ATH Interviews: Broken Social Scene
Brendan Canning Interview
ATH: It’s been a while since you guys have put out a proper album as Broken Social Scene, is this due to a multitude of projects by all members, or have we seen the end of the collective as a whole?
Brendan: I mean we are playing a gig, but yeah we do plan on recording again. The last record came out in 2005 and then we toured a lot in 2006 for that record. While we were making that record, Kevin was already doing a bunch of recording over at Overhead Studio and that lead to the release of Kevin’s record. A bunch of songs from those sessions actually ended up on my record. So it’s really just been a matter of the timing of it all. I think this year we’re trying to map out a section of time when we’re all together and can write songs and be a band again.
ATH: BSS has managed to garner a lot of respect for the way you go about things, not to mention the respect for your music. What has your role been in the entire process?
Brendan: I don’t know really… a few different ones maybe? My role has just been to keep the peace and be a good friend to everyone else who is involved. That’s all our roles really. I guess I also take on more organizational responsibilities with Kevin (Drew) and I sort of steering the ship in a lot of ways. We maybe have to squeeze and scheme a little more than everyone else.
ATH: How do you decide who will go on tour as BSS, or is it merely a matter of who is available at the time of planned tours? Do people hop on or off, as they see fit?
BC: We basically need me, Justin (Peroff), Kevin, Andrew (Whiteman), Charlie (Spearin), and now Sam (Goldberg) since he’s been with us since Spirit If… Sam is a guy I’ve known for 10-11 years who is a great guitar player, a great bass player and has a pretty mellow vibe. So ultimately that’s your core. Then we’ve got Leon whose been touring with us since last May and he’s fit into a pretty good role with this band. As far as vocalists go, Lisa (Lobsinger) came out on this one and Elizabeth Powell from Land of Talk was with us since August of last year. We have our core but we’ll have some drop ins every now and then as well if we’re maybe all in the same city at the same time. Like last year we played in Australia with Feist and Stars so that was really nice to get to play together.
ATH: Do you ever look back on the lifespan of BSS and wish that you could go back and change something, or go about things in a different way?
BC: Yeah of course, but we try to not to dwell on those kinds of things. We all make mistakes or moments go by where you should a said something, but it’s nothing to dwell on. We’re still here and still got a happenin’ crew thankfully. No complaints.
ATH: How did you go about creating an album of your own that was associated with BSS, yet not associated with the group as a whole?
BC: Just get in the studio, start making music, and then see whose around to be involved with it. I started recording with Ryan Kondrat and John La Magna who produced the record alongside me. People like Justin, Kevin, Elizabeth Powell, and Amy Millan would sort of jump in for a day here and a day there to help out with it. It’s just a little more of my control I guess. It can be tough not having that support system of the band being there but I think it worked out.
ATH: If I’m not mistaken, your album Something for all of Us leaked pre-maturely, but then you made it available immediately so fans could get your own version. Can you explain that decision, and/or your feelings on the way media is consumed nowadays?
BC: It seems pretty insignificant at this stage because albums will get leaked. There was really only one version of a song that was kind of messed up. This one song “Chameleon” that we had meticulously spent a lot of time on was leaking as this really terrible version online. That song had lost a lot of what it was about in the leaked version and I wanted people to hear my version. That’s what it was all about really. You have so much music to contend with nowadays and I’m only slightly interested in it all. I don’t download music at all really. I buy vinyl records. It’s a tough business and everyone’s vying for a stake so I don’t really care about who’s making enough money. Indie bands on Sub Pop in the 90s would have been happy to sell 3,000 copies of their record and I’m sure they sell a lot more than that now.
ATH: Stylistically, what do you claim as your trademark, be it sound, or recording process?
BC: I like to make lots of swirly sounds with lots of guitar pedals. I’ve got to make sure there are good groovy bass lines. I also like to play a lot of open tune acoustic guitar and that doesn’t get busted out a lot in Broken Social Scene. I’ve got a ton of little ditties on my answering machine that might require string ensemble or some piano.
ATH: Your album seems to draw from a set of influences and genres, outside of what we would get from BSS. Where do your interests lie as a music fan?
BC: Everything. You name it. Ya know, everything but shitty songs that are on the radio. Even that, the odd single will sometimes catch your ear.
ATH: Like “Single Ladies”?
BC: Every time I hear that song it makes me want to sing “Dancing with Myself”. The vocal part just totally reminds me of that song. That Killers song is sort of a guilty pleasure. You know, whatever you hear at the gym. Or like Lilly Allen had a great tune and is a good performer. But no, I like everything really. I get into lots of reggae, a fair amount of hip-hop, and everything else.
ATH: The US media always hails the Canadian scene and its vitality, are there any up and coming band that we should know about?
BC: Kevin is working with these younger dudes called Still Life Still and they actually practice next door to a band that I’m helping out called Foxfire. Both those bands put on really fun shows and people are there getting into it. They’re both kind of 80s influenced bands which I guess is hard to deny with other bands The Killers. These bands don’t sound like The Killers necessarily, but they don’t not sound like the Killers either. Cadence Weapon is another solid Canadian act that we always enjoy. Canada has tons of great acts, but I don’t really keep up with it too much.
ATH: Okay so for the last question, we’d like to read a quote from your website about the Dallas show cancellation last night and get your reaction. The quote goes: “What the hell is this, you have 4 guitar players, does it really matter if one of them gets a cold?”
BC: You know what, anyone who wrote anything negative can seriously go fuck themselves. Those are obviously just ill informed little dweebs with too much time on their hands. What more can ya say? Kevin, who is not just another guitar player and sings on a large majority of the tunes, was running a fever and throwing up. We never cancel shows. Those are just people with way too much time on their hands. We were bummed about it obviously but what are you gonna do? Kevin was sick up in Toronto before we came to Texas. We all flew in yesterday and he stayed home for an extra day. Hey if they have fans like that, we’d rather be without them.
Many thanks again to Brendan for the time to give us the interview. The above photo was taken by Jonathon Edwards. Give him a shout on myspace.
Read the Charles Spearin Interview