The Scene Backstage

Adam Baidawi
Sitting on a velvet couch backstage at Australia's massive yearly music festival, Splendour in the Grass, Brendan Canning is wrecked. Canning's ever-morphing musical collective, Broken Social Scene -- whose ranks have been infiltrated by the high profile likes of Feist, k-os and Metric -- are playing the festival's closing night, but, right now, the band's frontman is having trouble keeping his schedule straight.

"What's today?" he asks behind wispy blonde locks. "This is crazy."

Canning looks to the sky and tries to recount his itinerary on one hand.

"We played Fuji on Friday, before that it was Singapore, before that it was Taipei. When we come over here, those are sort of our stops."

Forgiveness Rock Record (the band's fifth LP) is the ever-ambitious, ever-emotive catalyst behind the group's exhaustive globetrotting, and it's taken them to all ends. Canning, who with songwriting partner-in-crime Kevin Drew founded the group in 1999, has been in transit for over a day after playing Japan's iconic Fuji Rock Festival. This international tour has proven one of their most demanding yet -- the result of the latest much-loved latest Broken Social offering.

Following up their previous album's critically acclaimed art-rock soundscapes, Forgiveness Rock Record features the band's once loose, dreamy song structures masterfully tailored into a grand sonic narrative of huge post-rock peaks, melancholic lows and pristine atmospheric pop. Despite good reviews, Canning uses live audiences' reactions to the album's songs as a true sign of success.

"The songs are sounding good live -- that's our barometer," Canning nods. "Are the songs working live? Do we like playing them? Are we getting good responses? It's starting fresh with this record. We're pleased with how it's going. We're looking to get the next record out of the gate at some point next year, too."

Remarkably, it's been more than a decade since Canning and Drew formed the group. In the years since, the band's elders have had more than enough time (and evidently, long bouts of boring air travel) to reflect on their journey.

"Especially when you watch The Story of Anvil -- it was this documentary I watched on the plane over here. It's about a band from the suburbs of Toronto that has been at it since the '80s and is still slogging away. No real "peak" since 1983. Fucking intense."

Canning leans and elaborates.

"You take stock: if the plane went down today -- God forbid -- I would be able say that I'm relatively satisfied with my life achievements to this point. There's lots of stuff I'd still like to do. But, so far I think we're doing okay! Don't want to do too much patting on the back after a decade."

Foot traffic around our backstage couch has now picked up, distracting Canning's train of thought -- Broken Social Scene are on stage in two hours and he still has several pre-show rituals to perform.

"I got two hours? Eating, and coffee, that'll take up an hour. A little warm up, a little stretching of the muscles," he plans. "In a perfect world I would have four more hours sleep, throw down a yoga mat and stretch out for a half hour."

Canning stretches across the couch -- a decade in BSS seems to have centered him a bit. And, from the sounds of it, that's likely for the best these days.

"My throat's pretty sore, I probably shouldn't smoke any weed. And not before a gig, either -- I think those days are over," he grins, sitting up. "My guitar parts are starting to get a little tricky."

 

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