Santa Ana-based indie rock quartet Canvas (formerly Streetlight Affair) turned in a memorable performance marked by fresh material and maximum verve January 29 at the District at Tustin Legacy. Doll Knight and Keila Morris are the main vocalists, George Bernal plays guitar, and Piper Michelle handles keys and bass. Drummer Gustavo Peraza joined the four-piece for the gig. After their show, I sat down with the band for an interview. Canvas performs Friday, 7 p.m., at Lucky Owl, Santa Ana.
OC Weekly (Kathrin Tan): How did the band form?
Keila Morris: My family owns a loft over in Santa Ana called the Lucky Owl. Basically, we have this first Friday event every month with a band, art gallery, and all sorts of crazy things. The band that was supposed to play didn't show up. I knew Doll from high school and George through his work so we ended up improvising a show for two hours. Gustavo and Piper came into the picture later, after our first CD release.
Piper Michelle: I watched them go play when they were [called] Streetlight Affair and I was in love with the CD. I talked to them and they told me to go back to the Lucky Owl loft for food and drinks and we ended up writing a song together called “Sweet Summer” in fifteen minutes.
George Bernal: I've known Gustavo, we've played in other bands together. It started as an acoustic thing, and then we incorporated playing as a band and that's when I asked Gustavo to join us.
Why the name Canvas?
Doll Knight: Our song “Canvas” was the first song we wrote and performed as a band and we thought that it sounded really cool. And George had all sorts of ideas for merchandise and photo shoots, so we really couldn't go back [laughs].
Bernal: The thing is, before we were Canvas we were Streetlight Affair. After one of our members left [vocalist and guitarist Calvin Pijlman], we decided to just start over.
Is there a structure to songwriting, with a main songwriter or is it more open and unstructured?
Bernal: No, we all write songs. We don't have a structure to writing songs. It's free flowing.
Knight: When we are forced to sit down and write a song, it does become possible but not conducive to the process.
How would you compare the Orange County music scene with others, such as Los Angeles?
Knight: There is an amazing support system with local OC bands because we would perform shows and there would be members of other bands that we played with in the audience. We would also go to their band's shows and support them.
Bernal: I have worked in tons of different cities like New York, Los Angeles … but the Orange County scene is far more interactive.
Gustavo Peraza: Most importantly, it is fun. In other areas, there is far more competition trying to get a band's sound to the masses, but in Orange County the concept of fun is never lost.
What are your biggest influences?
Bernal: Besides Radiohead, the Dears were a definite influence. Really any band that can have a range of dynamics interweaved with melodies in their music, but the Dears encapsulate that.
Morris: I listened to a lot jazz growing up.
Michelle: I grew up listening to punk but it is really hard to choose. I would say currently, the band As Tall as Lions.
Peraza: Being the drummer, Led Zeppelin is my biggest influence.
If you had to describe your music in two words, what would it be?
Peraza: Sophisticatedly fresh.