Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew Spirit If…

Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew Spirit If…
Filed as a BSS presentation, Kevin Drew’s first quasi-solo effort, Spirit If…, seems to have its musical soul entwined more closely with KC Accidental, Drew’s pre-Scene ambient electro instrumental project with Charles Spearin. Granted, many of the usual suspects are at play from the Broken camp but Spirit’s songs are more simply structured and less raucous in their experimentation, building slowly to transcendent grandeur from humble chord motifs. Ohad and Charles of Do Make Say Think apply their production flourishes with class, splattering and dashing each warmly personal pop song with unique layers that breathe enough to never crowd the melodies. Lush horns, buzzing synths, soaring, skittering strings, chiming keys and bells, hazy voices, a plethora of guitar noises and inventive sound manipulation make every song its own world, sonically and emotionally. "Farewell to the Pressure Kids” opens the album with crashing exuberance before giving way to more subdued material for the next six tracks. Charming quirks don’t quite mask the encumbering nostalgia in parts of this first movement, though the sentiment feels genuine. The bulk of the more boldly engaging material is on the disc’s latter half, making Spirit If feel split, but this is an album that rewards attention, right up to the last fading sound wave.

There’s a lot of talk about pressure in the lyrics. What do you feel are major pressures?
I think instant gratification is a massive pressure. Fear, obviously, is a simple one to notice. I also think following traditions make our generations turn out to be failures. Because we’re following traditions from a time when they weren’t dealing with everything we are now. I find that we haven’t adapted well to the new world we’re living in, in terms of relationships and marriage, all of these things.

Are the lyrics improvised?
Mostly. A couple songs were written and everything else was improvised. You can hear that I’m not quite finishing sentences and we couldn’t re-do it because of the feel. You just can’t fuck with the feel and that’s the whole reason why we make this stuff in the first place; they just have to remain that way. We turned the vocals up on this one. People say "You’ve got to turn up the vocals” and I just look at them and I’m like, "What do you want?”
What do you hope listeners will get out of this album?
I’m not hoping for much except that they use it for their own personal use. It’s interesting you ask that because I was kind of thinking, "I have to start answering questions like this now.” So for a question like, "What do I hope listeners get out of it?” I just hope it makes them feel closer to the idea that it’s okay to be whoever you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed or fucked up or you hurt or you’re hurting or whatever. That’s the whole last song; it’s going to be hard when we get to the end, but don’t forget what you felt. It’s a strange record because I’m left alone to talk about it. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just don’t have a desire to. I’m going to Japan tomorrow to do all these interviews and I’m realising that I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s kind of weird.

Have you had a longer history with singing or is it something you’ve gotten into later on? I got into it with You Forgot it in People basically, that’s when I first started singing. Brendan Canning and Evan Cranley were the two guys who said, "You start singing and we’ll get behind you.” With this one I just kind of winged it; I didn’t really think about it much. And it’s funny because some people say, "I can’t hear what you’re saying,” but it’s because I’m just making it up on the spot.

It seems like you treat vocals more as part of the whole picture.
It’s part of the whole picture; it’s part of the song! I have absolutely no desire to have voices and the music behind them, even though that’s the way it goes in traditional records.

The pop format?
Well, that’s just the way right now, I don’t think it was the way back then and definitely within indie rock you’re not supposed to hear them! Don’t tell me the fuckin’ lyrics, man!

Parts of this album remind me of the ambient layering of KC Accidental, particularly "Gangbang Suicide.” Yeah, it’s a bit of a "choose your own” adventure record. They all are — the records I’ve always been involved with — because we like to do whatever we want, then when we try to fit it in.

What time period were these songs written during?
Basically between 2005 and 2007, like February to February.

Was that going on concurrently with the Broken Social Scene recording?
There were tons of other recordings but I kind of popped two out and started to focus more on them.

How did you decide which songs would go under each banner?
Well, it’s interesting, a song like "Big Love,” that was an Ohad and Charles song that I sang on, and then as the record was ending they both were kind of like, "We should just put this on the album,” you know, be my Matrix producers. And I loved it for sure. So that’s a really interesting aspect where I think Ohad was working on that in ’04 and "Broke Me Up” was actually recorded in ’04. But it’s done through a period of time and it’s a personal fucking record. I’m really looking forward to putting it out and then just moving on, makin’ another one, keep going; I want to get back into the Social Scene world. I want to start making crazy music again. It was nice to go off and do this, to just have a bit of a break from all the craziness.

Is David Newfeld involved in any of this recording?
He plays on it a bit. He plays some bongos and acoustic on one of the tracks. I mean the guest list is like this [gestures to suggest size] on this album, I really should release it. I thought I would, but then people were talking to me and I was like, [apprehensive lip sucking sound].

It’s a curiosity.
It’s a curiosity. Well, Mascis is on there, obviously, as you can hear, Spiral Stairs, from Pavement and Preston School of Industry, with Tom Cochrane on the same track.

Tom, really?
Tom’s singing on "Lucky Ones!”

Tom needs more attention.
Yeah, he does.

Who and what were some of the inspirations behind this album?
It was mainly an internal thing, just deciding whatever came out at the moment was what it was about. I never sort of thought I’d make the "you and I” record like I did but it seemed to just happen. It’s not really the greatest thing to go and make personal albums. I always said to Ohad, "the worst thing about this record is going to be putting it out, ’cause it was just such an amazing process [the creation]. But the talking about it, and the judging and all that stuff, it’s you know, you’ve got to have a thick skin.

