Interview with Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene


Katy McCourt-Basham

Katy McCourt-Basham

interview by RJ Cubarrubia

Toronto’s iconic art-rock collective Broken Social Scene had an action packed 2008 with tons shows and the release of co-founder Brendan Canning‘s solo album, Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning- Something for All of Us… Still, with all this activity and no full length since 2005’s Broken Social Scene, you have to wonder what surprises they have in store. Wrapping up a short, week-long tour through Texas, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, the Arts & Crafts collective artistically crafted a beautiful two and a half hour set to a sold out crowd — along with Grand Archives — at the Showbox SoDo, February 5th (see review below). Sometimes cryptic and always kind, Brendan met with me right before their set; after introducing me to the rest of the group and getting comfortable (which consisted of an interesting position that can only be defined as using a couch to recline on the ground to elevate his bum ankle), we talked (with a pleasant interruption by Kevin Drew) about the possibility of a new album, upcoming shows (or the lack thereof), the always active members and their respective projects, a possible and mysterious new Broken Social Scene project (a movie starring Michael Cera?!), painful soccer games in Boston, and more.

RJ: So it’s the beginning of a new year and I know you guys toured a lot last year. What’s next for this year? Are you going to tour as much? We haven’t heard a full LP from Broken Social Scene in 4 years now?

Brendan: Yeah, well I think that’s something we’re going to try and address this year. We’ll see if we can.

That sounds cryptic.


So does that mean less tour dates this year and more studio time?

Yeah, this is actually… You know, tomorrow, we play Vancouver and that’s basically IT until… Well, you know, Charles [Spearin] has got some dates with his album coming out and Andrew [Whiteman] probably does with Apostle of Hustle but I think the next show we’ll do will be, we do this little festival on Toronto Island every year, but we didn’t do it last year, or the year before, for that matter. Anyways, really nice spot for a show.

So you’re just kind of picking your moments here since you don’t have much time to play a lot of shows.

Yeah, really Toronto Island is the best place for us to play in Toronto and it gives people an excuse to take a ferry ride over to it, a part of Toronto they don’t usually go to.

Yeah, speaking of festivals, you were supposed to play Langerado and I heard that’s canceled, right?

I know! It seemed like such a good line-up but you know… It’s funny because we just had some dates in Texas and every show was sold out even though the one we didn’t show up for because Kevin [Drew] had the flu, so ticket sales were booming and for out here too, and this festival that had Death Cab and Modest Mouse and they just couldn’t drum up enough… I don’t know what they were looking for, for ticket sales?

Well, I’m actually from Florida and that’s the biggest festival that we have, so I’m surprised there wasn’t more support from the Florida community and also the government because that’s a lot of tourism. I’ve seen lot of people travel to that thing.

Yeah, yeah!

It’s kind of a bummer.

It is a bummer because I had already booked my vacation travel plans, but I’m going there anyway.

Oh, it’s beautiful there, especially now. So last year you came out with your solo album, Something For All Of Us… , are there any more solo albums on the way? I know you mentioned Charles’ had an album coming out.

Yeah, Charles has his album, The Happiness Project, coming out and we’ll play, or demonstrate, a couple of those tonight.

Awesome. Any other Broken Social Scene Presents albums in the near future or are you focusing on the big collective this time?

Um, no, but yeah, you know, cross your fingers and see if we can make it happen, but we haven’t really started anything yet, but there’s talk of it, and that’s something.

That’s really exciting. Is it harder, especially now, being in such a large group where everyone is so busy and so active with so many different projects?

I think at this point we’ve all been doing it a long time so I think we’re at a good stage at least where we can figure out, like, how much time we need to devote or it’s like hey, you know what, these two months need to be devoted to this, how much can you commit to this, what else do you have going on while trying to live your life.

[Kevin enters the room and takes a seat]

It’s really cool to see you guys do so many different things and yet still come together never lose a step every time you guys get together. From what I can remember, the only full length you’ve had in recent years was a film score, The Tracy Fragments?

Oh! Yeah, well, it’s not really a full length.

It’s not a full score?

It is a full score, but I wouldn’t say it’s a release from us. There are other songs on the soundtrack.

I enjoyed those songs, so I was curious if you’re going to go that route again.

Brendan: Oh yeah? For films? Kev?

Kevin: Hope so.

Brendan: Too early to talk about Scott Pilgrim? Or…

Kevin: I think so.

Brendan: Oh, alright.

Kevin: We have to do it first.

Brendan: Oh, yeah, we gotta do it first. But there’s stuff in the works, there’s some, you know, there’ll be…

Kevin: There’s always stuff in the works!

Brendan: There will be something kind of fun that we’ll do this year, I kind of forgot about that.

Oh yeah?! So there’s definitely some surprises coming our way.

Brendan: Yeah, yeah! We’ll be in involved in something, I don’t know, it won’t be released this year, but we’ll probably work on it.

I can’t wait. Everyone’s been getting sick it seems.

Brendan: What can you do? I got ill in January and I just did my best to be healthy for this run but this ankle, it’s kind of like this soccer injury and I haven’t really bounced back fully from it and it’s been an ongoing thing for years and years, and then the last [tour], in between the Boston Show, and we had a few days off and I played a game, but we had two more gigs on the tour, and I should’ve just stayed in tour mode rather than switch to soccer mode. The next thing you know, my fucking ankle is killing me. It’s just like a dull pain, but I can put this shit on it!

[Brendan whips out some sort of topical anesthetic and starts applying it to his ankle]

That looks like no good.

Yeah, this bio-freeze stuff, it’s like steroids. Well, it basically is steroids.

You could bandage it up.

Oh, don’t worry, this will do the trick, but I don’t like it. I’d rather use some herbal kind of stuff. What does your shirt say?

Minor Threat.

Oh yeah?

Yeah, I’m a big fan and I go to school in Virginia somewhat close to D.C.

Oh, we played Virginia last year, very nice.

Yeah, it’s a nice place, interesting state. Well, Brendan, thanks so much!

Yeah, yeah, please stay and I hope you enjoy the show!



Broken Social Scene concluded their week-long tour in Vancouver on February 6th. Check their Myspace and website for more news. Brendan Canning’s solo debut, Something for All of Us… is available now on Arts & Crafts. Visit Brendan’s Myspace for more information. Charles Spearin’s solo album, The Happiness Project, will be released February 14 on Arts & Crafts. For more information on The Happiness Project, visit Charles’ Myspace. For more information on Andrew Whiteman’s Apostle of Hustle, visit their Myspace. Or just go the the Arts & Crafts website to find links and information about them all.

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