Interview with Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, who performs Wednesday in the Mission

Brendan Canning, who released his second solo LP a few weeks back, performs this Wednesday at the Chapel, so we asked our pal Jarid Maged, a legit BSS scholar, to perform a Q&A. Here it is:

Jarid: Back when the Broken Social Scene Presents solo records were released, they sounded to many like bonus BSS albums, so much so that BSS band mates toured in support of those records, and their songs later resurfaced at BSS shows. This album, however, is very different. No Broken Social Scene Presents, no Arts & Crafts (rather, your own Draper Street Records). You Gots 2 Chill is so laid back, so beautiful, that I’ve found it really hard to call this a true sophomore solo record (in the wake of Something For All of Us). What was it that steered you in this direction?

Brendan: It’s true. The BSS presents series was more of a way more Kevin and myself to have a final and unequivocal say on how our albums should sound without having to check with everyone. Everyone in BSS had their own bands: we did not; and so I suppose YG2C is really my first solo effort and my new band has no direct affiliation to BSS. Although Greg Calderone, multi-instrumentalist in my band, starred in This Movie is Broken.

For the past fifteen years or so I’ve been playing more and more acoustic guitar, so much so that I would say it’s my primary instrument. That is the inspiration behind this album. A lot of years of collecting riffs, developing my style
and then finally the opportunity to breathe and make some creations that I’ve wanted to make. The first installment if you will.

With this record, did you feel at all liberated with distancing yourself from Broken Social Scene Presents? Given that this is the first solo record since the hiatus was announced, did the core members of BSS – or your own time in BSS – have any influence at all on the final product?

Ohad Benchetrit of BSS/Do Make Say Think and myself collab’d on Post Fahey and Makes You Motor at his studio Th’ Schvitz. Those tunes were finished before I did the bulk of this record with Steve Singh, also a band mate and high school chum.
He also runs a home studio, Hutch.

Like many major cities, Toronto’s changing with the times, becoming, like San Francisco, very tech heavy (and very expensive). When I think Toronto, the last thing that comes to mind these days is the ability to, well, Chill (yet you somehow seem to pull it off). I noticed you’ve lived on Draper Street for over two decades, so you’ve definitely seen a lot of things change around you. How much of your own Toronto experience played into the song writing and recording process?

Well it’s my life so Toronto is a huge part of where my inspiration comes from. From the filthy air, to the never-ending condo sprawl, to the beautiful people I get to see every day and the vibrancy that never lets me down. Most of the time. Your own sanity is your own responsibility.

There’s so much do-it-yourself all over this record, from the living room recordings, right down to the cover art. Broken Social Scene started out very DIY, and grew into one of the most influential bands (brands, even) in indie / Toronto music, providing the foundation for what would become one of most well-known labels in the business in Arts & Crafts. Do you see Draper Street Records growing into something more than You Gots 2 Chill?

I believe the phrase don’t put the cart before the horse should be heard. Baby steps.

Is there a story behind the voicemails, and the decision behind in putting some on the record? I heard that you still have a landline (“Long Live Land Lines” perhaps?). I’m picturing a tape recorder answering machine too, no?

No, just automated voicemail on the landline. I still like talking on a landline. I had a lot of riffs collected on my answering machine and it’s really a big part of my process so why not invite people into that world for thirty seconds?
Now it’s voice memos on the cell.

To date, the videos in support of the record (“Plugged In” and “Bullied Days”) are stunning low-budget films that have kept you almost entirely off-screen – needless to say, a bit of a change from that Brendan Canning as John Travolta character we saw in Something’s “Love Is New” a few years back. Why the decision to stay off-screen this time around?

No reason in particular-it just worked out that way and I like the fact I’m not really in the videos save for a cameo.
I leave certain creative decisions up to my partner in the label, Sarah Haywood.

So, visa issue in October; there seem to be more and more of these lately. First, that sucks (and I missed you in New York). What happened?

A boring and expensive and terribly annoying story which I won’t bore you with. I suppose the positive is that I was able to re-jig the band and swap out a couple members. After two shows we made three line-up changes. It just worked out that way.

Compared to the Broken Social Scene collective of somewhere between a dozen and two dozen touring members at any given time, relative to BSS tours, what’s life on the road been like this time around?

I love my new band and we’ve become a tight unit in a relatively short period of time. It’s very familial and a back to basics kind of tour. Snug in a van, long drives, winter frost with the finishing line in LA. I’m enjoying it for all it’s worth. My bandmate Greg and I jumped in Mara lake in the Canadian Rockies a few days ago. Extremely cold and life affirming. New band baptismal.

When I think Broken Social Scene live shows, chaos comes to mind. I have to imagine these shows are very different. Gone are the leg kicks this time around?

It’s true-there are no leg kicks. That is not to say this band doesn’t get very loud and proud but it is not a BSS show, this band is very much it’s own thing and it’s solid.

It’s been awhile (October 2011, in fact; for now, the last Broken Social Scene show in the US), but any San Francisco memories you’d like to share?

All SF gigs for BSS were ALWAYS memorable.

Our first shows at Great American Music Hall, Bimbo’s, the Filmore, Outside Lands, you name it. SF was basically top three in the world for BSS and it was always an event. I am forever grateful for the love we got in that town. That’s why we played our very last gig in North America in SF.

