Cankun “I’ve always wanted to create sad/melancholic songs.”

Vincent Caylet, the Frenchman behind Cankun, has moved on from his project Archers By The Sea (La Station Radar, Cabin Floor Esoterica) and found solid homes on two underground music publishing giants, Hands in the Dark and Not Not Fun. Having released his last two albums, Culture of Pink and Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, on vinyl pressings via Hands in the Dark, his latest was shared on cassette in conjunction with Not Not Fun, where he released his first two behemoths as Cankun, Jaguar Dance and Isalo Waterfall. He’s also landed a split-single on BEKO DSL and an early tape through Constellation Tatsu, done a few shows with Robedoor and High Wolf, and is a full-time dad.

But Caylet ain’t no dad-rock kind of fellah, as his music merges from lush psychedelia to murky-water riffing to contemplative meditation, all swallowed by a coastline that beaches trash in glimmering array. Meet Cankun.

What did you do today?

Daily work as usual, spending time with family, enjoying the spring time. I am a father, and it’s a cool daily job. Played in Paris Tuesday.

Who’d you play with in Paris on Tuesday?

A french band called TOYS.

How did the Culture of Pink record on Hands in the Dark come about?

Morgan and I met a long time — online — before Hands in the Dark released the first Cankun CD, Ethiopian Dreams; around the time I had just finished Jaguar Dance, and put a couple of songs on SoundCloud, prior to Not Not Fun. Morgan liked them a lot and wanted to release the CD version of Jaguar Dance, but I had so many tracks that we decided to make a fresh new one: Ethiopian Dreams. It’s such a pleasure for me to work with them that it was obvious we had to continue together.

How involved was the label with most of the vinyl-release creation, musically and otherwise?

He doesn’t get involved in the recording process. It’s mostly pick-and-choose. I’ll pick a whole bunch of songs I’ve made and Morgan will tell me the ones he would like to put on LP. Simple as that. For cover-art and inserts, he and I have always made a collaborative final decision on everything; we have chosen all the artwork together; etc. He and I have a strong relationship, so I wouldn’t do anything until we both agreed. It’s all a matter of passion and trust between Morgan and me, but the fluidity and interaction of our relationship has always come naturally smooth for us.

On the other hand, Britt Brown is the total opposite. He really helped improve my songs for the first two tapes. He was always telling me what was good or bad in each track. I needed a relationship like that during those two releases.

How’d you hook up with Not Not Fun?

I have never been in direct contact with Amanda Brown, but Britt I met just through sending Not Not Fun demos. And like most of the underground bands sending them demos, he told me, “It’s good, but not enough.” So I worked on a few new songs and it became Jaguar Dance. He has really helpful while shape my sound and tracks, he’s like a producer to me. I really owe him a lot, as well as Morgan. They both have had a big role in the Cankun story. It was also wonderful to meet Britt on a Robedoor Euro tour a few years back.

Once the album is released, it doesn’t belong to me anymore, and everybody takes whatever they want.

How involved do you become within the promotional and public relations aspect of each release before and after they’re for sale? I mean this by-way of contacting writers, distributors, other labels and musicians, and nothing to do with touring/shows…

Morgan handles all the public relations himself, in-house, and he’s doing an awesome job. Long time ago, I learned that promotion is way more important than the music quality itself, and that makes me really sad. I’ve always been in the underground scene where promotion was not important and almost nonexistent. And it was fine because the only purpose was music and the artwork. With Culture of Pink and Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, we went a step forward with international reviews, Pitchfork, and all this other shit. But how to exist among all the record releases, I don’t know. Right now I feel like going underground again to avoid all that nonsense, but Morgan does a great job handling it as a private label owner.

What about Steven at Constellation Tatsu?

Steven contacted me because he wanted to release an Archers By The Sea record. I told him I stopped playing as Archers, but I had some unreleased Cankun tracks. It was the beginning of the label, but he had already a strong identity with beautiful artworks. So i thought it was a good idea and he seemed like a cool guy. I’m really happy for him because he has built a really great label with an excellent and evolving discography. It reminds me a bit the fantastic job that Phil French did with Stunned Records.

Of all the defunct/dead labels now, which would you have wanted a Cankun release on?

I’ve asked Phil of Stunned if he wanted to work again with me, but he had just retired the label. So I don’t know, I would have loved to release something with the Jewelled Antler Collective, but maybe not as Cankun.

Any plans of ever revamping Archers By The Sea?

Maybe… I don’t know, right now I feel closer to Archers than Cankun. Actually I want to come back to more ambient-harsh music, but it would be with a new name. Nothing settled now.

Culture of Pink is a very discotheque album in comparison to Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, which sounds much more orchestrated in movements than having a steadier beat. How did that change come about?

