Broken social Scene emerges as canada’s indie-rock super group
By Brian Kenney
Blame it on Canada? The northern half of the continent is no longer content taking blame. No longer will the country be the butt of jokes — certainly not music jokes. (OK, aside from Loverboy, Celene Dion and Bare Naked Ladies.)
Kevin Drew, founder, lyricist and sometimes frontman for Broken Social Scene, takes bites of a sandwich as his tour bus, crowded with a band large enough to warrant its own postal code, rolls through the outskirts of Ottawa shortly after the Toronto debut of their latest self-titled disc, and proclaims, “In this little Leave it to Beaver world that has been created, it’s all about fucking.” Drew spoke with The Marquee as his bus barreled down the highway.
Broken Social Scene has emerged as one of Canada’s indie-rock super groups, with a membership that is always in flux and fusion, growing or shrinking, but more often than not, growing. “Let’s see,” bandmate Charles Spearin tallies, “We’ve got 11 out with us this time.”
Broken Social Scene materialized in 1999 when Drew, formerly of K.C. Accidental, and Brendan Canning, formerly of By Divine Right, bonded their friendship into a band. They spent the next few years honing an atmospheric rock sound in their native Toronto and developing a flawless musical dynamic. Feel Good Lost marked their debut album in 2001 and introduced a revolving cast of Canadian indie musicians.
Drew’s fellow mate, Spearin from Do Make Say Think, was added to the band, as well as Evan Cranley (Stars), James Shaw, and Emily Haines (Metric). By the time their guitar-fueled sophomore effort, You Forgot It in People, was released in fall 2002, Broken Social Scene had become an 11-piece collective. Jason Collett, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff and Leslie Feist fulfilled the band’s bombastic, orchestrated sound and critics praised the album as the best thing to come out of Canada since Terrence and Phillip. Plans were made for a stateside release on Arts & Crafts the following summer. A surprise, however, changed those plans in spring, 2003, when Broken Social Scene won a Juno (Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy) for Alternative Album of the Year. In order to maintain praise from critics, the band issued their first ever b-siders & rarities collection, Bee Hives, in spring 2004.
For the band’s 2005 self-titled studio album, Broken Social Scene once again joined producer David Newfeld. Additional contributions by select members of Stars, Metric, Do Make Say Think, Raising the Fawn, the Dears and others contributed to the ambitious sounds of Broken Social Scene.
While the vibe of Broken Social Scene is communal, there’s more to it than art house kitsch. “There are certainly some readers in the band, but while you might expect the bus to be littered with books, it’s actually quite a party,” Drew said. So don’t be surprised to see more than just music coming form the members of Broken Social Scene at their shows. What you can expect might be closer to a happening, and not in the corny beatnik existence and experience of the word, but a show that will never be able to be replicated — an experience unique unto itself. Much like a sexual experience.
“Sexuality is a wonderful topic to immerse yourself into,” Drew said. It has been the core of their very existence, the preoccupations of their lyrics. At the same time, their instrumental tracks possess their own melodic sensuality. There is a primal sexuality that preoccupies their sound, a certain attention paid to the sensuality that comes when two (or more individuals) play suck face, flop body and grab ass (not necessarily in that order).
Most songs echo intense overt sexual overtones and ride a lyrical Freudian slip and slide of sexual discomfort. With tunes such as “Handjobs for the Holidays,” “Lover’s Spit” and “I’m Still Your Fag,” the tongue-in-cheek members of Broken Social Scene are wishing, through musical vignettes of tragi-comic greeting cards, that the world will simply lighten up.
Back in the tour bus, somewhere between Ontario and Toronto, Spearin considers the first few shows of the tour as a springboard and breeding ground. “We’re on home turf,” he said.
For Spearin, touring offers its own set of challenges. “During the recording process, we go in in pairs or small groups. We never really see the whole group. So when we tour, we rehearse and all of us get together and try to figure out how to play the new songs. We write in the studio, then learn how to play the songs live. It’s kind of a backwards thing,” he said.
But recording the latest disc brought with it a certain amount of freedom, even with all the possibility of artistic egos floundering within the confines of studio space. “We know how to compromise without the competition,” Spearin said. He did acknowledge, with a wry laugh, a certain underhanded Darwinistic approach to band members trying to get their favorite tracks on the record. “We campaign for a song and sometimes you have to get a team together to do that. Ultimately, though, the album is a true collective of where we are now.”
Broken Social Scene :: Boulder Theater :: November 1
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• Bright Eyes
• Franz Ferdinand
• The Arcade Fire