I will soon be touching down at the Phoenix Hotel and that is basically like saying I’m home.

Piano concert atop Bernal on a warm midsummer night

Remember that piano that someone whimsically dragged to the top of Bernal Heights?  Well, last night saw the culmination of those efforts in a piano recital enjoyed by over 200 people against the most stunning backdrop you could ever imagine.  But it wasn’t quite as easy as that, as one of the ringleaders explains:

Three hours before the recital is supposed to begin, it’s gotten out of control. Over 100 people have RSVP’d, and we’ve all invited other friends, too. Then the worst happens– we’re sitting in my RV working when Todd starts getting texts from every corner of the earth.

“The Piano is Gone.”

Some people might call off the event. Others might substitute a keyboard or some other lesser instrument. Not Todd. He’s on the phone with everyone on Craigslist selling a piano as well as several music shops. He finds a deal on a passable one and flies over to Oakland on his motorcycle to go rent a truck and bring it back over.

The joy of living in San Francisco is experiencing those magical moments that couldn’t happen in any other city. Tonight’s piano recital was one of those moments. When the first song was played, there were twenty people or so watching. By the end there must have been two hundred.

Of course, the revelers were unfortunately soon reminded why we can’t have nice things:

All of a sudden, during a rousing jazz piece, a firework exploded low over our heads. Then another and another. Someone lower down on the hill was providing a rogue fireworks display. People cheered. It was stunning, but it was also a beacon to the police.

Fifteen minutes later, the park ranger has made his way to the piano and is trying to stop the playing. It’s not working, because he’s not quite mean enough to slam the cover on the pianist’s hands. So classical music floats through the air as the finer points of symphonic law are discussed.

The piano continues. It’s hard to stop it, really. You can’t take the piano or unplug it.

Read on to see how it all ended up.  And San Francisco, you stay rad and just keep on being you.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Lee Harvey Oswald’s girlfriend at the Roxie

And she’s got a lot to say, namely that Lee Harvey Oswald was NOT the lone assassin of JFK.  Someone get Oliver Stone on the line!  In the meantime, destroy all electronic devices that have accessed this communication, and don’t be surprised if the CIA pays you a visit after you check out all the details after the jump…


CXL – a new feature film

Our buddy, local filmmaker Sean Gillane recently completed his first feature film, shot mostly in the Mission (in apartments, Lone Palm, Dolores Park, etc.). CXL premieres Saturday 11/11 at 8:30pm at Cinema by the Bay.

Support local film!

This poignant and darkly comedic debut feature from Sean Gillane focuses on Nolan, an aspiring writer who feels stuck. He is frustrated with his career, his relationships, the world and ultimately with himself. Unable to keep from displaying his considerable disdain, he focuses on everything wrong in his life as he treads the same dissatisfying paths. When he meets the stunning and unpredictable Cassie, she invites him to let down his guard and enjoy the world around him. Nolan slowly gives in to Cassie’s exuberance, but just as he begins to change his perspective, circumstances conspire to throw his already fragile psyche into turmoil. Turning even more deeply inward, Nolan attempts escape, but must ultimately face his life as he has made it.

Namu’s buckwheat gnocchi is THE BEST GNOCCHI

And Namu is ostensibly a Korean joint for goodness’ sake! Anyway, seriously, this was the absolute highlight of a meal full of highlights. It was even better (though not as visually stunning) than the CREATURE FROM THE DEEP, but goes equally good with a glass or three of the house rice beer.

Seriously, this is THE BEST GNOCCHI.

‘Hard Ticket to Hawaii’, a summer blockbuster like no other, screens tonight only at the Roxie

The title and this still alone should have you convinced, but just in case, here’s an excerpt — the gnarliest, most stunningly inexplicable 1:42 of cinema you will ever watch:

The Roxie rules. Get advance tickets here.

Stunning animated GIF keeps its eye on Sutro Tower while circling the city

I mean like just wow, right?

[HYPNOSF via Burrito Justice]

Dolores Park one lined drawings

Not a flattering week for Dolores Park. First it was covered in bile, next Crate and Barrel rebranded it as a designer cookware set. Gee, I personally like to think of public urination and casually buying drugs from a man with a wizard’s staff when I’m furnishing my luxury condo, don’t you? On top of that, people can’t seem to stop spelling it “Delores“.

Thankfully, satisticsandlies posted this stunning set of single line renderings of the park to cleanse your palate:

Isn’t nice to finally see a line in Dolores Park that doesn’t end in a port-o-potty?

Bad Blood with Joshua Cobos: Just Enjoy the Moments

Every week, photographer Joshua Cobos shoots a roll of film just for us. He picks the 13 best photos and we post them here, and it’s called “Bad Blood with Joshua Cobos.” Here’s what Joshua has to say about this week’s installment:

All of these images are of objects in plain sight, I imagine. Nothing posed, nothing directed. Just long walks with an old U.S. army issued Canonet. There is truth in simplicity, one of the main motivators in my photography. A protest march, a friend’s tattoo, abandoned theaters on the main drag, the modern hotel fireplace in stunning HD. I question society’s directives & morals all the time, are we enlightened by technology or depraved. Through these walks & all the witnessed beauty, I put the big questions aside and just enjoy the moments.

Thanks, Joshua! Ten more shots after the jump:


Stunning finds at after-hours openair boutique

[via When It Pains, It Roars]