Catching up with Broken Social Scene founder Kevin Drew makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. Whether that’s his nephew’s track final (which he watches while we’re on the phone) or building the supergroup’s expansive sound.
“I thought we were gonna talk about body fluids,” he says. “I’ve been singing about body fluids for 20 years. Finally I’ve got Playboy on the line, and we’re not going to talk about body fluids.”
Much to his dad’s dismay, Drew made a living off them.
“I was like, ‘Pops, you’ve gotta sing about what you know.’” And oh boy does he know how to sing about sex. He has his favorites (“Good Sex,” “Lover’s Spit,” “Gang Bang Suicide”), often crooning about getting head and sex not being a solve for anything.
While Drew’s spirit for musing about lust, love, heartbreak and forgiveness has carried on, the reunion of Broken Social Scene was prompted by something more public than personal: the November 15 Paris attacks at the Bataclan.
“For everyone, the attacks in Paris are something that resonated deeply,” Drew says. “I truly believe it made many bands want to get out there and fulfill the one mission they know, which is playing for the people.”
The tragedy was a catalyst for the (at minimum) 12-piece group to realize that they needed to play live shows more. Founding member Brendan Canning didn’t believe performing was enough: He thought they should record new material. Producer Joe Chiccarelli had been courting the band even though Drew didn’t think they’d be making a new record. Inevitably, Broken Social Scene returned writing space as if they were never apart. In a lot of ways, they weren’t.
“The pockets of who we are have always remained together,” says Drew. “We’re there supporting other projects and other records. We’re just all friends.”
At first it was just five members of the band, by the end of the project everyone had contributed. Members including Leslie Feist, Metric’s Emily Haines and James Shaw and Stars’ Amy Millan came back to the core group Drew and Canning formed 17 years ago.
“In a world dominating by narcissism and ego, it has nothing to do with us,” Drew explains. “We can all get in a room, have everyone matter and try to figure out the best way to break this historical melody we know so easily within each other to the forefront of our lives.” The result was Broken Social Scene’s fifth studio album, Hug Of Thunder. The album captures the essence of Broken Social Scene – a nostalgic yearning for a time when the world was a simpler place. From Drew’s creation of “Skyline,” an anthemic, intimate indie-rock track he had kicking around, to Leslie Feist coining Hug Of Thunder as the title of the record, each member of the band truly had a part in crafting their latest LP.
“It was so poignant and caught us all off guard,” Drew says of the album title. “It was undeniable, which is a wonderful thing, because I absolutely adore it, and I think it’s a wonderful sentiment of who we are and what we’re doing as people.”
What has set Broken Social Scene apart from bands is their dynamic – a longtime friendship that has sustained countless albums, love life and death. It’s something that has made their songs intimate since the beginning. For Drew, it was impossible to ignore how they and their fans felt as a result of the world’s current political climate. “When your subconscious gets the shit kicked out of you and you don’t realize it, and you don’t know what’s wrong,” Drew says. “If you don’t take the time to take a breath and look around – which you’re not supposed to anymore – there’s no time.You just want chug half a bottle of wine, watch a pointless film and go to sleep – that’s no way to live. Life is supposed to be an adventure. You don’t want the spontaneous world to be, ‘Are we going to war?’ or, ‘Is this penis going to destroy the world?’”
Hug Of Thunder captures the breezy sentiment of early Broken Social Scene, confronting aging with power and purpose.
“There’s a point in your life where you’re not getting older, and then there’s a point where you are: that’s where we’re at,” notes Drew. “We lost three dads while making this record. The kids are getting older. When anxiety disorders, depression and all these things becomes like the flu due to the nature of times we live in, it wears on you.”
Drew says Hug of Thunder comes from the idea that people need to figure out how to change within themselves. Instead of acceptance, Drew preaches tiny acts of kindness.
“When we got back together, that was a tiny little ripple we could put out into the world with friendship and The LEGO Movie aspect of life, family, knowing those around you, having those around you close to you, eye contact and touch. It’s an epidemic we have to address.”
Drew wants people to find comfort in music and one another. “I hope they know they’re not alone, and each other is what we got,” he says. “There’s a lot of pain, a lot of realism and a dreamer’s aspect of how to live in this day and age. Hug Of Thunder is a reminder of the glory of music – a soundtrack to the life we’re all living right now. “It’s the universal language,” Drew says. “One thing you’ll never take away is the feeling people feel when they love certain bands or certain songs.”