Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on May 12th 2010 1:30PM by Joshua Ostroff
"The kids are grown up, the babies were born, there's a lot of responsibility towards families. There are a lot of jobs now involved around this band -- people's livings. These are things I take into consideration when we come back out here.
"During the 'Spirit If' years," Drew says, referring to his 2007 solo album, "I wasn't thinking that way. I wasn't in a good place."
But if mistakes were made and relationships were threatened as BSS evolved from local Toronto scenesters to globe-trotting indie rock stars, their triumphant new album makes clear all has been forgiven.
When Broken Social Scene first arrived almost a decade ago, rallying the indie troops for a cultural revolution, they seemed an unbeatable combination.
Formed by charismatic up-and-comer Kevin Drew and grizzled indie veteran Brendan Canning, Broken literally represented the Toronto scene with a lineup that also comprised solo artists like Feist and Jason Collett alongside members of Stars, Metric, Do Make Say Think, Apostle of Hustle and others.
But the band's self-titled follow-up album was a claustrophobic effort that saw the band battening the hatches against a building backlash even as Drew was reeling from the breakdown of his marriage. BSS reacted by burying their hooks beneath the paranoid production, clinging to their underground status as fellow travellers like Feist and Arcade Fire conquered the mainstream. The romantic optimism of 'Stars and Sons' and 'Lover's Spit' was replaced by a new anthem: 'It's All Gonna Break.'
Success was taking its toll.
"The road really made me become a serious drinker," Drew admits. "I'm an addict, man. I'm addicted to coffee, I'm addicted to alcohol, I'm addicted to cigarettes, I'm addicted to 1970s American films, I'm addicted to people. That's the main addiction I have, I love people."
Considering Broken Social Scene's structural similarities to the Wu-Tang Clan, it wouldn't have been a surprise if BSS never reformed. The past five years saw a constant succession of BSS-related albums while the mothership as a recording unit appeared all but abandoned.
"Timing is everything, kids, that's one thing I've learned and there's no better time for us to come back than right now. Five years was a great time for us to be away -- although we've never really gone anywhere, we've been continually playing shows and look how many records have come out. Look at some of the things that have happened for all these people, the success is all over the place now."
"We have so much and we work really hard to keep it, but you do forget that kind of stuff," he admits. "You're human and suddenly you find yourself taking things for granted. I had a lot of whiny baby moments that I'm not proud of that I just don't want to go back to anymore. I want to forge ahead."
Indeed, 'Forgiveness Rock Record' is the sound of the band putting their past behind them. More than ever, they've written songs with hooks and choruses and pop song structure, despite maintaining their trademark messiness. The exuberance and energy pouring out of their new music -- ranging from arms-up anthem 'World Sick,' enough-is-enough rocker 'Water in Hell' and electro-pop lighter-raiser 'All to All' -- is infectious.
"We did the pressure record," Drew explains. "This one was like, 'we're gonna do what we do, and we're gonna do it the best we can and we're gonna have a lot of fun.'
"One of the great things about making this record is that you know there are people out there that enjoy it, that love [our] music. I've never thought about people before [while recording]. But this time they were very much in the room with us, which felt right."
Also in the room was John McEntire, post-rock producer extraordinaire and the brains behind Tortoise. In fact, it was his room. While some of Drew's vocals and other parts were nailed down at Giant -- a Toronto studio co-owned by Sebastian Grainger (ex of Death From Above 1979 and new BSS affiliate) and James Shaw (Metric) -- much of 'Forgiveness' was recorded at McEntire's studio in Chicago.
Lyrically, Drew has gotten away from personal stories to focus on bigger issues. "I wanted to sing about what's bothering me. With age you can't avoid things that are really irritating you in today's society and since we're a band that's so much about hope and fighting the good fight, we had a bit of responsibility to really connect with what's going on right now in terms of a massive state of what the f---," he says.
"It's about the people, it's not self-reflection so much. I don't think this band needs to do that because it's such a group. Let's be the self-help voice of the people. Let's rock out. We got five guitars up there, they're saying a lot."
Though the core sextet who have become the BSS touring unit handled most of the record's heavy lifting, resulting in a much more streamlined sound, about 31 musicians participated in the recording process, including Feist (albeit on backing vocals) and Emily Haines, who took time out from Metric's breakthrough year to sing lead on the album's heart-tugger, "Sentimental X's.'
"I love playing with James and Emily, they're just never around anymore and they have their own way of doing things that's different from us. There was a time when it looked like they wouldn't be on the record and everyone was cool with it and we were just gonna keep going, but it was very sweet of them to come in. They just do little tabs here and there -- Emily sings a beautiful song and the girls come and sing it with her," Drew says, adding how amazing it was to also hang out again with "Feist-y" and Stars' Amy Millan and Evan Cranley.
"I don't see these people much anymore because everyone has their own lives and is doing their own thing and Social Scene is not what it was to them back in the day."
Maybe, but the members seem to mean as much to each other as ever. Drew may no longer be dating Feist ("Maybe it wasn't the best idea, but I had to give it a shot") and Metric, Stars and Jason Collett may be more focused on their own surging careers, but everyone who has ever flown the Social Scene flag continues to consider each other family.
"This is why we're still together. At the end of the day, there's a lot of love we have for each other. And we want to bring that to everyone who comes to the shows."