Broken Social Scene are tired of their logistical nightmare: the cramped living quarters, the massive guest lists and the dinner bills that inevitably come up short — essentially all the trappings of hauling a band of 16-plus people around the country in a tour bus.
In addition to these obstacles, the Toronto indie-rock collective has had to rethink its lineup, having lost members of Stars and Metric, guitarist Jason Collett and vocalist Feist to their own touring and recording obligations. On certain days the group seems like it could collapse at any moment. But this is a band that has announced its last show more than a few times, and the machine has kept chugging along.
Changes are on the horizon, though. BSS recently played at the Sundance Film Festival and have already scored two films: Canadian director Bruce McDonald’s “The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess” (2004) and the upcoming “Snow Cake,” starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Sigourney Weaver.
Devotees can expect more cinematic excursions. “That’s the [direction] we’re heading in,” singer Kevin Drew said. “When you have kids and homes, you don’t want to make your living touring. Plus, I came into all this trying to do music for films.”
Another film, the Brooklyn-based indie “Half Nelson” (starring Ryan Gosling), also features Social Scene songs, albeit not tailored compositions. The filmmakers asked to use a whopping 16 songs from the first two BSS records, Feel Good Lost and You Forgot It in People. Naturally, the band was a bit dubious at first.
“I thought it was absurd to take all this music,” Drew said. “But it’s a really honest film.”
“Parts of [the film's story] were inspired by the music we did years ago, so in that regard it’s an honor,” said bassist/singer Brendan Canning.
The rockers had a rough summer in 2005, pulling out their hair and making last-minute decisions about the mixes, title and artwork for their third album, which eventually was released as a self-titled effort (see “Broken Social Scene’s Agenda: Two LPs, Touring, Hating On Audioslave” ).
Various members were missing in action, and the record leaked early, all causing tensions to run high. “At the time it was all very personal — a very, very difficult record to finish,” Drew said. “It was a frustrating time.” The band actually recorded two albums during that period, one with producer David Newfeld (Broken Social Scene) and one with Toronto post-rockers Do Make Say Think’s Ohad Benchetrit (now a more integrated member of BSS).
The original strategy was for the Benchetrit-helmed record to come out in 2006, but that album has been put on hold for now (see “Broken Social Scene’s Hard Road To Windsurfing Nation“ ). Instead the band is thinking about solo-driven Social Scene records — essentially scaled down, more manageable versions of the collective.
“I’m gonna do a solo record, [Brendan and Ohad] are gonna do solo records,” Drew said. “If we tour, it’s gonna be so amazing just to [hit the road on a small scale]. Going into a restaurant, I’ve never been able to ask for a table for three, and that would be nice one day.”
However, like all of their ever-evolving schemes, Drew warns that it could all change at a moment’s notice. “We always do this — we put our feet in our mouths and regret it later. Then all of a sudden people are like, ‘Solo records!’
“Realistically, Broken Social Scene have to change a little bit, because we’re really fortunate, but to have the big crew — it’s expensive,” he continued. “Creatively, people want a little bit of freedom, so maybe we’ll do a [solo] Social Scene series. Then afterwards I think it would be good to be a band again.”
The cooperative hopes that Broken Social Scene will have a long shelf life, because a slew of videos is being planned. The band recently shot a clip with Micah Meisner (K-OS, Metric) for “7/4 (Shoreline)” that features vocalist Leslie Feist. Additional videos for “Fire-Eyed Boy,” “Swimmers,” “Hotel” and “Windsurfing Nation” are also in the works.