By the time Montreal’s Wolf Parade re-united last January, unthawing from a self-imposed state of hibernation they entered in 2011 so that all band members could work on their other projects, reunion rumors had been traveling among the diehard fans for months. All members of the band work to maintain a personable, human connection to the fans who spend so much time decoding their lyrics, marathoning their shows and sharing their experiences. I wound up finding out they were getting back together at an anniversary party thrown by the founder of Wolf Parade’s officially unofficial fan club, Maria Carullo, last September at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right. The band’s now-classic Apologies to the Queen Mary turned 10, and as I worked on a comprehensive annotation of that album’s brilliance, she wound up becoming my lead source. Everyone in the band loved talking to her, sharing memories and experiences of making Apologies in Montreal circa 2005, and she compiled her conversations into an anniversary project of her own. It was at that celebration where my reporter’s ears caught something I shouldn’t have heard about an imminent reunion in the new year. The guy knew because Wolf Parade’s two principal frontmen, Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner, told him.
Hence, the idea of community is so important to Wolf Parade that the fans often discover things before the press, and if you ask me, that’s just fine. Wolf Parade has many moving parts, as most of the dudes are in other projects, and the strong community around them helps all of us keep track.
With his classical piano training and composer’s ears, Spencer Krug ventured out into explorations of childhood and mythology thru his increasingly proggy band Sunset Rubdown, before retreating to a solo project called Moonface that strips his songs to their core, on one album with electronic organ and samples, on another with a Finnish kraut/prog band Siinai, and on another with just a grand piano. This June, in the midst of Wolf Parade’s reunion, he’ll release a second Siinai collaboration, My Best Human Face.
Dan Boeckner, meanwhile, takes the synthier route in his solo compositions. From 2006-2012, Mr. Boeckner helmed a dance project called Handsome Furs with his now ex-wife, Alexei Perry, disbanding with their separation. Handsome Furs were skeletal, sparse, elemental. As Mr. Boeckner got better at programming, the production got better with each of the duo’s three albums, but the limitations of still controlling all the sounds with one piece of hardware were waning on him.
Well that was then and this is now. Not only will Wolf Parade return in May, beggining with a 6-day residency at Bowery Ballroom, but Dan Boeckner’s new project, Operators, is currently touring around the country in support of their debut LP, Blue Wave, out April 1.
‘…It’s kind of the way that Wolf Parade writes and operates, for better or for worse. Everybody’s voice is equal. It’s essentially a Marxist collective, with no head, you know? And then Operators is a dictatorship that I run with an iron fist.’
Blue Wave sounds familiar but is nonetheless a revelation, a breath of fresh air into the electronic music culture that’s struggling to breathe. Named in reference to both depression and as a pun of “New Wave,” Blue Wave portrays an alternate universe where punk and electronic music can coexist without scene politics, channeling the Factory Records scene that allowed Joy Division to Manifest into New Order. It’s an evolution of the way Mr. Boeckner always recorded electronically, even as a kid, marrying all that knowledge of programming and live electro he learned in Handsome Furs with the sonic range of a full band he has behind him in Wolf Parade.
Operators features the synthesizers and programming work of solo artist Devojka and Sam Brown, who shares another band with Dan and Brit Daniel of Spoon called Divine Fits. Blue Wave is the rare debut that doesn’t have a weak track, and much like Mr. Boeckner’s previous work, songs like “Control” and “Mission Creep” manage to be cathartic, anthemic and effortlessly cool at the same time. Weaving lyrics about political campaigns and processes together, it’s a dance album rich with subtext that somehow never feels preachy, a treatise of internal struggles that somehow sounds universally meaningful.
As Mr. Boeckner and I sat in the back of some clean but vintage-looking Lower East Side bar, he caught me up on the current whirlwind state of being back together with Wolf Parade and finally unleashing his first proper LP with Operators. It was a fitting neighborhood to talk about new sustainable touring models, why artists ought to cut their teeth playing smaller venues before shooting for the big festivals, and Marxist band politics.
Mr. Boeckner’s commitment to playing music on his terms and making difficult decisions with the band about how much exposure was healthy for Wolf Parade communicate the strategic pragmatism of a true artist—someone who’s constantly learning how much control he ought to exercise, and how much effort it takes to stay sane in the music business.