I really enjoyed recording Culture of Pink. It was very fun using all those samples from bands that I really like. I wanted to see if I was able to get into more accessible music than I was used to doing with that record. I was really surprised and excited about all the amazing vibes around the tracks too, collectively and individually. Nevertheless it was not really the most accurate reflection of my personality and music. So when I started to work on Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, I wanted to create a more melancholic music, with strong structures. That was the starting point. I also wanted to use some ideas/recording processes I had done with Archers By The Sea. You can particularly hear it on “Trezz,” the bonus track off the Not Not Fun tape version of Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold.

What bands did you sample? Was this process easy to diverge from your typical process?

Tortoise, HiM, Jah Wobble, Out Hud, etc. It was really easy, man, I had to pick the part I like the most and then built the song. I have mainly sampled rhythmics.

What general feel do you intend to create with the architecture in your music?

I’ve always wanted to create sad/melancholic songs. I’ve never wanted to create easy-listening tropical stuff. Either way, it’s cool that everybody is feeling my music through different outlets of emotion. Once the album is released, it doesn’t belong to me anymore, and everybody takes whatever they want.

Is it emotion or equipment that typically takes these new forms of sound?

Mainly emotion and a bit of gear. I didn’t want to record Culture of Pink 2. Maybe some people wanted to, but I wanted to move on into a release that is more personal, mixing the dancing side of Cankun with the melancholic and harsh side of my past recordings. For Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, I have only bought an electronic drum pad with a cool drums sounds that helped me to diversify the beats sounds. Although I was a bit tired of being described as tropical/exotic, my intentions of Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold weren’t to thwart those claims, but expand my art in a way that reveals more than just that.

Do you typically start out with the drumming, accompanying rhythms, or guitar?

Most of the songs start with a beat/rhythm. That’s pretty weird even now for me, as I’m not a drummer. But it really helps me create fluid melodies throughout each piece. Or at least for the main melodic part. I’m surrounded by plants and animals and trees, etc., so my main inspiration is becoming closer to the living environment of nature surrounding me.

When I started to record music, I was wandering with my MiniDisc recorder in forests and fields, under bridges, and wherever else to record anything I could. It was a really really happy and peaceful period of my life. Seems like an eternity now, it was like eight years ago, I was really inspired by the free-folk scene in Finland, the Jewelled Antler Collective stuff, amongst others. I have still a lot of love for the artists around those times because their main purpose was only to create the most beautiful music.

I’m also really inspired by the movies. I don’t want to watch a lot of movies, but I take my time to look and search for the good ones, always researching carefully. And for the moment I can’t get rid of my guitar. I don’t know if one day I’ll be able to record something without it, but that could be my next challenge in music making.

Are your lyrics in French and intended to be thoroughly read or most-so part of your music as a sound?

That’s a mystery that can’t be solved here. The only thing I can tell you is that the lyrics must be as absurd as possible.

I really enjoyed recording Culture of Pink. It was very fun using all those samples from bands that I really like. I wanted to see if I was able to get into more accessible music than I was used to doing with that record. I was really surprised and excited about all the amazing vibes around the tracks too, collectively and individually. Nevertheless it was not really the most accurate reflection of my personality and music.

Hah, what a tease. Do you have a big hobbies or full-time work outside of making music?

I’ve never wanted to be a professional musician. Even writing it seems so weird. In general, I’ve always thought culture should be a space free of money, purely made from love. That’s the most naive part of my mind. So I have a daily job, and I kinda like it. I’m feeling particularly lucky to have a cool job and being able to make music as much as I want…

And as mentioned above, I’m a really cinema lover, being 17 years old and watched Gummo in a cool theater for the first time, all this kind of magical moments.

Whoa, shit. Gummo? I used to work at the hospital in Xenia (the town that movie was about). What part of that movie affected you the most?

I’ve always been interested by the saddest, darkest parts of our society, and Gummo — at this time — was the weirdest and most beautiful movie. But I particularly remember the first scenes with Super-8 and VHS shots and the scary background voice.

Is the name Cankun in relation to the distance between you and Cancun, the Maya and Inca civilization, or the feel of being in Cancun?

Maybe. When I chose Cankun, Britt and I had a heavy discussion about that. To me, in the beginning, Cankun was mostly like a cool-sounding name. I’m really interested in the Maya/Inca civilizations, so the name is also a way to point that out. But I think I was really aware of the ugliness of the Cancun shore and the paradoxical situation of that, which I can’t really understand. I think for a European guy, it’s really difficult to understand what’s happening over there and why… And I was really interested by this aspect of the city: people starving and people taking ecstasy next to a deteriorating landscape.

Have you ever been there?

