Published Mar 17, 2014Broken Social Scene frontman-turned-solo-artist Kevin Drew has spent the better part of almost two decades creating a community, a business and, most importantly, a musical family. The co-founder of Toronto Arts & Crafts Records and leader of the constantly quasi-united BSS, Drew channels his passions into what appears to be a lot of projects all the time involving a colossal number of people. But that's just the way he enjoys things, surrounded by loved ones and what he describes as "a lot of fucking egos."
"What's innovative about Broken Social Scene is that we fucking pulled it off," he says, fondly looking back at the legacy of the band, who will reunite again for this year's second annual Field Trip festival in his hometown. "At the end of the day, it takes a group of people to show a group of people how to be a group of people."
Drew has also learned to scale back and minimize when he needs to, though, such as on his latest solo effort, Darlings. His first solo album since 2007's Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew Spirit If…, Drew attributes his most intimate, stripped-down work to date to some much-needed time off and a new, positive outlook on life that has even found Drew permanently inking the word "Yes" on the inside of his fingers. "I became a 'no' junkie and nowadays I'm just trying to keep it positive."
What are you up to?
Interesting you should ask! I just completed a record and I'm in my friend Charlie's old garage trying to learn what I did with a bunch of beautiful men.
Who's in the band right now?
It's Dean Stone from Apostle of Hustle, Dave Hamelin from Eight and A Half, Charles Spearin and Ohad Benchetrit from Do Make Say Think; Charlie has the Happiness Project and Ohad has Years. Also, a dear friend of mine Marty Kinack, who was our sound director live for years, and just to change it up — he's an incredible musician — I've asked him to join me onstage just to have it be different for the both of us.
So it's definitely different than when you toured Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew.
Spirit If was Social Scene. And that was based on two decisions: one because I couldn't do it without those guys and two, economically it was going to make sense for us to do that. Not doing it that way this time around, in a spiritual way, is very freeing, but in terms of the wallet it's very questionable. It's all up in the air still, what's going to happen with this. We have a few festivals booked and we're looking to book a tour in the fall, but what we're hoping for, because we're gamblers, if you make records and you own a label, and you're gambling with people's dreams and expectations for a living and considering that we're not at the top, we're in the middle. And there's no money in the middle and you never really know what's going to happen. It's up to the people. I was really hoping that this record can get to as many people as possible so that then the demand would come, that they would see that this is very much an element of what has always been done in my career for the last 17 years and that's trying to make epic jams for people to feel better.
What are your current fixations?
I'm exercising a lot, so running has now become a part of my life. I was really good at running away, but I was never really that great at running from A to B to C to D. So I decided to put on some shoes, take it easy on my knees and my chins and my hips. I'm stretching because I have a problem with my lower back. As I get older, muscles are locking together. I'm starting to shoot for weekly sobriety. There's too much to do and the drinks table, as you get older…it's not coke, it's not pot, it's booze. And this winter, I'm seeing a theme amongst many where the ceiling has been hit and the unnecessary has become a pattern. It's all about how you carry yourself in this world and I've spent ten years going through this world and I've ended up in the most beautiful places and I've ended up in ditches and thought "Alright, I should balance that out." It's an ongoing thing.
How long has that been going on for?
Oh this weekend, I got off the wagon for a while. I just think every now and then you've got to change your relationship with things. If you lose control and if you lose power, that's just not a great sign of things and I love this city a lot. I live in restaurants and in bars, I hang out with the staff and I like chatting with strangers, it's always been something that I enjoyed. And I figured if I'm going to slur my words, I may as well make it count. It's just, what do you do in Toronto? What is there to do? You can drive out to Lawrence and so and so and hang out in a trampoline centre… We have such a wonderful restaurant scene here, especially in the past few years, and there's nothing I love more than sitting at a restaurant, eating a lovely meal and drinking wine and just chatting away. That's where I'm at my best.
Why do you live where do you?