Every bar in the Lower East Side, and some in Brooklyn, has the same tile that every bathroom in every apartment in my neighborhood of Montreal has.
What neighborhood do you live in?
Outremont, Justin Trudeau’s [old] neighborhood, actually.
Whoa. Is there better pulse that French Canadians have on the kitsch factor of ’80s dance music? That song “Nobody” on your new album, reminded me of Silly Kissers and TOPS because it sounds Canadian. And I call it ‘kitsch’ not in a diminutive way, but as a sorta genuine affectation for vintage schmaltz, you know?
I love those guys! Yeah. I’m not sure why that is. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a French thing. But “Nobody”‘s great, very ’80s Bruce Springsteen Tunnel of Love era, just with everything pushed up.
Now that this community which loves and support you guys and all your projects has thawed, they’re still all in it, but there are also new fans. Maybe kids who were a few years too young to really dig Wolf Parade, to get into it. Now I think they’re able to appreciate what you guys did. Spencer gave an interview where he said something about how you guys are all in to the band together, but you’re going to be more evenly distributing your energies between other projects?
Yeah. Well this year, 2016, I’m spending even time between doing these Wolf Parade shows, putting out new music with Wolf Parade and then recording later in the year, and touring with Operators. At least for me it’s back to 2010-type thing, when I was splitting time between Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade. Spencer and I have these other projects that we spent a long time developing. He’s probably done Moonface for half a decade, yeah? I think the Moonface EP came out and it’s been five or six years.
Thinking about the first proper Moonface LP, Organ Music as very bare-bones and thinking about your work with [ex-wife] Alexei in Handsome Furs, they both seem like a structural way of figuring out what you want to do with things in all your projects. In Operators we see the warmth and range of the synthesizer, fully realized. And for Spencer’s Moonface record with [Sweedish prog band] Sinnai, it helped elevate his project to that range.
That’s a pretty sound analogy. Handsome Furs was always super minimal and sort of constrained by self-imposed constraints. Two people in the band, a really specific piece of hardware.
And a specific relationship, too.
And a specific relationship, yeah.
Can you talk about that at all? Because I always feel like when couples make music there’s an expectation that it always informs the creativity. How do you draw wisdom from that when it ends?
You mean, what do I take away from it? That’s a good question. I’ll think about it. I mean, I don’t know! I don’t know what I took away from it.
At least sonically, it gave you a unique platform. And you guys had this sense of wanderlust, that CNN piece aired?
Yeah, we got commissioned to do a documentary on our first tour of China and Southeast Asia. They sent us these flip-cameras, we formed 40-plus hours of footage and they edited it all together. I mean for better or for worse, I was pretty happy that we got to do that. I didn’t wanna just go and perform in these places, like you were saying, the wanderlust thing. We would always try to return, to play those shows again, or do something where we were integrating with the music community as best we could. Even though it was CNN, I thought the documentary was cool.
It was legit, and that whole record Sound Kapital, too, it had this whole vibe…between “Cheap Music” and “What About Us”, it was about going to different places and seeing how different people lived. Seemed like a theme of the record to me.
Yeah, well Face Control, the one before it, we had already started doing that but in post-Soviet countries in the Eastern Block, The Balkans, Russia, Czech Republic.
You’re really fascinated with that culture, which is my heritage too.
Yeah, I am! What’s your background?
My ancestors were Jews from Hungary and Former Soviet Union. But I’m thinking of the cosmonaut theme in “Yulia” too, off [Wolf Parade’s last LP] Expo ’86.
Yeah, “Yulia” was taken from a Handsome Furs visit, one of the trips that we did. We played in Moscow a bunch of times, and the second time we went I got to go to this Museum of Space and Aeronautics there. It just kind of blew my mind.
So you travel around the world with this project, with Alexei, writing these songs a little sonically adjunct from your other recorded work, but now you put together Operators. And the first Operators singles are straight electro. Are those just a way of figuring out how to sustain notes and get a groove going? Chart that for me, from those early singles to bringing back in this full-band set-up for the Operators LP.
Early Handsome Furs, you know, I wanted to do a project that was synth and drum machine based, really electronic, really minimal, really repetitive.
