BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE The story behind the return

Seven years after their acclaimed Forgiveness Rock Record and five years after announcing the group were on an indefinite hiatus, Broken Social Scene are back. The new album Hug of Thunder signals a remarkable return for the Canadian act in a number of ways. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with original member Charles Spearin (also of Do Make Say Think) to get the story behind the return, tour plans, and why despite the negative press, the world is a better place now than ever before.

With an all-star cast of members featuring Feist, Emily Haines and James Shaw from Metric and Star’s Amy Millan and Evan Crawley, they are a group overflowing with talent seemingly impossible to contain. And with so many of these acts putting out their own albums as recently as May this year it was never going to be an easy task getting the whole gang back together. But for Broken Social Scene it was just something they had to do.

Given the number of amazing acts to come out of the Broken Social Scene collective since the last album, was it difficult to get everyone back on the same page when different members music has gone in such different directions?

Yes and no. When we hang out together more regularly we’re constantly playing each other our favorite new music and sharing books and ideas that we’ve been exposed to and that tends to keep us on the same inspirational page. But spending all this time apart has been both a blessing and a curse in that we’ve really had a chance to explore our own interests but it takes more effort to justify certain ideas. A certain amount of re-education is required to keep us from dismissing each other’s oddball suggestions.

How about getting the whole gang together in the same place to work on this? I mean Feist and your own group Do Make Say Think just put out records a couple of months ago which shows how occupied some of you are with your other projects…

Yeah, it’s funny how the timing worked out. At least this way we can support each other’s albums in interviews and so on. Must be some astrological thing.

How did the members experiences in playing in such diverse groups influence this album? How is it different from the others?

We argued a lot. In a loving way. It gets pretty political when you get down to it. We’ll call each other up and campaign for our favorite ideas. Trying to build momentum. “Hey Justin, don’t you think that sad song should be on the record? It’s way better than that that other weird one.” But there’s always this unspoken respect no matter how dubious the suggestions are. So this album was a bit more of a struggle.

Were some of your old friends in the group still able to surprise you with what they bought to the writing and recording process?​

It’s never a surprise when someone has a good idea. We’ve known each other long enough to expect the occasional brain blossom. It’s only surprising when they’re into something that you don’t like. We’re like, “Really? You actually like that? Huh.” But in the end it makes for a more diverse album.

I understand Kevin Drew was quoted as saying it was the tragedies of Paris terror attacks that inspired the group to finally get back together. That seems like an unusual reason to want to unite and especially tour together again, can you explain the reasons behind that?

Not really. That’s a narrative that’s going around and I think it’s gotten exaggerated. Kevin and I talked on the phone the day after it happened and we were both in shock. Maybe there’s a kind of familial feeling in that tragedy brings you closer to the ones you love but it’s too much to say that that was why we got back together. It hit us close to home, that’s all.

There’s definitely still that undercurrent of community and optimism in your sound. Was that something you had to nurture and persist with deliberately, especially considering the tragedies just mentioned?

I don’t find optimism requires too much effort. Obviously there are enormous problems facing the world with climate change and heinous acts of prejudice and idiocy dominating the news but there are also so many less-reported global improvements as well. There are less deaths due to war per capita than in the history of humanity, there is less discrepancy between rich and poor world-wide, there is way less extreme poverty, there is less disease, lower infant mortality, less crime, higher rates of education in general and especially for women. There is a strong argument that this is the best time for humanity in the history of the world. Seriously. If we stay focused we can beat looming threats as well. So there!

And what are the touring plans for this album. Are you looking forward to getting on the road with the others again?

Hells yeah!

What are the chances we’ll see you in Perth?

I can’t give you a mathematical probability beyond “I hope so. Very soon please.”

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