I've never lived anywhere else and I've been schooled by friends like, "You've gotta get out of here, you've got to live somewhere else," but I've had a love-hate relationship with this city just because that's what you have when you're constantly around. But I like this city; I think this city's incredible. I'm not into the city planners, I don't think they've done a wonderful job with the condominium layout in our town, I feel like we've been extremely abused by them. But I like the people, I have a wonderful family who lives here and I'm very close with my family and at the end of the day, I have a routine. I kind of go and hang out in the same places because I'm a child of the Cheers generation. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and there's something comforting about that. I just like the people here. I've said it many, many times, it's a wonderful city. I find the people are getting friendlier even though the population is getting condensed and it's tense now. The traffic situation is terrible, every day I have to remind myself not to join the road rage club. I think getting around is very difficult. I find that in the winter time, this is not great for the older generation and how they upkeep with the weather. It's very difficult getting around, people are slipping and falling, but this is a good town and it needs to be united by the people and there has to be a fight for the city and we know that this year more than ever. We're going into a fight. I'm certainly not leaving, I'm sticking around.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art.
Right before I got here I was listening to "Tenderness" by General Public — is that a mind-altering work of art or is that just a really fucking important song for this day and age? It's up to you. I met my friend's baby the other day, that was pretty beautiful, that was a pretty mind-altering work of art. So how about that?
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
We played Lollapalooza in 2006, I believe, and there's nothing like it. There were two main stages, we closed the second stage. Right at the end, it was us and then the Red Hot Chili Peppers across the field and the crowd there, I think that was it. We had everyone there except for Jason Collett, unfortunately, but everyone else was there. We had 40 minutes to come out and play our guts out and we did that and the crowd wouldn't let us leave the stage for 15 minutes. We weren't allowed to. And it was at that moment where we all looked at each other and that could've been it. Three weeks later, we were in Wales playing a church, I was getting into an argument with one of the security guards… and that point in 2006, I'd never felt anything like that and that's what you aspire to reach. That's a goal that you want. You do this thing so that you can be in front of people, you do this thing so that you can connect with as many people as you possibly can and I always try to maintain that being in the crowd and being onstage is the same thing. I don't want to alienate myself or put myself in a higher position than the people who are in the room with me. And to connect with however many people there were, that was when we looked around and that weekend Feist was there, Stars were there, Metric were there, and we all got to get together and be the band that we were supposed to be. I'll never forget that.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Well that was a career high. Lows…I don't know. I don't think I've particularly had any. Life's a state of mind. A career low for me could be someone's high, so why would I complain about it? I know other people's career lows were probably some of my highest moments! So, I know at times career lows would be based on my behaviour or how much of a whiny, sulky baby I was. I remember when Spirit If came out; I wasn't in the greatest form. We were working and we found it really frustrating and I've always had my little regret for that. I wrote my apology letters. It just falls down to how misguided you will let yourself become so in my memories I try to leave the misguided parts behind and just honour the fact that I'm still here, I'm still doing what I want. I pay rent, I take people around town, I wine and dine and just try to hug. Gotta hug it out sometimes.
What's the meanest thing every said to you before, during or after a gig?
"That was the worst show I have possibly ever seen." Portugal: we were supposed to go on at 1:30 a.m., we got on at 3:30 in the morning. We had just arrived from Germany and the band just proceeded to have a great time backstage and quite possibly consumed too much of this liquid that has this thing called alcohol in it. And when we took to the stage, it was a disaster. It was an absolute disaster. And it wasn't even that we were drunk or anything, we were exhausted, we were tired, all our gear was all back lined, and it was all rented. Nothing was working. Songs were going in and out. It was the first and last time ever that our drummer Justin just threw his drum kit out on the stage and walked off. Our sound guy Marty wore the wristband from the show for years after as a reminder that we should never, ever, ever, ever go there again. So I remember I got offstage and I just bolted to this tent that was throwing this party and I walked right into this tent and I bumped into this tall guy and he said, "I love you, I love everything about you guys — that was the worst show I've ever seen," and I looked at him and I said "Thanks, bro," and I turned around and went back to my hotel. It's hard when you have a really bad show, but sometimes when you're touring — and this goes for anything — when it's just a bad moment, it's just a horrible feeling. It's no different than a relationship when things go sour and you end on a bad note.
What should everyone shut up about?
I think we all know the answer, considering we live in Toronto.
Does it start with an 'R' and end with an '-ob Ford'?
It starts with an A, ends with an E. And hopefully that day will come.
What traits do you most like and dislike about yourself?