Yeah, like cold, you know. I was listening to a lot of Suicide.
Man, I talked to Alan Vega and he’s the coolest motherfucker in the world.
I believe it, man!
He made this amazing improvised record with Alex Chilton by the Brooklyn Bridge in Giuliani-era New York, it rules.
Yeah, I’ve heard about that. Holy shit man, I’ve gotta hear that. I’m a big Alex Chilton fan. Big Star definitely, but more than that his weird Like Flies on Sherbert record. That really heavily inspired a lot of early Wolf Parade songs, that record. At least my songs. But the Handsome Furs thing, you know, I wanted to make music like that. I’ve been making synth and drum machine music since I was a teenager, because I had this shitty Yamaha Portasound keyboard, I think it was the later version with the sampler in it. I would make these crappy techno-pop cassettes.
This is you as a kid, figuring out how to record music?
Pretty much, yeah. Then I had a Walkmen with a microphone in it and a ghetto-blaster, and I would record one track of drums into the ghetto-blaster thru the mike, then put another tape in the walkman, turn the mike on the walkman, back up the drum take, press play and then play over on top of that through the speaker on the keyboard. Then take that tape, overdub it, and do vocals.
Exhausting! So with Operators you had the chance to go the other route with it, just go a little deeper?
Well as Handsome Furs progressed I got better at programming stuff. To be honest, Handsome Furs for the most part was a solo endeavor, in terms of writing. I wrote and programmed most to all of the music. As the years went on I had to get better at doing it. We finished [first Furs LP] Plague Park, which was pretty guitar heavy, and then I had to improve on my shitty four-bar loops.
You were working with what you had, working with your limitations and elevating them?
Exactly, yeah. And then with Operators I actually bought some decent equipment, chained it together and thought, OK, I don’t have any limitations now. Whatever I hear in my head I can try and get out. When it started it was mostly synths and drum machines, then we recorded a bunch of shit, went on one tour, and the guitar just made its way back in.
You can’t stay away, man. It’s a problem.
I can’t stay away! But that was that, and that tour really cemented what Operators’ sound was gonna be.
I had to describe your sound in that Wolf Parade legacy piece I did and said something about, ‘If Bruce Springsteen crossed the Hudson, moved downtown and hung out with Richard Hell until he learned to play punk music.’ I was just thinking, well, electro started as a punk thing! Thinking about Factory Records out of Manchester and all these dudes just slowly evacuating their serotonin at these all night raves, like Shaun Ryder from The Happy Mondays…. why can’t electronic music be punk?
Like Alan Vega, yeah! Most post-punk has some kind of electronic element folded into it. Throbbing Gristle was doing shit before the first wave of punk even happened, as a noise-art band.
Something good will happen if you can get these kids who listen to electronic music all the time and are moving with the other crowd, where everyones just moshing and its bodies on bodies like at a Ty Segall show. If you can bring the finesse of the dance show together with…
Yeah, the tightness of a dance show together with the energy of a Ty Segall show, you know… I think that’s the way things are going. Watching Viet Cong play live,they have a really great integration of these icy synths and kind of math-ed out guitar. But there’s energy there, there’s life.
I’m glad you mentioned them, because they have that militaristic vibe too. The drums sound really skeletal, the blonde dude Mike, he’s just pummeling those.
He’s in India studying tabla now. For the second time. I was just hanging out with those guys because they’re finishing up their second record in Montreal.
(This song is now called ‘Control’)
I’m picking up on the military vibes on the Operators record, too. “Mission Creep,” you’re playing with the imagery of committing to a long campaign, and honestly the first place I go to thinking about is Wolf Parade. Just because I know you guys never wanted it to get stale. The good set or the good record always ends when we’re like, ‘fuck, what’s next?’ not, ‘it was a good show, but they played one too many song.’ Always leave them wanting more. But this songs also about the idea of obligation, and that lyric in “Control,” “Another year of election.” Got sent the promo in January, so it really fucked with me in a good way. Obviously we have this big election here.
Yeah, well I wrote that about the Canadian election, but I mean an election in general…
If you guys want Ted Cruz, you can have him back.
