Broken Social Scene
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Broken Social Scene

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Still working on that hot first release.



Interview: Broken Social Scene
- Story by Ryan Schreiber

It's been an eventful three years for Toronto collective Broken Social Scene. Since the 2002 release of their landmark second album, You Forgot It in People, they've become one of indie rock's most popular and beloved bands, toured the world countless times over, seen members split off to form successful bands in their own right, signed (and been released from) a major label record deal, issued a b-sides album, recorded a film soundtrack, broken up three times, been beaten by police and jailed, fought, obsessed, and struggled, and recorded enough material for three albums. We sat down this fall for interviews with co-frontmen Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, and producer David Newfeld, to see how they survived the carnage.

Pitchfork: To the casual observer, it might not seem that there was a long break between You Forgot It in People and the new album. When did you start work?

Kevin Drew: We never really stopped recording. I'd say we were back in spring of 2003.

Dave Newfeld: The previous album came out in late 2002, so really we started working in earnest in 2003 on it. In the meantime, we scored a film, the band was touring like crazy, and I made the Apostle of Hustle record. Everyone had their lives, had good things happen, bad things. Relationships start, relationships end. Circumstances change. Nothing's static. All that stuff gets put onto the CD indirectly.

Pitchfork: When did you know it was finally finished?

Kevin: The sessions never finished. They just didn't end. A lot of people were making their own records, so it was very full in the studio. There were never set times when we were to come to the studio and record.

Brendan Canning: We had planned on releasing it by February, then May was talked about as a release date, then June, and we just kept on missing all of those. [At one point] we started a new record, or at least what will become a new record eventually.

Dave: It was last minute. "Oh my God, we've got 30 tunes, what the fuck do we do? Is this a single album or a double album? Is everyone being properly represented? Is this too heavily a Kevin Drew album? We don't have an 'Anthem for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl'." But you don't know what you're going to get. I'm sure Smokey Robinson would love to write another "Tears of a Clown", but I don't think he's been able to do that for 25 years. He listens to these records and says, "That's me, but it's not me anymore."

Brendan: The recording, the mixing, the mastering, the song titling, it was all going on at the same time, right till the very end-- even the artwork. Everything was a race to the finish line.

Pitchfork: I know that you began putting together the b-sides collection Bee Hives not long after the release of You Forgot It in People. Had you been working on any material prior to that project that ended up on the new record?

Kevin: "It's All Gonna Break" was written in 2000 in my backyard on acoustic. So that's almost five years old. I think we recorded "7/4" in May 2003. "Superconnected" was recorded in August 2004. We kept first takes of everything. We had all the opportunity in the world to go back and re-record, and I think that's what people think we did, but we pretty much kept the original versions.

Pitchfork: When did you begin on Bee Hives and when did you complete it?

Brendan: Leslie [Feist]'s version of "Lover's Spit" was done in the UK, so that was probably the most recent recording there. "Backyards" was done at the Harris Institute of Technology, a music school that Kevin and others attended. And some of the other stuff-- the drumbeat from "Almost Crimes" was something Dave had sort of taken a loop of that, and Kevin really liked it, so we just added a bunch of stuff to that like a new bassline, a little guitar solo at the end...

Pitchfork: So you actually recorded some material exclusively for Bee Hives.

Kevin: Yeah. There's something about recording b-sides that's really fun.

Brendan: There was nobody saying, "Okay, let's record three new songs for Bee Hives." It was literally just, "This is what we have. Why don't we just fill in the gap a bit?" They're neat little experiments, and it is what it is, but it wasn't a big thing.

Pitchfork: Kevin had said that there wasn't a clear ending to the sessions for the new record. But of the stuff that made it onto the album, when did it arrive in the state that we get to hear it?

Brendan: Because we did so much of the tour, there's no real clear-cut line. There was no "we're going in to record an album." Because of the sporadic release of You Forgot It, it was a bit of a clusterfuck for us.

Pitchfork: What ended up happening with Mercury Records? You signed to them in 2003 for the UK, and then suddenly you were no longer affiliated.

Brendan: We signed in summer 2003 for subsequent albums after You Forgot It, which obviously never happened. For them, anyway.