Brendan Canning: The WL Interview

Purveyor of: Anthemic rock, atmospheric acoustic, breezy pop
File next to: Broken Social Scene, The Sea and Cake, The War on Drugs, Apostle of Hustle, Grateful Dead (self-described, see “Hey Marika, Get Born”)
Playing: DJ set at WL18 Night 1, Friday, Feb. 16 @ The Garrison. Get tickets here!

Brendan Canning needs little introduction. Founding member of Broken Social Scene, solo musician and DJ, film scorer, mentor to younger musicians – he’s done it all in the Canadian indie rock scene. This friendly Torontonian is gearing up for another tour with BSS, where he can be seen rocking the bass, jumping around the stage and kicking the air. Wavelength’s Angelo Gio Mateo caught up with Brendan to talk about touring, the Canadian music scene, and about Toronto.

You spent a lot of time last year on tour with Broken Social Scene, and now you’ve just announced a new tour of North America, the UK and some festival dates. Did you have fun on the last tour? Has it gotten easier since your earlier days? Are you excited to go back on tour with the band?

On the fun days, tour can be fun. I still enjoy the travel and I never tire of getting to play the big rooms in cities like Chicago, Oakland, London, Amsterdam, etc. I don’t necessarily get excited, just anxious. Wanting things to go smooth. Smooth tours are the best tours.

What is your songwriting process? How does it differ between writing for your own solo work, and writing for Broken Social Scene or any of the other bands you work with – like Cookie Duster?

There are lots of cooks in BSS – need I say more? It’s a lengthy process and that process can shift and change on a dime depending on the day and who happens to be around.

You seem to be a proud Torontonian – tweeting about Toronto issues, taking your dogs out on interviews to city parks, and highlighting the city in your music videos like “Love is New” and “Skyline.” What does Toronto mean to you?

Toronto is home and I care about my home and the way it’s in constant flux. There’s lots of differing opinions on how to make this city tick and it’s an individual’s job to get their voice heard if they want to see something done a certain way. I’m just one guy in a large city.

What are the most important issues for you for the upcoming Toronto municipal elections?

The usual: less high-rises in my ‘hood, although it’s basically impossible to stop the condo express juggernaut. Continued focus on green space. Good transit, and although I don’t ride the rocket so much these days, I sympathize with those that do on a daily basis. How can you not? Lastly and most importantly, try and funnel some more funding to shelters and to the folks who are most in need. Oh ya, any chance of fixing the potholes on Wellington Street from Tecumseh to Niagara?

How did you become such a big fan of the Toronto FC (TFC)? Are you excited for the CONCACAF Champions League, and do you have any predictions?

No predictions. TFC are my team and have been since inception. I’ve played since I was eight years old. It’s my game of choice.

How has the Canadian music scene changed since you first started? Where is it now and where is it going?

Well, HMV isn’t selling loads of hHead cassettes anymore, that’s for sure. Physical product isn’t the focus anymore, but something called a playlist is? I don’t know… I still go to Rotate [This], Kops [Records], Grasshopper [Records], wherever, and buy records. A lot of soft-as-hell R&B going around, which I’m not always so down with – so slow and boring. Loads of good bands, musicians and artists in town – that’s always been a constant.

What lessons have you learned about the music industry that you would pass down to younger artists that are just starting their journey?

Be honest with yourself and others around you. If you want to know how someone else is “killing it,” have a look at what they did to make it happen for themselves. Knowledge is key… and a little thing called practice. Be nice and try and create positivity in whatever way you can.

What are some upcoming and rising bands or artists that we should be looking out for?

Raleigh, Charlotte Cornfield, Kira May, Adrian Underhill, Shy Kids.

What projects are you working on now? Is there new music on the way, through your own solo work, Broken Social Scene, or any other bands you’re working with?

Broken Social Scene will continue to be my focus in 2018.

What should we expect from your DJ set at the Wavelength Winter Festival, and are you really going to play the new Odonis Odonis album?

Odonis Odonis, front to back. Maybe some Luther Vandross or Gregory Isaacs, if there’s time. Should probably tribute Dolores O’Riordan too.

— interview by Angelo Gio Mateo