When the Canadian election was ramping up, the American election had already been ramped up for four or five months. That had to be the longest pre-election thing.
Do you think it’s healthier to have a shorter cycle? Less ball fluffing?
Yeah! Especially in this cycle, it would be way less corrosive to the general psychic and political wellbeing of the country. Donald Drumpf, the more articles that get written about him, the more op-ed pieces, the more his protestors punch people in the face.
Talking politically though, in your solo-endeavors you have so much control over your direction. Operators in the sense switchboard, analog synths, sure, but also as the conductor, the maestro. With Wolf Parade you and Spencer are very much your own individual energies. As a violinist I saw, even before he put out Julia With Blue Jeans On, the composer’s hands. Your music is much more immediately anthemic, focused on hooks. How do you stay mindful of political push and pull?
You mean internal politics in the band?
Yeah, I know in your own work you don’t have to worry about it, but is it healthy to have that to some degree? Do you guys enable that to keep pushing your work forward?
I think it is healthy. Wolf Parade is… I can liken it to when Occupy Wall Street was happening. One of the biggest criticisms of the Occupy Wall Street people was the fact that they had to form a consensus, make sure everything was inclusive, take in all these disparate ideas before they made a statement or an action. That’s a difficult way to change a political process, but it’s kind of the way that Wolf Parade writes and operates, for better or for worse. Everybody’s voice is equal. It’s essentially a Marxist collective, with no head, you know? And then Operators is a dictatorship that I run with an iron fist [he says this smiling.]
‘Also I gotta say, selfishly, to protect the honesty of the music we had to do certain things that were maybe not the best decisions of our career.’
And again, a demonstrable expression of your Soviet fetish.
Yeah! But obviously, Operators wouldn’t be Operators if it wasn’t for Devojka and Sam, but I write the songs and put everything together.
I followed Wolf Parade from the first show on your Apologies tour up through the hiatus, and it always seemed like the band would go on a tour cycle around when a record was released, and then just kind of mellow. Not that you didn’t enjoy it, but it takes a lot out of you? I know you played Miami, where I’m from, and it’s a schlep to bring your shit down there.
Were you at that Miami show?
I wasn’t, but I know the kid who booked it and he’s a dick.
Miami was one of our worst shows. At the end of the day, I think we had 240 people? And the place was huge! So I remember being backstage when the opening bands are finishing, and I went to the promoter to say, “is this a big walk-up town? How many tickets have you guys sold?” He said, “I think they’re all in there! Don’t feel bad, we did Blonde Redhead here two weeks ago and they sold like 40 fucking tickets.” This must just be a money-laundering operation.
It might have been. There were some big stories this week about how festival and live electronic music culture is starting to implode on itself. How these festivals are overblown and ruining intimacy between artist and act.
So their thesis is that peak-festival and peak-EDM has happened.
Yeah, and the NYT piece says they’re going to be focussing more on smaller festivals where you run into the artists and there’s art to look at and time between sets.
This is the new model of sustainability, right? Something like Pickathon in Portland.
You guys are playing there.
Yeah, this will be my third Pickathon in four years. I love that festival! It’s smaller, the ticket price is lower. They’re not picking.. you know, Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing a lot of festivals this year, and I know because Wolf Parade is playing a lot of festivals this year. So Red Hot Chili Peppers, if you’re a festival booker… I guess you’re trying to get the biggest reach, because you’ve made a huge investment on these sites. Whereas Pickathon’s investment is smaller, and the headliners are like.. Jeff Tweedy. X played, Viet Cong played. Sam Herring of Bad Bad Not Good, and every band does multiple sets. The great thing about Pickathon is that there’s no no-play clause, so as a band starting out you can go play Pickathon and then go play Portland. A lot of festivals have a no-play clause. I think those smaller, better-curated festivals with a lower ticket price that are geared toward specific audiences and have a specific footprint.. that’s where this is going to go. And it’s going to open up a lot of that touring network that’s gobbled up by big festivals.
That’s a thing now right? Acts are structuring their itineraries around these festivals, not the other way around.
Absolutely! I mean I am this year with Wolf Parade, I’m absolutely part of that.
