About 10 years ago, two guys in Toronto got together and, a couple of years later, released an atmospheric art-rock album that was virtually impossible to replicate live as a duo. A few well-placed phone calls later, they had drafted in numerous friends on an array of instruments, ultimately creating a signature widescreen post-rock sound on follow-up album You Forgot it in People (2002) that would come to define Broken Social Scene. A sort of mother ship for Canada’s recent rash of successful indie musicians, Feist, Final Fantasy, Metric, Stars, and Land of Talk are just a few bands with roots in BSS.
A co-headlining gig with Tegan and Sara brings the ever-mutating collective back to Vancouver this week as part of the Cultural Olympiad. WE caught up with founding member Brendan Canning from his home in Toronto.
I heard you were walking the dog when I first called. What kind of dog do you have?
Canning: We got a little chihuahua half-breed, a little chihuahua mutt. He’s quite cute, and we got him a little black-and-white camouflage jacket for the winter. (laughs) He’s not like a little pipsqueak either; he’s a big dog.
What’s the touring lineup for BSS right now?
It’s sort of the same as last year. We’re going out as an eight-piece: Kevin [Drew], Justin [Peroff], Charlie [Spearin], Andrew [Whiteman], Sam [Goldberg], Leon [Kingstone], and instead of Liz [Powell] with us, who plays in Land of Talk, it’s Lisa Lobsinger, who was with us in 2006 in Vancouver. She kind of floats in and out of the band.
You’re playing with Tegan and Sara when you’re here.
Yeah. Who knows, maybe we can even steal those guys for a song. It’s on my to-do list to call those guys.
The band’s Wikipedia page is this pretty great who’s-who of indie music in Canada. It seems like everyone’s been affiliated with you at some point, and some of the most successful indie musicians of the last five years have had something to do with BSS. What draws you all together?
I don’t know. Just between all of us we know a lot of people, and I think our whole thing has always been to be really as inclusive as we can, and a lot of the time we’re looking for people. The last year of touring, in 2008, we were getting different horn sections in different cities, and different vocalist who we’d never met before. I think we just try to keep that up, and it makes it more fun for us. If the shows can vary night to night — I mean, especially with bringing in different vocalists, it’s always sort of a kick. You meet this woman in the afternoon and you do a little soundcheck, but then the lights go down you have no idea what this person’s about to do on stage or what their moves are going to be like. So, it’s always pretty entertaining in that regard.
Anyone who stands out for you?
There was this one girl in Taipei who was really great. There were a couple different singers in Mexico City who did really well. There was a girl in Singapore, it was practically like Broken Social Scene Idol. She was really, really goin’ for it. It was quite funny. At one moment she’d be grabbing Kevin by the sleeve and singing really close to him, and then just throwing him away at the end of her line and really being theatrical about it. That was pretty hilarious.
Are you venturing toward another BSS album? [The group’s last album came out in 2005.]
Venturing... I mean, we don’t have any real firm plans, but we’re definitely in the talking-about-it stage. Everyone seems pretty excited this year to actually make a record, but there’s just no point in putting any real pressure on us to do that. It just wouldn’t be as much fun if we say, “Alright, we’ve got an October release so we really have to get this record in the can by May so we plan for press.” I mean, Charlie’s got a record coming out next month called The Happiness Project, and Andrew’s got his Apostle of Hustle record, and, unofficially, Kevin and I are still touring our records [solo albums released as part of the Broken Social Scene presents... series). There’s a wealth of material, but I think we will try to bust out a couple new jams on this upcoming run.