It's not uncommon for a touring musician to momentarily draw a blank when a journalist asks, “Where am I finding you today?” during a phone interview. On the road, cities blur into one another, green rooms breed déjà vu, and, all too often, local haunts are seen from the tour van while motoring toward the highway on-ramp. That Broken Social Scene cofounder Brendan Canning provides the Straight with everything but exact latitude and longitude coordinates for where he is seems altogether remarkable.
“I'm in the luxurious backstage in the Theater for Living Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the south side of the street,” says the multi-instrumentalist, punching up the word “luxurious” with a dose of Robin Leech–style ostentation.
In the last 10 months, the darlings of the Canadian indie scene have collected more frequent-flyer points than George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, hitting Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Europe (three times) to promote their critically lauded fourth album, Forgiveness Rock Record.
Their two-day engagement in Vancouver is part of the latest haul that sees BSS's current incarnation—a lineup which, you should be warned, doesn't include all-star collaborators like Feist and Metric's Emily Haines—zigzagging across North America and Europe into next year.
When asked for a recap from the road, Canning says that things are going how you'd expect.
“It feels like being on tour: being totally exhausted half the time and having a totally good time the other,” he says, laughing. “I'm trying to get some sleep in here and there.”
Broken Social Scene has never been much for R & R. Since winning hearts in 2002 with its breakthrough album, the Juno Award–winning You Forgot It in People, the ever-ambitious outfit has kept the creative fires burning, shuffling in and out of the studio and moonlighting in the film world, all the while building the BSS brand into a Canadian institution.
With the buzz still mounting over the pop perfection captured on the current disc (you won't find a catchier tune than the madcap art-rock jamboree “Texico Bitches”), Canning reveals that the follow-up may not be all that far off.
“From the Forgiveness Rock Record we still have a bunch of music that's kind of left over,” he says. “I think the trick is to record a little bit more and fill in the pieces where they need filling in, and maybe we have another record.”
As talk turns to the next album, you can't help but wonder how BSS will handle the pressure to keep up its winning streak. After so many years in the game, Canning insists this isn't something he actually gives a lot of thought to.
“I think the days of dwelling too much are gone,” he says. “You can drive yourself crazy trying to predict what people like. We're never going to be that band that is a manicured version of what alternative is. We're too old for that shit. It's not so much about what's fashionable with this band, even though I do think some of us are rather well-dressed.”
Broken Social Scene plays the Commodore Ballroom next Wednesday and Thursday (October 13 and 14).