I feel like you guys could have been on the bill at some of these bigger festivals, but maybe it’s part and parcel with my earlier questions about how Wolf Parade works as a live band. Every show I saw was amazing, but you never whored it to death. Each tour didn’t have four legs, a lust for bigger and bigger venues each time. And at least from my end it seemed to be a deliberate move to some degree.
It was very deliberate.
Is that just a sanity thing? An energy thing?
It was a combination of, we didn’t have management and as a group all the decisions were made internally. We weren’t grasping for any brass ring. And a lot of what we saw in our contemporaries and friends, the class of 2005, was frankly kind of gross. It didn’t gel with the values we had when we started playing music. Also I gotta say, selfishly, to protect the honesty of the music we had to do certain things that were maybe not the best decisions of our career. Turning down some festivals, or not doing five videos an album. Or trimming songs for radio length, you know, we never got radio play.
“California Dreamer” could’ve been a short hit, but I’m glad it’s not because it builds now.
It’s fuckin’ long! It’s a long song! We always had this thing where when we’d go out on tour, radio or no radio, more people would go to the shows, you know? So we started playing New York at Bowery Ballroom and ended playing two nights at Terminal 5.
‘You don’t feel like California is sort of the gilded peach that’s fucking rotten in the middle?’
We’ll all be back there in May, man, I’m so excited.
I’m stoked, too! But I think this is a sustainable model to being an artist.
There’s an intimacy component too, if your goal as a performer is ultimately to connect with people but you’re at this big festival with thousands of people in a fucking field, I mean, the sound guy’s been drinking all day and everything is mixed on unity.
You can connect with people at those things, but I just think if you start there and then build your career up a bit, you’re kind of fucked, you know?
There’s no meat.
Yeah. I think you kind of have to put in that year or two of club shows, because inevitably, at some point in your career, you’re going to end up back at those club shows. And if you want to continue making art, playing for people and getting better at performing, if you care about that, then you’ve gotta be able to work that size of a stage too. And be comfortable playing those places. I was just in BC with Wolf Parade, going over our old stuff, and when we talked about doing this over a year ago. We hadn’t touched any old songs until a couple of months ago.
Your lyric, “Nostalgia never meant much to me” comes to mind [from Handsome Furs’ “Memories of the Future.”]
Yeah! But then we realized all these shows fuckin’ sold out and we obviously have to play the songs that people are coming to see. So we started going through the albums and they all have a really different personality. It’s weird coming back to them, and either re-arranging songs or remembering songs that we phased out of the set years before we even went on hiatus.
For me Apologies is about coming from Vancouver Island, what your friends and families were like, and the woodsiness, at least what I got from talking to Maria Curllo who runs the Wolf Parade fansite. “I was a torch, driving the savages back to the trees.” The space and nature dichotomies are there. The I turn on Zoomer and “Soldier’s Grin” starts, “Running to the place that you spring from.” Then we get to “Language City” and you’re already feeling the anonymity of Montreal, the potential to get lost in translation. These albums have their own energies, but a narrative also emerges between them in a weird way. Maybe it’s in my head.
No, it’s there man! I’m glad you got to talk to Maria. Maria is awesome.
We got together at Baby’s All Right for her “10 Years of Apologies” party. Did she send you a poster?
Yeah, she did! Maria has historically been out in front of Sub Pop in terms of knowing about what anyone’s doing. She was always the first.
‘It looks perfect but underneath the surface it’s an emotional and occasionally physical apocalypse for the people living there.’
Let’s talk about L.A. for a minute, because all of you guys seem to have a very interesting relationship with California. I lived out there for a semester, just sitting in traffic all day getting stoned and listening to Neil Young. I feel like many people in the media industry in LA work together and socialize together too, social obligations extending well past the work day. And I wonder if that has a weird effect on people, their sincerity. Everything seems so garish.
You don’t feel like California is sort of the gilded peach that’s fucking rotten in the middle? Like that whole David Lynch thing.
Is that from Mulholland Drive?
No, just made that up off the top of my dome! But what he gets into with Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet, the idea that it looks perfect but underneath the surface it’s an emotional and occasionally physical apocalypse for the people living there. I really loved L.A. while I was living there, for about a year and a half. Then I moved to San Jose.
But there’s a tipping point, isn’t there?
