With Broken Social Scene, By Divine Right, Blurtonia, Valley of the Giants, hHead, Cookie Duster, plus some DJ gigs and a few film a TV scores, the musical legacy of Canadian post-rocker Brendan Canning is pretty extensive. With his third solo album, Home Wrecking Years, debuting on today, Canning has seen it all and done it all. No longer concerned with the grind that comes from constantly touring and cramming into a van for months on end, Canning makes music because it’s fun, and being essentially a freelance musician is a great way to pay the bills.
We caught up with Canning and asked him a few questions about the new album and his lengthy career as a rocker.
How do you think Home Wrecking Years will compare to your previous solo albums and your past work with the Broken Social Scene?
Brendan Canning: That’s up for the listeners to draw their own conclusions. I can only state that it’s this batch of songs and it’s recorded with a band that I’ve built for the past year and a half. It’s got a different story to tell and a different genesis. However it compares is really not my concern at the end of the day.
How does it feel to be a founding member of band that’s spawned other big name acts like Feist and Metric?
BC: Well we didn’t spawn them. It just happened to be one of those happy accidents. When Kevin [Drew] and I started working on Feel Good Lost, we were just getting to know one another, and, you know, we just had lots of friends that played in bands. Like Feist, I had played in with a band previous to that called By Divine Right. Kevin had KC Accidental and that had Charles [Spearin] and Emily [Haines] and James [Shaw] from Metric. Everybody had their own bands when Broken Social Scene was going. I wouldn’t say, “Ah, check it out. Look how hot shit we are.” That would just be [fake]. I’m just happy that over the years of making rock n roll music, I happen to have a good crop of friends. With Kevin, the two worlds collided and things all kind of matched up in a nice way.
What stories are you trying to tell or what emotions do you want to evoke with the Home Wrecking Years?
BC: It’s up to the listener. I’m clearly not making Fitz and the Tantrums tracks and I’m not making, you know like whatever, Pantera tracks. Fans of Broken Social Scene might like some of these songs. All that stuff, like themes, they’re moments in time for me. A song gets spat out, and at the core of it, it’s probably like worldviews, relationships, get your shit together kind of pieces. Try not to be too preachy about anything and just that’s that.
Tell me about “Book it to Fresno.” How did that song come about?
BC: That was probably the quickest track because my band jammed in my living room here. It’s just one of those songs that gets spat out real quick. Like, obviously you do a little more work on it in the studio and whatnot, but the initial idea just came together very fast. It’s kind of like getting the lyrics to say what you don’t want to say sometimes. I’m not your traditional song writer I guess. You’re not going to figure out the direct narrative of the songs. They’re always going to make you say, “oh, what a weird fucked up lyric that was.”
What are you doing when you’re not making music?
BC: Still musically related, but I do DJ a parties and whatnot. I ride my bike around town. Walk these mutts four times a day. I got a couple of little Chihuahuas.
(Talking to his dogs) Walter, that’s for you. Santi, that’s for you.
Walter’s blind, so you have to tell him when his food arrives. I play a lot of soccer, but I’m out with a little bit of a groin pull right now. I’ve done some film scores. There was a movie with Ryan Gosling I did called Half Nelson, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, that one with Zach Galifianakis called It’s Kind Of a Funny Story. Whatever job that comes your way when you’ve been working in Toronto for 20 years. I do whatever I got to do to pay the bills. Last year I went on tour with band called The Tragically Hip, and they just wanted me to play records before their shows. I’m happy to be doing anything music related. When it comes to my solo stuff, that’s just another piece of the puzzle. It keeps me sane.
What’s it like being a part of so many different groups with so many different sounds?
BC: My involvement with Len was pretty limited. I was going through, I guess what’d you say “the drug years.” When I first bought my turntables, I had them at the Len house, and we found the sample for the big hit, “Steal My Sunshine.” I was never meant to be in that band. I had bands prior to that that were more my sound like my band hHead. We weren’t a particularly great band, but back then it was easier to sell records. We had some regional success and signed a record deal with IRS Records. That was the label that started out with REM, and The Cramps and The English Beat. We got in at the tail end of that label. That was the beginning of my career. I could talk poetically about the old days for days on end.
How do you make your music? What’s normally your inspiration or motivation?
BC: It’s just like, “hey, let’s jam,” or “let’s practice.” Somebody plays a guitar then the drummer starts playing a beat. You just do it. You don’t talk about it. You just do it. I don’t show up with lyrics or a melody. Most of the time, it’s just music. I do my best work when working with others. You start with one simple idea then everyone else is there just spitting their two cents in. I’ve always liked a band setting; the brotherhood or the sisterhood of it”
What has the experience been like working on this new album?
BC: As far as the band goes, I mean, fuck, it felt good at the time. Haha. I’ve also got Broken Social Scene to contend with, so it’s not going to be like, “hey, here’s our album. Come see us at these next 30 dates.” Unless all the sudden “Book it to Fresno” is ripping across the charts or Katy Perry is on a comeback and she had to cover this song. I’m just happy I had some people there to help me with this. I’m going to film some videos. Do some press shoots. Whatever it’ll be, it’ll be.
Plans for a tour?
BC: I’m talking like four maybe five shows. I’ve got enough shit going on. If someone really convinces me and says, “hey, you gotta hit the road,” then great. It all takes you somewhere.
BC: Chihuahuas mixed breeds
What superpower would you want?
BC: Indispensable groin
One thing the world doesn’t need?
BC: The Four Tenors
One song that best describes you?
BC: Joni Mitchell “Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow”
Who would you not want to be struck on a desert island with?
BC: Rebecca Black
You can stream Home Wrecking Years here.