Since 1999, Canadian indie rockers Broken Social Scene have made consistently brilliant and always original experimental baroque-pop music, enlisting the help of a myriad of artists along the way: Metric's Emily Haines, Leslie "1,2,3,4" Feist, Jason Collett, Amy Millan of Stars and Jason Tait of The Weakerthans. Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, BSS' two founding members, both have solo records in the "Broken Social Scene Presents" series. Rocks Off got a chance to speak with Canning before he and Drew (and six others) bring their talents to Numbers tonight.
Rocks Off: Where are you right now, and are you ready for this leg of the tour?
Brendan Canning: In my living room, getting ready for the tour. Our first date is in Dallas on January 30. We finished the last leg of our tour November 28, then had an appearance on Letterman December 19.
RO: How was your Christmas? Get anything good?
BC: Well, all we really wanted was for everyone to come over to my house and have Christmas dinner. I got my parents to donate to Doctors Without Borders, which was my wife's idea. Kevin and I exchanged Christmas cards. He actually got me a pretty great winter cardigan - the kind curlers in Canada wear.
I'm not sure if you know what a cardigan is in Texas, but it's this kind of big comfy sweater. You see them all over Canada. It's a great sweater.
RO: What was the thinking you and Kevin had when coming up with the idea to release "BSS presents" records, particularly when the records sound similar to, and have appearances by, many BSS members? What do you want these records to achieve in comparison to BSS records?
BC: Everyone was off doing something else. They weren't so much like solo records because everyone was involved. Kevin Drew helped on vocals, keyboards, and bass. Andrew Whiteman is on there. Plus, I was collaborating with a couple of other guys. The biggest difference is that I had final say on this record, as Kevin did on his. But we're doing everything this tour, our entire catalog.
RO: I imagine the process of writing and recording a BSS album differs greatly from that of a solo album. Can you explain the process of each?
BC: Not all that much, really. It's basically the same, just a smaller version of it. The band comes into play the same way they do on Broken Social Scene records. But they aren't involved in the writing. I wrote the majority of the songs, but not all of them. Kevin worked with me on a few.
RO: On your own solo record, there was some contention between you and the Internet leakers, it becoming available online six weeks before it was supposed to hit stores. Can you explain how that whole thing came about, how it was resolved, and if you are satisfied with the result?
BC: It was a version that got out with some unmastered songs. There was something quite wrong with a couple of the tunes. In the end, looking back now it was barely even a blip. But at the time, it was something that had to be addressed because it felt like it was getting out of control.
RO: You have said that Broken Social Scene will be making another record before another "BSS Presents" is released. Are you guys presently recording, and what are your plans for the future as a full band?
BC: No, not right now. We're thinking about recording. That's about as far as it's gone. It's always good to think about these things before you do them. But no, nothing is in the works right now.
RO: You have sung lead on only three Broken Social Scene songs. Will that change at all on the new material, or will Kevin be taking the majority of the lead vocals as on previous BSS albums?
BC: I guess it would depend on what kind of tunes we've got coming. If there is a song written where my voice suits it, or Liz's voice [Liz Powell] suits it, or Sam's voice [Sam Goldberg] that's where it'll go. It's really tough to say how it's all going to turn out right now. Like the other records, there will be a handful of tunes that get split up.
RO: Are there any plans for Feist or Emily Haines to reappear on any upcoming tour dates or on the new material?
BC: Once we start recording, that's when we would know. Emily was over at my house last week, but we don't really sit around talking about recording. They just finished a Metric record, and we are still in the process of seeing where we're going. If we were in a city that Emily or Leslie [Feist] were in, I'm sure they would be willing to help. We run a really loose type of thing.
RO: What kind of lineup can we expect on this tour?
BC: It will be an eight-piece, although [Andrew] Kenny from American Analog Set may come out for a show or two. We might get a horn section in Texas on this next run as well. That's what we were doing all of last year, borrowing horns from as far away places as Russia, or Singapore, or even Virginia. Like I said earlier, we're doing a whole catalog of stuff - the shows run pretty long, actually.
RO: Can you talk a little about the documentary that was made about your life and career?
BC: It aired on the Independent Film channel. Canadian director Bruce MacDonald came in at the end of my record, visited the studio for a day, followed me around, filmed me cooking breakfast in the kitchen, doing photo shoots with chinchillas. I think it might have aired in maybe October or November. I haven't seen it, though. I'm not one for watching myself on television.
There was a Metric one as well; Emily mentioned the other night that we should all get together to watch both of them, so I might have to actually force myself to do that.
RO: What is your all-time favorite Broken Social Scene song?
BC: Probably "Blues for Uncle Gibb" [from 2001's Feel Good Lost]. We run such a high-energy rock and roll show most of the time, though, so it would be a hard one to do live, to take it down to that level. We've talked about it. I don't know, we might.
RO: Besides Nickelback, who is your favorite Canadian artist?
BC: Hahaha. Yeah, besides Nickelback - that would have been my first. I don't know; let's see. Let me go to the record collection here. I want to come up with something different. I don't know. Should I give it to Joni? I'll give it to Joni. She definitely helped shaped the way my music works. Joni Mitchell wins.
RO: No Celine Dion?
BC: There's a funny movie I saw recently about Celine Dion - the kind of thing where you know exactly when she signs the contract for Titanic based on nothing but her facial expressions. The exact moment her husband has a heart attack. It's awful.
RO: I have a friend from Canada who says that Canadians living in America get very protective about Canadian artists and their reputations, regardless of how bad their music is. She said Canadians get offended when people bag on Nickelback. Is that true?
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BC: You must be talking to the wrong Canadians. I couldn't care less about fucking Nickelback.
RO: Finally, thanks for coming to Houston.
BC: Yeah, we're excited about it. We've played there twice before. Once at a small, quite nice venue [Proletariat], and once in a place that was a box [Warehouse Live in 2006]. Like, a box. Square like a box. It was, um, interesting. But we love coming down to Texas. Should be a fun show.
With The Lymbyc System, 8 p.m. tonight at Numbers, 300 Westheimer, 713-526-6551 or www.pegstar.net.