Yeah, I kind of realized I wasn’t going to get any work done. The kind of work done that I wanted to get done . And then I booked. The only really bad time I had in LA was when… I was originally living with Brit (Daniel, of Spoon and Divine Fits fame) and I got surprised divorced. Basically took a trip out to L.A. to record Divine Fits and was supposed to come back in two weeks, but never left.
That’s what they do over there! Pop-up tribes. You belong to us now.
Yeah, exactly. So I lived in Echo Park, Sunset area for a while but I did not like that. It was cool to walk around, it was cool to eat Mexican food, but Jesus man, everybody was just, for the most part, fairly privileged young people pretending to be artists. I just can’t with that. That’s me, that’s my problem.
I don’t think people can create here anymore. That’s why people are moving out to California.
Well that’s essentially what happened to me in the Bay area. I had to face the reality of, I could continue living in this suburb of San Jose, go hiking up in the mountains and blue skies every day, but I have to go into work. In the two years I lived there it became the most expensive place to live in America besides New York and San Fransisco.
You talk about California again on the last track on Blue Wave, “Space Needle.”
Yeah, I was faced with paying x amount of dollars for rent but never being home because I’m always on tour. And then the election started creeping in in America and I was like, fuck it, I’m going back to Canada. Montreal is still totally affordable to live in.
I still want to come up for Jazz Fest. Is it bougie or fun?
It’s fun. And if you don’t like the Jazz Fest you can still go to a grind-core show at The Catacombs or wherever. But yeah, I moved out of California because it was too expensive. At least that part was too expensive. And it kind of intersected with the idea that if you wanna live in a cool city and start a band, you have to have rich parents. Or you have to be independently funded. When I moved to Montreal in 2002, my first apartment cost me $375 a month. And it was a fucking dump.
That’s what makes your music so much better, though!
Probably. A drug dealer took over the apartment, because the landlord was super old, and basically said ‘this is my place now.’ He was selling coke out of the bottom floor. But I still lived there, you know, and paid very little rent. I worked, and that money combined with the cheap rent allowed me to buy some shit for Wolf Parade and have a rehearsal space. I just didn’t see that happening in the Bay area with people I know who make music.
‘For the new Wolf Parade stuff Spencer and I said that brevity was key. Just compressing as much information as you can into an imposed space.’
You mentioned 2005, and I remember maybe earlier in that year when Funeral came out. It’s an interesting dichotomy to talk about, you and Arcade Fire, because you’re so fucking different. They seem informed by much more of the baroque side of Montreal, and maybe some of that’s hidden in Spencer’s piano playing, but I feel like that’s more Carey from Frog Eyes.
Yeah, have you ever read Carey’s description of the music that he makes? I think it’s one of the most poignant self-assessments. He published a book called Clouds of Evil, it’s *mwah*, wonderful. Carey describes his music as a ball of glowing spaghetti that has a few meatballs in it. And the meatballs are hooks.
That’s like John Cage, ‘not the negative space but the positive void.’
Yeah, exactly. But there’s a huge difference between Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire.
I guess I’m also talking about creative choices. Because you guys could have easily gotten to that point of notoriety that they’re at—your community is strong enough, your work’s good enough, but it feels like a very deliberate decision.
We don’t write the same kind of pop songs that they do. And I fucking love that band, I really do. I’ve liked every record they’ve ever released, but it’s weird too, because Arlen and I were both in Arcade Fire. I was in Arcade Fire for about a year. And Tim [from Arcade Fire] played bass on “Fancy Claps” and “Shine a Light”, Arlen [from Wolf Parade] played drums on “Wake Up” and I played bass and guitar in Arcade Fire leading up to the recording of Funeral.
So did all of you who fortified this collective of composers and musicians, did that spread at all in Montreal? Are there still staples of that scene around?
Definitely. Lemme show you something… [He pulls up the neighborhood on his iPhone’s Maps application] So this is Montreal, there’s my house right there.
Where are the spots I want to check out?
