rain forests or oceans.

So you guys could have just as easily been called Forests?

Leasure: We could have been.

Tell us about your demo, available on MySpace.

Van Ramshorst: Just a couple of months ago we recorded the first batch of songs that we thought were worth recording. 

Leasure: We're thinking of releasing a cassette or tape sometime in the future, too.

Van Ramshorst: Nick thinks it's really weird.

Leasure: But for all those poor college students who don't have CD players, it's good.

Madison Woodward: And for all the hip kids who think such things are cool.

Nicholas Nadel: I'd much rather release a vinyl. Sorry cassette lovers, but the frequencies are a little too high. Nothing sounds better than a nice LP.

Van Ramshorst: We probably won't release anything for a long time, though. We're just trying to write a bunch of songs to get everything down first, before we do anything big.

Can you explain your other project, the Revolutionary Poor? 

Leasure: It started as us doing monthly shows in odd locations just to kind of get away from the typical show, where people go out just to party and get drunk; kind of bringing the atmosphere back to music, instead of all the trappings that go along with concerts. 

The Revolutionary Poor seems like a really good idea to embrace, especially having no drugs or alcohol at shows. Are you guys still keeping to this with your own band? 

Leasure: We're all pretty boring. We're really inspired by Fugazi. They did a lot of stuff like playing all ages shows, and I don't think they ever played a show that cost more than $5. They tried to keep it as much about the music as possible, and we really respect that.

Nadel: We take as many shows as we can get, though, like the last show was at a bar and it was 21 and over, so no one came except Jeremy's parents. 

Woodward: We're a newer band and that's what new bands have to do, so we're exploring and are ready to play whatever garage, or whatever bedroom.

You have no category set for your music, such as "rock," "pop," etc. What's your reason for this?

Leasure: I didn't want people to pre-judge us before they heard the music, so that's why the site (MySpace), in general, is really blank and doesn't give too much information. I think people should listen to the music and make decisions for themselves. 

"A full-bodied dry heave set to music," your outgoing quote on MySpace, is an interesting description of your sound. How did you come up with that and why do you equate your band with throw-up?

Leasure: I can explain that. Just this last year on Curb Your Enthusiasm, there was a Seinfeld reunion and I got pretty stoked on it so started watching a bunch of old Seinfeld episodes. In one of the episodes, they describe how Elaine Benes dances as a "full-bodied dry heave set to music," so I thought it would be funny to put that.

Your fan base seems pretty well-developed for the short amount of time you've been together.

Van Ramshorst: We've already exceeded our expectations.

Woodward: I think that when we played our first show, we exceeded our expectations.

Nadel: Yeah, we have pretty low expectations.

Do you see yourselves improving every show, though?

Woodward: By far, every show I think we definitely get more comfortable. Like with the last show we played, it was very evident.

Nadel: That's probably our favorite one so far. I think it helps that we recently got a 24-hour, lockout studio.

Where are you rehearsing?

Nadel: It's called Electric Jungle.

Leasure: The landlord's named Vaughn.

Nadel: And when you get your keys, he says, "Welcome to the Jungle." I hope he named the place just so he could say that.

Woodward: He's, basically, my hero.

Canyons perform with Bronco Tatonka and Black Elephant at the Crosby, Santa Ana, Tues., March 2, 9 p.m. Free. All Ages. 

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