I'm in love with myself or I wouldn't be sitting here with you right now! I think we all have things we like and dislike about ourselves. Obviously I have to sell myself, I have to convince you and your readers that I'm worth your time, that my music should be listened to, but I can't do the bullshit. And I know my failures and the things that I'm doing wrong and I know the things that I'm doing right. I believe you have to be who you are; I believe you shouldn't fight it. I think there's too much pressure around society trying to show you all these options you have and it builds indecision inside of you. There's a lot of digital fluff out there, there's a lot of emotional stress that comes with it and I very much try to stay away from that even though I'm a sucker. But I think the one thing that we all would love to stay clear of is indecision. It's a tough one.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Driving through the country with the person you want to be with. Pull over at a nice little bar, a chicken caesar and a pint of beer. Look at the trees, look at the snow, look at the clouds — that's it. Getting out of the city is always the perfect Sunday.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
How much time do we have here? Um, "Don't go that route!"
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
No. Look, I don't put myself in those positions. I mean obviously, everyone's allowed in the band. We became known for that. As far as my bed's concerned, that's my bed. That's your place, if someone's in my bedroom there's no fucking way I'm kicking you out.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of kind people who say I'm sorry.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Supertramp, Crime of the Century on cassette. I remember telling this story the other day — I remember borrowing money off a girl that I was "going around with" at Sherway Gardens to buy Barbed Wire Kisses by Jesus and Mary Chain.
Did you pay her back?
I did pay her back. I think we were going to see Vice Versa with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. I was on a double date and I heard this song "Sidewalking" on the radio earlier that week and I just for some reason always remember purchasing that cassette. It changed a lot of things for me.
What was your most memorable day job?
I PA'd a lot on film sets and I worked for just a couple of people who enjoyed me and I enjoyed them. So when You Forgot It In People was finished, I turned to one of the companies and said "I'll just do the WWE gigs." So I got to do a lot of these wrestling gigs and meet a lot of wrestlers and I loved it, I had a great time.
How do you spoil yourself?
You take baths in the daytime.
If I wasn't playing music, I would be…
Helping people play music, making films, producing. I like helping people; I get a lot out of it. It got a little tiring on the music side because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and when it doesn't, it guilts. You take it home with you, it doesn't leave you. And I've really had to come to terms with that, as I get older, being involved with this label is that some of these projects aren't going to work out. But it's an emotional hit for me. Obviously, like with kids, you want your children to do well. You want everyone to do well and when something just doesn't connect, but it completely connects with you, it's kind of difficult to work out and apologize for. You feel like you've done something wrong. I have a massive guilt complex in life because I'm Canadian!
What do you fear most?
In all my nightmares, I'm basically at the edge and I can't move and it's a long way down. It does that feeling where you just shut down and your whole body becomes warm soup, it's all fluid and you can't move because you're just seeping out over everywhere. And then you toss a shark in there and I'm finished!
What makes you want to take it all off and get it on?
I could keep it on and have the same feeling nowadays. I know it kind of sounds inappropriate to the question, but I think keeping it on is doing it for me nowadays. The breath, breathing close to you is just as satisfying as a hail to the gods.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I don't know. I have to think about that…
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Well, I'll make a Bolognese, I pride myself on that. I've been doing it for years, mastering new ways of doing it, constantly trying to up my game and figure out new ingredients. I've tried it in all kinds of places. So I would cook that, that's for sure. Who would I want to sit and have a meal with? There are a lot of people in my life that I don't see anymore, that's who I'd like to sit and have a meal with. There's not enough time to honour all the people who are great in your world and I've truly surrounded myself with some of the greats. I've been trying get together with my friend Eric now for two months, this guy was a mentor to me. So hopefully Eric and I can get a meal in together, it's about time. I could use him right now.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She worries about me and the ladies. Mom wants kids, but generally mom wants me to be happy and as long as I'm happy, she's happy. She's proud, she's good and we hang, we're tight. I think if I was doing a duet with Rod Stewart, she would have a stroke just out of joy. And I'm not saying that that's not an option yet. It's still a lifelong goal, I'll figure out some way to collaborate with him for my mom, but mom's good with me. I think she just wishes that I had some kids, which I think all parents want.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
There are too many tunes. My funeral, I hope, will be a three-day festival of all the songs that I love and enjoy. And I hope there will be a lot of sing-alongs and audience participation.
So, like a future Field Trip?
Exactly. But also, you've got to understand that a lot of the music I love is instrumental so if people can figure out how to hum a Do Make Say Think tune then I'm good.