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f media hype could actually kill a band, then Montreal's Wolf Parade should be mortally wounded by now. Months before the release of their debut album, Apologies to the Queen Mary (produced in part by Isaac Brock, booze-guzzling lead singer of Modest Mouse), the band had been granted "Next Big Thing" status by everyone from Rolling Stone to the New York Times, who declared Montreal ground zero for an indie-rock orgy. Hot local bands include The Dears, The Unicorns, and Wolf Parade friends and tourmates Arcade Fire, whose grandiose, haunting album Funeral might provide the best possible template for the "Montreal sound." Wolf Parade's label, SubPop, even released a self-titled EP meant to capitalize on the buzz, which included such stunners as the coarse, crashing "You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son." That song begins Apologies on an eerie note that never quite lets go. If guitarist Dan Boeckner, who alternates lead vocals with Spencer Krug, is sick of the hype — and he is — that doesn't take away from the fact that Apologies actually lives up to the hype. Mysterious, artful, bleak, and yet somehow containing glimmers of hope, the album is a treasure. No wonder Boeckner's enjoying the indie bachelor life — in a morose, Canadian sort of way. — Sarah Hepola
This morning I got a mass email from Amazon asking me to buy Wolf Parade's new CD. They sent it out to anyone who bought a copy of the Arcade Fire album.
Dan Boeckner: That's fucking retarded. Are you serious? That's the stupidest thing I've heard. Oh, well, whatever. That just really pisses me off. I mean, they're two different bands who happen to be friends. There are some parallels — like, there's guitars and drums in both bands — but we're coming from completely different aesthetic places. It makes me so mad. If you ram something down someone's throat enough, they're just gonna puke eventually.
I get the suspicion you're tired of all the fanfare about Montreal.
I think it's been hyperbolized to the point where there's nowhere to go but straight into the shitter. Which is probably a good thing. But it's going to mean that a lot of bands that are coming up right now get overlooked because people are going to be bored of the Montreal scene.
But you can't deny it's good for the country's indie cred. Until recently, the only musician most Americans associated with Canada was Celine Dion.
Yeah, that's true. And Bryan Adams. It's weird. It doesn't seem like anything special happened in Montreal.
One of the theories of the New York Times article on Montreal was that since a lot of these bands are English-speaking, and therefore a minority, they banded together and created a kind of artistic community.
That's totally valid. It's like a small community within a larger French-speaking nation. Quebec is completely different from the rest of Canada. Coming from British Columbia, like most of us did, it's like moving to another country. So you get this small pocket of ex-patriates who mostly moved there for the arts or for school, and that creates this bohemian subculture. It's actually a pretty cheap city to live in — cheap to go out, cheap to get a good meal. But rent is going up. Everything is becoming gentrified.
So let's talk about your sound. I hear a lot of David Bowie in these songs.
That might be Spencer [Krug]'s voice. And we have keyboards. I don't know. Where do you get that?
Part of it is Spencer's voice, but there's also a theatricality and build to the sound that reminds me of Bowie's 70s glam stuff.
Yeah, there's some drama going on, for sure. Huh. I always just think of us as a punk-rock band.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Speed metal. I grew up in this small redneck town north of Victoria. Metallica's Master of Puppets was the first record I really got into. Then I started getting into post-hardcore, like Unwound and Universal Order of Armageddon and other West Coast post-hardcore bands. A lot of that Olympia, Washington, stuff.
I don't really hear the influence on your music. Do you?
There's one song, "Fancy Claps," that pretty much sounds like Iron Maiden. It's got double guitars and a speed-metal feel. But other than that, I think I just grew out of it. I've just started going back to the hardcore stuff I used to listen to, which is nice.
There's something pure about the music you love when you were a kid, because you just like what you like — in my case, Lionel Richie.
You go through this phase where you disown it for a while. And then you just become comfortable with getting older, and you realize it doesn't matter.
You have a pretty cryptic songwriting style. Are any of your songs love songs?
Almost all of them. "This Heart's on Fire" I wrote for my girlfriend at the time and for my mom, who died. When that happened, my girlfriend was the only person around me who was really, really supportive. She went away for Christmas, and I wanted to write a song for her. "We Built Another World" is about this time she and I went to a Halloween party and got thrown out for breakdancing. And also fighting with some people. We were super-drunk and on this street laughing, and it started snowing. It was the first snow I'd ever seen in Montreal. And we ended up in the back of this cab just making out.
If you're writing about a breakup or a girlfriend, is it important for you to disguise what you're talking about? To mask it with metaphor?
Less and less. The new stuff that I've been writing is really topical. It was important at one time, and now it's not. Especially since my girlfriend and I split up I feel less of a need to protect anybody's identity. I'm trying to be less metaphorical, if that doesn't sound too pretentious.
You and Spencer share lead vocals. Who gets more girls?
I don't know. Probably me. Because [sighs] because I hate myself.
Pitchfork loves you guys. Do you know Pitchfork?
The tyrants of the indie-rock world?
Right. So I read the site a lot, but sometimes their descriptions are so absurd. In one review, they wrote that a Wolf Parade song had an "equatorial, upbeat blender of various vocal lines and wool-blanket, laser-tag keyboards."
Hmm. I think I can decode that. By "equatorial," they probably mean "mid-tempo." And by "wool-blanket," they probably mean "poorly recorded." A lot of that stuff is written by frustrated creative writing students. But it made sense to me.
Anyone writing about music has the dual challenge of making sense while trying to sound original.
Totally. There was a magazine called Bananafish from San Francisco that only reviewed fucked-up noise music in the mid- to late-'90s. They had the best music reviews outside Lester Bangs and all that classic '70s criticism. Their reviews were amazing, because they were like short stories, and by the time you got to the punchline you'd realize it described the album, and you'd wanna start over and read through it again. I guess it would only work for noise bands, right? Because they're completely abstract. They'd evoke the specific sounds, like, 'This sounds like a frog being thrown at the side of a semi-truck.'
Speaking of abstract, tell me what a wolf parade is.
I have no idea. There's no meaning. There's nothing. I made it up.
Oh, come on. It came from somewhere.
I had a band named Atlas Strategic, and we were playing with this other band, Mice Parade, in Victoria. We were basically a bunch of fucking jerks, and we got into an altercation with this other band, and we changed the marquee to say, "Atlas Strategic and Spirit of Wolf Parade" instead of Mice Parade, because we found this giant airbrushed painting of a wolf, which we hung up behind them while they were playing. That's it. It's just a dumb joke. And then when Spencer and I were getting this band together and needed a name, I still thought it was hilarious. Now I don't think it's so funny anymore. It's really kind of stupid.
So how long until we hear Wolf Parade on The OC?
That's not gonna happen. We met with the record label, and even though there's some people who might like that, I can't think of anything I'd feel proud of putting a Wolf Parade song behind, anything that would make me feel happy or even morally comfortable. I like some TV shows, but I just think there's a place for music, and it's not on TV. It's for people to listen to in its own context at a sweaty club with your friends. Now, I'll eat my words if I get a cocaine habit.
Then you'll be on Fear Factor. You'll be on any TV show that asks.
Hell, I'll be shilling, like, crackers in commercials. For sure. n°
© 2005 Sarah Hepola and Nerve.com.