Howling for the Montreal moon

After a one-year hiatus, Wolf Parade are embarking on a mini Canadian tour to try out their latest material

Cavemen, Russian cosmonauts and ghosts are all tantalizing subject matter on Wolf Parade’s upcoming, still untitled album.
Cavemen, Russian cosmonauts and ghosts are all tantalizing subject matter on Wolf Parade’s upcoming, still untitled album.
Credit: 
Supplied

The days of Montreal’s reign as the epicentre of the North American indie rock scene may have faded in the modern world, but the royalty of the era haven’t.

Wolf Parade has received widespread attention and critical acclaim for 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, which earned a 2006 Polaris Prize nomination, and 2008’s darker release At Mount Zoomer.

The four-piece band reconvened after a yearlong hiatus to record a new album and is embarking on a mini Canadian tour to shine a light on new material.

“These will be all brand new songs. By the time we play Kingston it’ll be the fourth time anyone has ever heard them,” drummer Arlen Thompson said. “It’s more like a warm up tour, playing a couple shows with new songs, just seeing what people think. I think it’s probably in between Apologies and Zoomer; Zoomer was a bit of a deeper listen. I think the songs were a bit denser, a bit harder to listen to, with weird time signatures and that kind of stuff going on.  The new record, I think, has some dense arrangements but is a bit more like Apologies, a bit more accessible.” The blend of hit-heavy Apologies and Zoomer’s layers sounds promising for both the band and their fans. The slow-burning complexity of Zoomer yields treasure among pining vocals and the rhythm of toil in ominous times, but Apologies was better received among both critics and fans. The band spoke of no real singles before Zoomer, preferring to honour the album format, but some of their most outstanding work is showcased on Apologies’ singles.  

Despite Zoomer’s emphasis on album cohesion, taste-makers like Spin and Pitchfork pointed out tension between styles of both vocalist and songwriters Dan Broeckner and Spencer Krug. Both have side projects, which have emphasized their musical differences. Guitarist Broeckner also fronts the Handsome Furs with his wife Alexei Perry while keyboardist Krug fronts art-rock band Sunset Rubdown.

“I found that criticism odd because I thought that Zoomer was far more cohesive than Apologies. That’s the nature of Wolf Parade—with Dan and Spencer both singing.  I think it’s going to be like that.

“I think this upcoming record was written pretty quickly. There’s definitely a cohesiveness to it, being a Wolf Parade record. Both Dan and Spencer have their own ways of approaching the songs. I don’t think that’s ever going to change with the band.”

The complementing and competing styles of the two frontmen is a strength, but banging their drums to a balance of anthem and dirges like on Apologies will likely mean the denser elements they’ve developed both within and without Wolf Parade are more appreciated.

“We had a lot of fun making this record. The songs are a bit more fun as opposed to Zoomer which was more dark and serious. It just kind of happened lighter, we really went with what felt right,” Thompson said.

The lighter, intuitive process of the yet-to-be-named up coming release may have something to do with the time constraints imposed on its conception.

“We put this whole record together pretty quickly, starting in late November.  We’ve only had so far three and half to four months.”

Thompson’s tone is light. You could call the recording process a ritual, but he prefers running with what feels right.

“It’s just kind of the way that this band works and works best. If we have a pretty tight timeline to get things done—we work best when we’re just trusting our instincts. We work best with some constraints, with a little bit of pressure and a little bit of stress.” The situation changed soon after. Thompson said the band produced a lot of material and are still deciding. Previous reports spoke of a potential double album, or perhaps an LP and an EP. “We’re just finishing mixing as we speak,” Thompson said.

That’s not stopping Wolf Parade from hitting the road to get feedback on the new tunes, though. Still based in Montreal, they’re starting the tour in their hometown, despite how it’s changed since the last time.

“All our friends are still here, the scene’s kind of changed a little bit. It’s not so active anymore. I also have a young daughter. I’m not out going to shows so much anymore,” Thompson said.

But just because he’s not catching many shows doesn’t mean he’s not in touch with the local indie environment. Another Montreal wolf-band, We Are Wolves, join Wolf Parade on this tour.

“I ended up mixing their record this summer. They’re a really great band and I really like what they’re doing,” Thompson said.

The canine solidarity is mere coincidence, though.

“We used to share jam space with AIDS Wolf so we’re pretty used to that ... You’re going to have to play with a wolf band at some point.” Wolves won’t be the only thing evoked on this tour. The standard Wolf Parade cast of the eerie and awkward will be in full force this spring.

“It’s kind of all over the place. There’s a song about a caveman, a song about Russian cosmonauts, we’ve got a song about ghosts.”

It might not be the same ghost as last time, but every night on this tour we’ll be seeing solid and familiar Wolf Parade. They’ll be tossing in elements of every era and teasing us with tracks to come, among sweaty fine young fans, where everyone knows them and everyone gives a damn.
Wolf Parade play The Ale House with We Are Wolves on Monday. Tickets are $25 and available at Brian’s Record Option, Destinations, The Grad Club, The Brass and ticketscene.ca. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m.

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