Wolf Parade: Animal Collective of Montreal
Following up a revered debut album with a more, um, challenging one often inspires catty backlash. But the scruffy Canadian indie rockers of Wolf Parade are too busy playing in 17 other bands to worry. Is this the new careerism?
Montreal is only 47 minutes from New York in a plane no bigger than a school bus. But on this cloudy late April morning, each of those 47 minutes is teeth-gnashingly, stomach-churningly turbulent, making it impossible to forget that you are, in fact, not on a school bus, but rather inside a thin metal tube careening rapidly 35,000 feet above the ground in a manner antithetical to man’s nature. But here’s the thing about even the most harried trip to Canada: When you get there, you’re surrounded by Canadians, which, at the risk of gross generalization, is a fair panacea for gnashed teeth and churned stomach.
Wolf Parade are Canadian. Not just in the sense that they’re from Canada, but Canadian — laconic, genial, unflappable. How else to explain a band that sold 120,000 copies of their hiccupy, Bowie-tinged art-punk debut and, on the eve of their second, still don’t have a manager or a website? Or that only two members own cell phones, and their cofounder is in at least four other bands? They may not be the model of efficiency, but this is by design, an ambivalence born not of laziness — Wolf Parade are anything but lazy — but maybe rather culturally ingrained, as if the very notion that people might find what they do Important violates centuries’ worth of inherited humility.
“When we were kids, there was that clear divide between Fugazi and Guns N’ Roses, and that line is blurry now,” says singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug, 31, in a barely-there whisper that belies the tremulous yelp he’s semifamous for. “So for us to be able to pay rent because there’s more than 200 people who are into our records…” Krug’s voice trails off as he doodles on a pad at his kitchen table, even less at ease deconstructing his modest success than he is cultivating it. “Basically what I’m saying is, whereas bands in the past may have been like, ‘We can make it, we can take it all the way,’ maybe there are some Canadian indie bands in my generation who found themselves popular and never even asked themselves if that’s what they wanted.”
Following buzz generated from a pair of self-titled EPs, the debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary, produced by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, was greeted in 2005 by much fawning, including a gaudy 9.2 from Pitchfork. Wolf Parade — Krug, singer/guitarist Dan Boeckner, 30, and drummer Arlen Thompson, 29, were all raised in British Columbia, while electronic-doohickey diddler Hadji Bakara, 28, was raised in Michigan — had already migrated east to find themselves at the center of a music scene in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood that included their friends Arcade Fire, Stars, and Islands, all with free-floating, symbiotically intersecting memberships. (A semiofficial fifth member, exHot Hot Heat guitarist Dante DeCaro, still lives in B.C.)
Three years and no fewer than seven ancillary Wolf Paraderelated albums later, the “next Seattle!” hubbub has quieted, but Apologies remains endearingly galvanizing despite, or because of, unexpectedly ebullient choruses like “Nobody knows you / And nobody gives a damn.” (“Kids joyously sing along to these depressing things with huge shit-eating grins,” Bakara acknowledges later.)