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Broken Social Scene on Arroyo Seco Weekend and why 'live music is essential in this lifetime'

by Michelle Lanz | The Frame

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Broken Social Scene. Photo credit: Danielle St. Laurent

The Canadian supergroup is just one of the 37 musical acts playing at the Arroyo Seco music and arts fest this weekend. Along with headliners Tom Petty and Mumford and Sons, this band has a very loyal fanbase here in Southern California.

Arroyo Seco will be just a one-off show for them ahead of a full tour later this fall in support of a new album, called "Hug of Thunder" — It’s the first record from Broken Social Scene in seven years.

Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning are co-founders of the band, which also includes a whole slew of musicians, including Leslie Feist and Emily Haines, among others. Broken Social Scene is known for its high-energy stage presence, which isn’t hard to imagine, since the band swells to more than a dozen people on stage at once.

When we got Drew and Canning on the line it was clear that playing music festivals like Arroyo Seco speaks to a reason for being for this band.

"We're out here to play for the people, that's why we're coming back. We want to experience the moments. We're in the memory-making business. We're here to make memories and we're here to collect memories. The whole weekend is going to be something great for the people, so we wanted to be a part of it, so we're glad they asked us," said Drew.

Click the play button above to hear the full interview

Interview Highlights:

On coordinating a tour with a band made up of so many members:

Brendan Canning: It's just a lot of emails at the end of the day, and everyone is also committed to this band in one way or another...It's the same way we started out. 2003 was more phone calls than emails, but it's ultimately the same thing.  

Kevin Drew: You have to go beyond the wallet, you have to take it for a spiritual reason, and we're grateful that everyone does come on board, and people have other outlets, obviously, Metric, Stars, Feist, Do Make Say Think. All of us just end up being this huge crew of friends who have known each other, some of us for 26 years and we're still here doing it and we're still supporting each other. You rely on your team...we have a lot of people just doing it for the love. My lady and my father working for free, we have friends that have been helping us out for years, so it's just this massive team and crew that help support us and when we get out here, it's a tour de force that helps us get there so we can't take that for granted. 

On how they grew as people and as a band in the 7 years between their last album and Hug of Thunder:

BC: You grow when you're apart, and we needed the space to grow to understand how important each other are to one another and what you build together.

KD: It is a memory muscle, a melody that brings us together. When we got in the room it is an instant connection because of all the time you've spent together and also when we were apart we were still very much in each other's lives. It's not about you in Broken Social Scene, it really is about serving the song and serving the music. 

On the making of the song "Hug of Thunder":

BC: That song was really written right on the spot, like literally we were in the middle of recording something else and then we just switched gears. The first take, Kevin looked over at Niles Spencer, our engineer, he was recording, and that's really how it went down. Everything you hear is all on the spot. 

KD: And I was a witness to it. I was sort of in sleep, waking up and kind of aggravated with what they were working on and it just turned into that. It's one of those great moments where you look over at Niles saying 'Please God tell me you're recording this, and it's just this big grin on his face. I knew that there was some magic that was coming out of spontaneity, which is few and far between. To have those moments still within all the noise, I think that's how this title came about to become the record. Leslie [Feist] said this song's called Hug of Thunder, and just that sentiment alone and the idea of how that song was written, we wanted that to be the driving force behind the whole package. 

On whether the album has a cohesive message or vision:

KD: We're singing about the struggle, and we're singing about continuing and we're singing about track 3 in Tom Waits' Mule Variations, 'Hold on.' That's what we're singing about. If you look around you and you look at a lot of our peers and you look at a lot of people's commentary, that's what a lot of the themes are obviously due to the times that we're living in. When you have that kind of notion happening between a group of people, no one sits down and talks about what their lyrics are going to be, you go on the feel. The feel is what guides you when you know people so well...you're sort of locked into the same mind frame. You have the same heartbeats. 

On why music festivals and concerts like Arroyo Seco Weekend are important for our culture:

KD: It's for the people. Live music is essential. It's essential in this lifetime, that's where you get together and you celebrate, and they can't take that away from you. Yeah, you have to squeeze your wallet sometimes to appear there, but live music is important. It's a place where you come together and you scream and you feel and you feel that sense of joy and you need that. As we see this world, everything's just becoming accepted and things are shutting down and the value of art gets questioned every single time you walk out the door. Live music is something that defines who you are, defines where you want to be, you need soundtracks in your lives. When we come to these festivals, we're here to celebrate.

On performing at Albert Hall in Manchaster not long after the mass shooting at an Ariana Grande concert:

KD: I think we meant what we said that night. When the people came out to the show and we realized it wasn't going to be cancelled there was no place we'd rather be than there with them and to see that city come together that day. A lot of us went to the vigil in the town square. We were together as friends, it was a memory that we won't forget. The people who were in the audience that night, they humbled us and I don't know what else to say, it was something that really made us all look at each other and know that we were here for the right reasons and continued that tour with that feeling and it never left. I don't think it's ever going to leave, because here we are now and we got some kids with us, we've got fresh babies with us. 

BC: It definitely cast a certain positivity on this group, because you just become thankful for what you have after something like that. 

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