Being five albums and 20 years into a career can make it difficult for a musician to put together a set list for a show. Lean on the older material? Showcase the new record at the expense of some fan favorites? The Canadian indie rock luminaries of Broken Social Scene decided on a different idea for their latest tour: Cut down on the number of cities, but play mini-residencies everywhere, setting up shop in a venue and changing the songs each night to encompass both classics and new material (its two EPs, “Let’s Try the After” volumes one and two, were released this year).
amNewYork recently caught up with Brendan Canning, one of the group’s founders, to talk touring, reunions and looking back.
This tour has you playing these two- or three-night mini-residencies in certain cities. Why the change from a more traditional tour?
Just trying to simplify our touring lifestyle, and we’re doing a different set every night. We’ve got a bunch of songs at this stage in our career, and it’d be nice to show up to a town and maybe say, “hey, we’re going to play these songs tonight and those songs tomorrow, and the next night we might do something totally different from nights one and two.” It’s a chance to stretch our legs musically and get comfortable in a venue. … When you’re doing a tour, you can get into this rhythm of “this set works really well — we’ll just keep doing this set, maybe change a song or two.” It’s nice to revamp things and do it in cities that have been really good to us. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, San Francisco — these places over the years have been really good to us.
Band co-founder Kevin Drew told Rolling Stone earlier this year that you were one of the driving forces behind the 2017 reunion that gave us “Hug of Thunder.” What part of the band’s story did you think hadn’t been told?
Finishing a career, saying “here’s ‘Forgiveness Rock Record’ [the band’s 2010 album, and the last before its hiatus], good night!,” I just think there’s more songs that this crew can spit out. Because I’m still hearing, whether it’s the Do Make Say Think record, or Justin [Peroff]’s side project of Eight and a Half, or Kevin’s solo stuff, or now Ariel [Engle]’s got her thing — and of course, Feist as well, and Stars and Metric, whoever — everyone’s still writing and recording tunes that I still like. And we do maintain the family aspect of this band. It’s why we go out in larger numbers than most bands do, because we all enjoy each other’s company, for the most part … the friendship and the family has not dissolved.
“You Forgot It In People,” the band’s 2002 breakthrough album, is more than 15 years old. You’ve also released two EPs this year. Do you feel any tension between nostalgia and creation?
I don’t think so. You try not to lean too much on your past accolades, whatever they are, however big or small, and you try and be proud of your new material and go out and play it. You go and put out a good program of music, and make sure that all of the things that are in your control, that you’re working as hard as you can to make it a success.
Broken Social Scene performs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Webster Hall, 125 E. 11 St., websterhall.com.