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Broken Social Scene: A celebration of friends

By Samantha Everts on January 4, 2011

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Broken Social Scene took over Bronson Centre late December for not one but two sold out shows.  Apartment613 was lucky enough to be invited to pick their brains before sound check on December 17, 2010.

BSS needs little introduction to anyone familiar with the Canadian music scene. They’ve been around for the past 10 years, have won several Juno awards and have received tons of critical international praise.  With all members having known each other for at least 15 years, guitarist/vocalist Andrew Whiteman admits, ‘We’re one big dysfunctional family.’ And we all know families stick together.

While it may appear that the band hadn’t made a new album since the eponymous Broken Social Scene five years ago, ‘There really hasn’t been any downtime. We toured heavily for 18 months after the last record and in between people were really busy.  [My band] Apostle of a Hustle put out a new album, and everyone else was doing their own thing.’  Everyone else being internationally celebrated musicians like Kevin Drew, Feist, Amy Milan, Emily Haines, Jason Collett, Brendan Canning, Evan Cranley and the other 27 alternating musicians counted as being in the band either through touring and/or recording.

Founding members Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew subsequently released two ‘Broken Social Scene Presents’ albums in 2007 making the band’s ‘inactive’ period the busiest yet.  The band’s popularity was even documented in Bruce McDonald’s 2010 rock-film, This Movie is Broken.

‘This band is really a celebration of friends.’ Though these days it’s a challenge to get everyone together with members scattered across the country, ‘It was our manager Jeffrey, actually that was like, guys, it’s time to make another record.’ Amazingly, a two-week stretch of jamming in studios in Chicago and Toronto produced over 45 songs (though not complete), a testament to the quality of musicians involved. ‘In the Chicago studio,’ explains Whiteman,’ You could either go and explore the city or go into the second studio and come up with a new song.’

‘I never write anything and think, ‘this would be a good BSS’ song,’ says Whiteman. The only preconceived song was the second single to come off the album Forgiveness Rock Record, ‘Texico Bitches’.  Both a flaw and encouragement when it comes to song writing Whiteman shares that it can be trying, ‘You’ll go and make up the bones of a song, but it really depends on who is there.  Often you’ll come back and be like, ‘What happened to my part? Then be forced to come up with something new in like a half hour if you wanna be on the track.’  Somehow it always works.  Whiteman chuckles, ‘It’s good pressure.’

Teaming up with one of their heroes, Tortoise/Cake drummer John McEntire as producer, made for the recording of their strongest rock-themed album. The multi-layering of instruments and collaboration of musicians is something listeners have come to expect of the band. Power anthems like ‘World Sick’ and ‘Forced to Love’ capture the band’s sense of urgency of moving on and of interpersonal relationship anxieties. Forgiveness Rock Record is a far call from the more ambient sounds of their debut album Feels Good Lost.

‘I think we’re entering our Blue Rodeo phase.  I mean, you’ll always hope you have a career.  We have focus and people keep coming out.’  Repeating the message front-man Kevin Drew told audience members later that night, Whiteman smiles, ‘We do this for you.’

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