You probably wanna check out the Mile End, but my house is here, this marker. On this corner is a house and apartment block, and Win and Regine lived here. Wolf Parade rehearsed in the apartment that they lived in, so did Arcade Fire. So a lot of Funeral and most of Apologies got written in this little corner, and where this marker is was Spencer’s house. A lot of the Sunset Rubdown records were recorded there. Tim from Arcade Fire and Operators have this space. Handsome Furs owned this apartment after Win and Regine moved out. So basically, two Wolf Parade records and three Handsome Furs record recorded up there. The Operators record got written next door, all the Sunset Rubdown stuff and Funeral, and to some extent Neon Bible.
There seems to be a very honest, palpable character to Montreal’s creativity. Maybe it’s the flâneurs, walking around aimlessly all day?
I don’t know if that influences the Anglophone arts community though. I’m not sure. It would be nice to say, oh yeah it’s definitely the French culture that influences arts production and Mile End, but…
It’s a baroque thing, maybe? When I hear about Montreal, the merging of traditional city scenes and values, along with many classical styles of composition, being imposed upon by modernity.
‘The more I can express myself in Operators, the better it is for Wolf Parade, and vice-versa. The idea of one person, one-band is kind of an old notion, an antiquated idea at this point.’
You can really trace that to the Toronto ex-pats Godspeed, You Black Emperor. That piece on the map I showed you, if you were to walk two blocks north and one block west you’d come to the original Hotel2Tango, where the Godspeed guys were living and recorded.
You, sir, have just made my Montreal itinerary.
Oh man, I’ll send you a list of shit to do. Of walking tours.
Where are you at with new Wolf Parade songs now? I understand you have about an EPs worth and that you don’t wanna rush it, but you’re about to give birth to Operators. There’s a way to do this reunion, and I’m sure you’ll figure it out, in a manner that’s not tacky or forced at all. How do you walk that line and keep things from going stale again for you? Will it happen organically because you’re dividing time a little bit more?
We’re kind of picking up where we left off with Wolf Parade. When we started getting back together we just started jamming and being a band again. I think that’s the only way it would have worked.
And you’ve all gotten better! Spencer’s been going deep into his musical head with Moonface, and I imagine he’s thinking a lot more about cadences and structure. Do you balance that out consciously by focusing on more immediate songs, and hooks? How do you guys reconcile those different sonic tendencies?
That’s a good question. For the new Wolf Parade stuff Spencer and I said that brevity was key. Just compressing as much information as you can into an imposed space.
That’s what the Dead did. I mean Workingman’s Dead is all short songs but then live they’d stretch them out.
Yeah, and I think that’s an important thing to have, those boundaries. Every Wolf Parade record has had some self-imposed aesthetic direction on it. For Mount Zoomer we said we would explode the structure of the songs. Expo was almost a technical metal record in a lot of ways.
“Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” makes that clear from the beginning.
Totally! It’s our Master of Puppets in a way. That whole album is about variations on a riff, seeing how you can vary things just slightly and move them forward and back in time.
So this time the plan was just brevity?
Yeah, brevity and just compressing stuff. It’s been fun! It’s been really good, actually.
Are you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
I don’t know if I have a comfort zone, you know? I have stuff that I like, a way that I like writing and certain things that I come back to.
What do you leave to chance with Wolf Parade and what do you have to make sure is happening? You’re done touring Operators and you go into these residency shows wanting to be open and not exhausted. How do you ensure that? What do you do as humans and brothers and friends to keep that going?
The more I can express myself in Operators, the better it is for Wolf Parade, and vice-versa. The idea of one person, one-band is kind of an old notion, an antiquated idea at this point.
It’s like the bard, the old dude living outside of Rome, perhaps, tripping off of cave fumes.
Exactly. I think where it becomes a curiosity piece is say if Spencer or myself or anyone else with multiple projects that they put their creative and physical energy into, where it becomes a curiosity piece is if it doesn’t gel with a sort of modern capitalist marketing narrative–one person makes one thing one way and then thing gets better or diversifies. That’s an outmoded mode of thinking about art.
To that point though, you guys might have started off as a curiosity piece to several people who realized it was so far outside their mode of understanding band dynamics and live music and sounds, then they’re better off for it. You guys are in the future is what I’m hearing.
We’re in the future! I think we’ve been in the future for a while. But I don’t really ever worry about getting exhausted. I’m working, right? I wanna be working! Like what the fuck am I gonna do if I’m not on tour, go home and watch television?