I’m not going to lie to you and pretend I’m not some giant Broken Social Scene fan. But really, what self-respecting 30ish-year-old indie rock lover in Canada isn’t?
When they put out their breakthrough (and now Canadian classic) album You Forgot it in People, I was 17, and life was easy. I was putting ‘Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl’ on a mixtape for a seventeen-year-old girl.
They had Feist in their band. They had James Shaw and Emily Haines from Metric in their band. They had Amy Millan from Stars in their band. They even had Raising the Fawn’s John Crossingham (who became a Niagara rockstar for a while) in the mix. Even K-Os is on a record.
They threw parties on the island and invited all the best bands, including Modest Mouse and J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., to come and play with them.
They had an oral history made about the band. They performed an amazing concert that was filmed for the backdrop of Bruce McDonald’s (who’s Hard Core Logo was/is one of my favourite films) This Movie is Broken.
Oh, and lets not forget the most important part. Their music was (and still is) the best – beautiful lo-fi, dreamy indie rock that was built for bedrooms.
Anyways, what I’m trying to tell you, is that Broken Social Scene are one of Canada’s most important modern rock bands, and if you don’t know them, maybe this might be your wake up call. They’re pretty easy to find. They have five records, a few soundtracks and some ‘Broken Social Scene presents’ solo albums. Their latest album, Hug of Thunder was released after a seven year break between albums, but it still rips. Hop on Apple Music, Spotify or head down to our local record store (cough Mindbomb) to give your ears a treat – there’s something in there for everyone.
When I found out that Broken Social Scene was coming here to Niagara (Jackson Triggs, June 16), I jumped at the opportunity to talk to someone.
I don’t know why – I knew the show would sell out (it did) and there was no reason to promote it because of that. But I’ve followed and loved this band for 15 years and will probably continue to for the next 15. I did this for me, and for you, I guess.
This past month I had the opportunity to talk with Brendan Canning, one of the founders of the band on the phone. I was sitting in our upstairs office. He was walking his dog. The 17-year-old in me dropped his phone, slept on the floor and dreamt.
When you put out You Forgot it in People, did you think that 15 years later you’d be considered one of Canada’s best bands?
I don’t think those kind of thoughts enter your head when you’re working on music. I think you’re just trying to make music that sounds good to your ears. You’re willing to stay up till four in the morning every night if that’s what it takes. You have a certain vision when you’re starting out but you’re not thinking this is going to be a career-defining record. I wish we were that calculated but we’re not.
Do you think of it that way now? Say, when you made Hug of Thunder, after taking some time off, did that thought cross your mind?
You want to come back with something that is inspiring to all the people who have supported you over the years. Once again, you can try and think strategically but ultimately you’re in the mire trying to gun out a song and some days it doesn’t go the way you want; other days it can be great. You’re in a band and bands can be tricky. You just try and make the best music you can while being honest.
You had everyone working on the last album, what is it like working with that many musicians? Do you all take it a single piece at a time or is there a method to it?
Yeah, not everyone shows up on day one, otherwise that would just be hell. That could be a colossal clusterfuck. Keep in mind everyone else has their own bands; Feist has her own band, Metric has their own band, Stars have their own band. Everyone is working on other things, except for Kevin and I essentially.
One thing that you have that other bands don’t, is a book, This Book is Broken, and a movie, This Movie is Broken. When you look back at it how does it feel to see all this history?
You don’t spend tons of time thinking about that. I’m thankful that we are where we are and sometimes you think it would be great if we had this or that, the cup can be half full. I can say we don’t sit around patting ourselves on the back about how important we are; there’s just always work to be done. There’s no time to sit back and think about that; maybe when we’re 70. You want to work on new music and stay in the game, to compete on a certain level and just enjoy yourself.
With Hug of Thunder, what was the goal? What did you want people to take away from that record?
You just want to make some good music, you want to be taken seriously. You don’t want to be forgotten. You just want to give people something that they can hold on to; to have it be ingrained in their life. Ultimately from the idea of lets make a record to, okay, now it’s finished, it was a two-year process because this band is fragmented to a certain degree. It takes a long time to assemble the troops. It’s about trying to continue some kind of legacy. It’s not that far off in the distance so I really don’t look back at it too much.
Broken Social Scene perform at Jackson Triggs on June 16. I’ll be in the parking lot. See you there.