How has the increased media exposure affected your life and how you make your art?
There’s no media exposure. It’s like people in Toronto who know this music scene obviously who know who I am. We have a following, we’ve got a good set of people and that’s about it. I’m running into kids now who are like 20, 22 years old and they were 14, 15 when You Forgot It In People came out. And that’s the record. I don’t meet any Social Scene fans that are like, "Hey, man, I really like the last one.” It’s all like, "You Forgot It In People, You Forgot It In People

Are you concerned with the ecological impact being a performer has?
Yeah, of course. I’m flying to Tokyo tomorrow; it’s my fourth fucking time. I fly all the fucking time. All I do is fly. And then if I’m not flying, I’m in a bus. The buses you can start to get a handle on, there are a lot of buses out there that are environmentally in check, but the flying… You have to start to counteract it and there are ways of doing things I really haven’t gotten my shit together quite yet to do.

Any predictions about the future of civilization at the moment?
I actually believe it’s going to get better. I think inevitably even the stupidest people in the world are going to have to say, "wait a second,” ’cause they’re just going to see it falling apart in front of them. And I think like most people you can’t really accept it until you see it, feel it or go through it. We’ve had a very big push in the last three years about, "okay, wait a second, the world’s dying.” And "wait a second, that war that’s happening, that actually is shit,” and people are like, "It’s not shit! It’s not shit! It’s not… oh what the fuck!?! What’re we doing over there, Jimmy?” So I think the start was Mother Nature revealing the world was fucked with the hurricane that went through New Orleans, which was a big point. And also the way the country reacted to that, so I thought that was the impact of where there was a shift in people’s opinions, and it’s been going on since. It’s like that set the dominos going. So I’ve got a lot of hope. I just saw Who Killed the Electric Car? — it’s so fucking depressing and right at the end after all these infuriating conversations these people still are like, "Ahh, don’t worry about it, it’s going to come back, it’s going to be amazing.” And I couldn’t believe they were ending it by wrapping it up with these people who fought so hard and lost still standing there saying, "Don’t worry, it’s coming back.”

In regards to the promo clip on the Arts and Crafts site, what kind of porn goes best with cereal?
You know what? That was actually people fucking through the wall. But the best kind of porn that goes with cereal is the tender kind. Tender cereal porn, you cannot watch the hardcore.

How have you perceived the evolution of music in the past seven or so years?
I think it won. I think the underdogs came out strikingly amazing. I think the home studios put a lot of things into perspective. I think the Internet created a whole new method of distributing sound and people’s bands. I think the 12-year olds who have their own huge critic music blogs are running the world and I think it just made it so there’re no bullies anymore, anyone can do anything. The unfortunate thing that happened was that all the rulebooks got thrown out. Remember how like even four years ago you couldn’t do music for a commercial? And then bands slowly started and now it’s like no one gives a shit. You can do whatever you want and no one’s going to attack you. I always found that funny. There was a serious rulebook when I started ten years ago and now I can’t even find it. I can’t even find a photocopy of it. It’s just gone like somebody burned it. Did you see that Timberlake fuckin’ McDonald’s commercial? They literally drop the fucking Timberlake vinyl with the McDonald’s logo in the middle and there are people roller-skating hand in hand in front and that song, I like that song! When I hear it I’m like, "damn, turn it up.” But then suddenly I’m watching McDonald’s and hear it again and I’m like, "it’s still a good song, I guess.”

It’d be nice to see a little more personal integrity.
I’d like to see it but I don’t think that’s part of it anymore. I think it’s just people hear your music on these commercials and go buy your records. It’s no different than radio. That’s what commercials have become. It’s no different than licensing to film.

Do you have any plans to revisit instrumental music?
Yeah, time to shut the fuck up, so I look forward to it. I don’t know what happened, you know? I started singing and then things got really weird. I’m not shooting for gold; I never really was. I always told the boys and girls in Social Scene that this band, no matter what your other bands are doing, are going for the Sonic Youth career. I want to be 65 and rocking out and I want the peaks and valleys to be very smooth. I’m not going for the instant gratification, I’m going for the longevity of trying to please people and make good music.

I think people really appreciate the music you make partly because you don’t take them for granted and actually challenge the listener.
I know but I don’t really think people want a challenge anymore. I think you get a couple shots and there’s so much music that it’s just like, "You know what? I don’t need this; I don’t want to work to enjoy this record.” And god knows I’m guilty of that. I’ll hear an album and be like, "That sucks, put on Deerhoof or whatever,” and that’ll come on and I’ll be like, "This is good, all right!” Then you hear another one and you’re like, "err, I don’t know.”

It’d be great to see another show with all the Social Scene-related bands together like those couple of Lee’s Palace shows.
We will. I think everyone’s just got to go and reach these levels of where they feel okay about it and then we can go back and do it, and the fans can establish how it comes across, but we’ll all be able to get back and play together.

Have any recent artists blown your mind?
I love that Colleen woman from France. Her new record’s amazing. I got sideswiped by the National’s The Boxer record, oh man! I felt like I was running through the rain, going to find my love, and those records are important. I like the new Rick White album. That’s a saucy little number. There have been a bunch of records recently. I’ve been listening to the new Collette record, trying to get my head around the sequencing. Oh, and Lightning Dust. That’s a fucking cool record; it’s pretty wild. They’re pretty cool. That Black Mountain posse, man, they’re kind of untouchable. They put out stuff and it’s amazing. (Arts & Crafts)