It's 10:30 a.m. on a Friday in Toronto, and Broken Social Scene co-founder Brendan Canning has been awake a total of 20 minutes. For the next 20 minutes, he will talk to Creative Loafing, via phone, about his new solo debut album, his role in the long-running indie-rock collective (or, as BSS is often called, an "indie-rock supergroup"), the departure of star Scenester Feist and his unending quest for a good cup of coffee. Oh yeah, Canning also dishes on how pissed he gets when served a "shit meal."
You're resting before embarking on a big tour that takes you to Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg on Nov. 21. What's your typical routine on an off day?
Me and my gal wake up, read the paper, drink some tea or coffee. Pet the dog, make food, hit the gym, play soccer ...
Are you a gym regular?
I try, but no. The tunes are a bummer in the gym. So I can't stay there very long.
IFC recently aired The Rawside Of... Brendan Canning. Were you comfortable watching yourself on television?
I only watched it once. It's a little funny watching myself, but it's not too bad.
On it, you're depicted as a perfectionist. Do you agree with that characterization?
I don't know if I'm a perfectionist. I don't think so. I spend a whole lot of time going over a piece of music in the studio, getting lost in it, but that's only about music. Well, and food, too. If I'm served a shit meal, it puts me in a foul mood. Or coffee. You only get one shot, generally. The first cup of coffee has to be a pleasant experience. That's basically what you get when you're touring. You wake up with a mission: Find a good cup of coffee.
Will Starbucks suffice?
I don't mind Starbucks. It's not the worst. But I'd rather find a nice little mom-and-pop shop.
Judging by the IFC doc, your first solo album — Something For All of Us... — caused some serious stressing.
It was definitely stressful. But I don't think they filmed anything particularly stressful. They came in on the last day when we were recording drums. Everyone's girlfriend and dog were there because of the cameras. The whole process of working with new guys is tough. Once the honeymoon period is over, it's like, "Holy fuck, how am I gonna finish a record with these guys?" I was worried.
Were you pleased with the final product?
Yeah, real pleased. The way it sounds, artwork, the whole thing came together. The tunes are pretty strong, if I say so myself (chuckles).
Something for All of Us... lives up to its name by bounding from space-folk to indie rock to the future funk of "Love is New." What were you listening to during the writing of this album?
I don't know. I go through phases of listening to lots of music and then not much at all. I did a Neil Young tribute band gig for a friend's 50th birthday, so I was listening to a lot of Young there for a while. But I listen to all sorts of stuff. I have my CDs in different categories: hip-hop, funk, reggae, jazz, electronic. I'm in the midst of rearranging things and am going to sell off the surplus. Then I'm going to put them in categories like "'70s Rock" and have an '80s, '90s, 2000s section. Funk and disco will be in the same category with hip-hop.
How is your solo album different from Broken Social Scene releases?
Well, I suppose maybe I indulged in a little more guitar feedback loops, keyboard loops. When given the opportunity, you definitely spend more time playing around with guitar pedals and trying to find new sounds. Recording with the group, some members won't be as enthusiastic while you play around with delay effects.
The Boston Herald recently described Broken Social Scene as "the Canadian indie-rock version of American Idol." Are you comfortable with that portrayal?
We do hire horn sections every night in different cities and have different vocalists on stage who we have never met before. That's sorta what American Idol is, but not totally. It's a lil' cute way of putting it. Cute enough.
Your old pal and former Scenester Feist has had a whirlwind year as a solo act. Do you think you'll be collaborating with her again?
Possibly. You never know what's around the corner. The fact is, she's on tour, we're on tour. So we haven't had a relationship in the past seven or eight months. We're all working and in tour mode, selling our wares. We gotta wait and see next year, when tour schedules slow down. There are no major rivers parting us.