No, I’ve mainly traveled throughout Europe. I’ve never been to North America.

Do you find there is a specific visual concept to your music that reveals itself while working on your albums?

I’ve always tried to match an image with a song, for a Cankun song or for any other songs. For Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold, I was always thinking of huge desert areas, and I don’t know why. I had just watched Gerry by Gus van Sandt again and was thinking of these landscapes a lot. Rocks and sand and salt and so on. “System” was born in my mind from that image, especially. Then I was really amazed by the Curiosity pictures of Mars and the Rossetta pictures of the comet. I’m really fascinated by all this and that’s how I found the name of the record, Only the Sun is Full Of Gold. There were a lot of images in my head when I created the record.

What’s the best scenario you suggest listeners should be in while listening to Only the Sun is Full Of Gold?

A street fight, yes! No. Actually, I would say watching Melancholia by Lars Von Trier under Northern Lights.

Britt [Brown, Not Not Fun] I met just through sending Not Not Fun demos. And like most of the underground bands sending them demos, he told me, ‘It’s good, but not enough.’ So I worked on a few new songs and it became Jaguar Dance.

Where’s the best location you’ve played music as Cankun?

I played in Denmark for that amazing festival, Sejero, containing all those amazing people, artists, and musicians. That was really the best place I’ve ever played; it was just perfect: good food, great island; time stopped for a couple of days while I was there. I can’t thank Thomas and Emil enough for inviting me to play with the likes of Lorenzo Senni, Morphosis, etc.

And we played with Robedoor and Holy Strays in Milan like two years ago or something, in an abandoned music company office, and it was an amazing place and a great show.

How about the rumblings of a potential Mexican Summer LP? Is there a story behind this?

Well they contacted me before the release of Culture of Pink saying they would like to release something. I had just finished Culture of Pink, and was not really into making new sounds. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to lose that opportunity to work with them, ‘cause I really liked the label. So I worked on songs, but they were not really turning out the way I had hoped.

We decided to take our time and they let me record some new songs (which turned out to be Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold). I sent them the whole record and they liked it, but not enough to release it. I don’t know what they expected from me. Maybe they send hundreds of e-mails per week to bands like me; maybe not; I don’t know. It was cool though to have been that close to releasing something with them; it’s an acknowledgment of my work. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed, but maybe the step was too high for me. Once they told me they wouldn’t release the record, I immediately sent it to Britt and Morgan, they really liked it, and I felt much more at ease.

That’s harsh. When are you bringing Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold to a U.S. tour, and who do you plan on touring with?

Ah — that’s a big story. I’ve never felt really comfortable playing live. I don’t know why, and I’ve tried to force myself, but it’s like I didn’t manage to make something cool enough to free me up. So touring is not my priority and I don’t work with a booking agency, so it’s way more complicated to find shows. I would love to come to the U.S. and play; I’ve had a few tour proposals after Culture of Pink release, but it’s kinda complicated for a non-American guy to come and play.

Is it drugs? How much drugs do you think you’d need to play live, and WHAT? Or is a promotional shit that holds you back? Maybe having visuals?

I’m not into drugs. I was a bit in my youth, but it had never helped me create or feel great. So I don’t know, when I tour, I’m usually the only guy who doesn’t take drugs. Though, I’m a boozer. I’d love to have video projections, which can distract attention from me, and it’s really artistically important.

I think the main issue is that I’ve spent so many times sending e-mails to promoters to set a tour up without having answers or it didn’t match or whatever else, that it really puts me off touring. So I have decided to wait for promoter to ask me to play and see what happened. So I guess I won’t play a lot of shows, but things are clear in my mind now and I feel cool about that. I can now focus on my music.

If you could have a backing band to cover for mishaps and getting the ego kicking, what would it be comprised of?

Yes, but I think two people on stage would be enough to create amazing music. On stage, I’ve always tried to play the songs from the records. Maybe I should try to make something unique for shows and create atmospheres. Without a budget, I would say, two drummers, one guy for synth/samples, and me on guitar. Would be fun. I’m a huge fan of Do Make Say Think’s first records and I’ve always been in love with their two drummers at shows since.

Now that Only The Sun Is Full Of Gold is out on LP (Hands in the Dark) and CS (Not Not Fun), and drawing from your answer, “it doesn’t belong to me anymore,”
how do you personally feel projecting so much of yourself out there abstractly through sound? Does it always feel complete?

Yes, it does now. I’m ready to move on to something different, though. It’s a really strange feeling, but since Culture of Pink, it always takes me a lot of time to get into a new record and even songs. I think I will try to get back in my studio next week and see what will happen.

How soon can listeners expect another Cankun release?

I have no idea. But I would like to release something new by the end of this year, even if I have no new material right now.

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