EXPO ON THE MOUNT Wolf Parade

Dan
Boeckner and Spencer Krug return with a new album. It’s almost as cool as
Einstürzende Neubauten jamming with the Beach Boys on “Kokomo”!

 

BY HAL BIENSTOCK

 

For a band that has made three albums in five years, it
still feels oddly like an event every time Wolf Parade releases something new.
Perhaps that’s because the group is notorious for taking long breaks as band
leaders Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug spend time on their increasingly
high-profile solo projects, Boeckner’s Handsome Furs and Krug’s Sunset Rubdown.
While both of their side projects are worthwhile, Wolf Parade’s latest album, Expo ’86 (Sub Pop), is another reminder
that they’re far more powerful together than they are apart. We talked with
Boeckner about the state of their union.

 

***

 

BLURT: How
did taking a year off to do solo work help the band?

BOECKNER: It gave us a little bit of perspective on the band
itself and some time to clear our heads before we got back to recording. We had
so many things happen during the album cycle for [our last album] At Mount Zoomer. Our audience doubled or
tripled in size, even though the record didn’t get as much press as our first
one. That was exciting for us because it felt like we were building this
audience on the basis of our live shows. But with extra people comes more
stress and responsibility.

Then we lost [keyboardist] Hadji
Bakara, which was another thing we had to bounce back from. It wasn’t a totally
smooth transition going from a five piece to a four piece.

 

Do you
and Spencer talk often while you’re out with your own bands – or is it really a
clean break?

One of my favorite things about Wolf Parade is that we’re
all really good friends outside the band. I’ll have Spencer over for a barbecue
or go drinking with Arlen. A lot of bands who are around for a few years get
sick of each other. That hasn’t happened with us.

 

What do
you and Spencer take from your solo projects that you then bring to the band?

The solo projects allow me and Spencer specifically to be almost
narcissistic with our separate musical ideas. With Handsome Furs, I can get
away with writing a one or two chord song. With Sunset Rubdown, he can get away
with writing proggy multipart songs. It’s a catharsis to write songs we
wouldn’t be able to get away with in Wolf Parade because in this band we all
equally write the music.

 

How
does that process work?

The only thing on me or Spencer specifically is the vocal
melody or lyrics for a song. Besides that, every part has to go through
everyone else in the band before it gets finalized. If Spencer writes a song,
he’ll come in with a chord progression, something rough or sketchy, and we’ll
flesh it out as a band. The same goes for me.

 

People
tend to divide your albums into Dan songs and Spencer songs. Does that bother
you?

We kind of invite that on ourselves because we have two
singers with fairly different styles. One of the bigger sadnesses with me in
this band is that extreme Internet fan elements seem to love debating the
comparative merits of Spencer’s songs versus my songs. When we started this
band I thought people would take it for what it was – a band with two songwriters.
It’s not like that’s unprecedented in the history of music. Look at the Clash
and the Beatles.

 

How do
you think each of you has changed as a writer since Mount Zoomer?

I can’t speak for Spencer, but for me, I got rid of a lot of
baggage I had about myself while doing the last Handsome Furs record. Any
doubts I had about my songwriting left me. I became comfortable with my range
and what I like to talk about as a songwriter.

 

What
would you say those things are?

I have a few themes I like to come back to, like feeling
restless and the theme of small towns versus big cities. Musically, I love a
good power pop song.

 

Is
there a song on Expo ’86 that sums up
your style?

“Little Golden Age.” It has a specific chord structure that
makes me happy and has a Sonic Youth style outro at the end. They were one of
my favorite bands in high school. The lyrics are about nostalgia – the small
town, last summer before the end of high school kind of thing.

 

You
recorded the album live in the studio. Why did you decide to do that?

Every record we’ve done up to this point, a large part of the
process involved looking at sound translated to visual information on a
computer screen. That’s standard now as people record on Pro Tools. Looking at
what you recorded as color bars effects you psychologically. It makes you not
concentrate on the song as a whole. You focus on specific parts. One of Wolf
Parade’s strengths is that we’re a pretty decent live band, so we decided to
get rid of the other element. We want to record something and listen to it back
without being distracted by the visuals of sound files.

 

Why did
you name the album Expo ’86?

We decided to title the record that because we all realized
we were at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver
around the same couple of days and might have seen each other as children. We
have an in joke that we decided to start the band when we were 9, 8, 6 and 5,
respectively.

 

What do
you remember about the Expo?

Some of my first clear memories of going to a city are going
on a ferry from Vancouver Island to Vancouver
to go to the Expo with my dad. I saw my first concert at Expo ‘86. I had a memory
of scary dudes banging on metal, making scary noises, but didn’t know who it
was. When we Wikipedia-ed Expo ‘86 found out it was Einstürzende Neubauten.  Apparently, the Brian Wilson-less “Kokomo” Beach Boys played
there too. It was a weird lineup.

 

[Photo Credit: Meqo Sam Cecil]

 

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