Kevin Drew (myspace) is one of the founding members by the wildly successful Canadian art-rock collective Broken Social Scene. The daring, inventive band boasts a fluctuating roster of artists who shift in and out of the line-up depending on their various other musical pursuits; another BSS member, Leslie Feist, is currently absorbed with her suddenly massive solo career, which exploded into mainstream America after her song “1 2 3 4” became an iPod commercial. As for Drew, he’s currently on tour supporting a rather spellbinding new album that features contributions from – you guessed it – a variety of BSS members. We spoke with Drew recently about the new album, but the conversation ultimately drifted to music licensing and the twin black holes of George Bush and Rudolph Giuliani. Drew and his tight band play Webster Hall tonight; Brooklyn Vegan reports that the band will be rounded out by special guests J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr), Scott Kannberg (Pavement), James Shaw (Metric) and Emily Haines (Metric). (Tickets.)
Your new album is called Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew Spirit If… It’s a solo album, except it’s not. I’m confused. Well, it is a solo album to me but I just have lots of people come and play on it. I made this record with Charles Spearin and Ohad Benchetrit. And in doing that it already had me close to the way I’ve always made records. I’ve made seven records and all of them have been with Charles Spearin. Inevitably while you’re recording over a period of two years you end up asking some of your friends in, and once you ask some of them in you end up asking them all. And that’s how it ended up being sort of my take on the idea of the music I love within the Broken Social Scene thing we have going on.
And then you’re playing songs from Spirit If... at Webster Hall, but you won’t be alone, right? From Broken Social Scene I have Brendan [Canning] and Justin [Peroff], the dynamic duo, the rhythm section from hell. And then I’ve got some new people; Andrew Kenny from American Analog Set, a gentleman by the name of Sam Goldberg and a kid named Mitch Bowden who is replacing our lead guitarist who broke his collarbone while we were in Europe.
How did that happen? Freak sporting accident. I can’t really get into it due to all the lawyers involved. [Laughs.] I’m kidding, I just don’t want to talk about it, it upsets me when I talk about it.
What does the chorus “You’re too beautiful to fuck” [from the song Tbtf on Spirit If…] mean to you? To me? I love how it means two things, but for me it always means you’re too beautiful to fuck up, you’re too beautiful to hurt and destroy and be a part of something negative in life. I also like the idea that you’re too beautiful to actually touch.
What’s your favorite song to play live? It’s called Hit a Wall; it’s Brendan’s song off his upcoming record, which will be released in the spring. I love being in a band and not being the main focus; it’s more fun.
What inspired the album’s title “Spirit If…”? That came from Ohad. Ohad called the song Spirit If. And then I had a friend jumping up and down and screaming that that’s what I should call the record. And I thought about it for a while and it stuck with me and I decided that I liked it even more because I was just kind of realizing that not only did I get lost in a ‘what if’ way of living, and not only did I get lost in the ‘what if’ society in the last few years, I liked that Spirit If seemed to be the ying and the yang, Spirit If seemed to be the challenger to the 'what if' world. And that’s how it made sense to me.
So how did the name Broken Social Scene originate? From an ambient keyboard jam show I did called John Tesh Junior and The Broken Social Scene. Brendan and I had just finished making our first record, Feel Good Lost, and he came up to me and said, “I love that name, that’s the name.” And then we really started to like it because we started playing with lots of people and we realized we could always call the band Broken Social Scene no matter who comes in or who does what, because it was kind of in the title. And then when things started to get really big and we became a certain band in everyone’s eyes, that’s when it became tricky to call this record of mine Broken Social Scene because Brendan wasn’t even really around for much of the recording, so we had to figure out another idea here.
Broken Social Scene’s music has been featured on movies and TV shows. Have you licensed any of your songs for advertising? No, we turned down a lot, a lot of commercials. And you have to understand that this was the last move we could make when we were starting out as a band, in terms of sort of making some kind of statement that we didn’t want to be an advertisement. But now, even compared to two years ago, it’s just completely different. There used to be a textbook you had to follow to be an independent band but that doesn’t even exist anymore.
Commercials are now the new mainstream radio and there’s not even an element of anyone suspecting a band is selling out anymore when you go and do commercials. That is now the way for you to get your music out there, that is the way for people to hear your music and purchase your records; it is the strongest force for getting your music out, which is fucking crazy! But it’s not my battle, you know. I think a lot of bands have been foolish about it and put their songs in really stupid commercials and I think a lot of people have been very smart about it and put their songs in very good spots.
So you’re not closing the door to any future licensing opportunities. Nope, not at all. I’m not closing any doors anymore. You’re welcome to come inside, eat some hummus, tell me a story any day.
Win Butler [The Arcade Fire] was somewhat recently pelted with bottles during a concert. What objects have been thrown at you? Why was he pelted with bottles?
He was in England. I think it’s more of a thing there. Yeah, I remember people doing that to Morrissey at the Reading Festival. Was he okay?
Yeah. Jesus. No, I’ve never had anything thrown at me except shirts and hats. Some notes, love-letters and CDs, too.
If you could take 3 CDs with you to your desert island, what would they be? I would take Whatever You Love You Are by Dirty Three, because not only is that record the most incredible thing but that statement alone, since I bought that record, has haunted me. I’d probably take The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, just so I could make sure I was able to dance and breathe. And I guess I’d have to take a rock record but I don’t know what it would be. I’d probably take a greatest hits, I don’t know. It could be Laughing Stock by Talk Talk, it could be Dirty Deeds by AC/DC. It would depend on that fleeting moment as the ship was sinking.
What's the strangest fan interaction you've had so far? I’ve had some weird ones I don’t want to talk about because I don’t want to bring them back up. Nothing terrible, just kind of, “Are you following me?” Our fans – I don’t even consider them fans. I just consider them the people who come to our shows. They’re good. I’ve always had great times when we get to go out afterwards and go drink in some bar and everyone’s there. And of course they’re telling you how much they love you so obviously you’re saying, “Hey, these people are great!” Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed the variety of people who come to our shows.
What was the first venue you played in New York and what do you remember about that show? It was Northsix in Brooklyn. It was right after Bush won so I got to do a bunch of “George Bush is an asshole” commentary. It was fresh then – it was challenging!
Now everybody’s doing it and it’s stale. I don’t even talk about him onstage anymore; I haven’t actually in years. That song’s been sung many a time and it still didn’t do fucking much for anyone. So we’ll just wait for the next guy to come in. We’ll see what bits we can revolve around his hairdo and the way that he’ll fucking demolish countries and kill innocent people. We’ll wait to see what happens with you guys. No matter how you slice it, whoever steps in, it’s gonna be different. There’s going to almost be like a hex lifted off the whole entire fucking planet, which I’m looking forward to.
I was too but now it looks like it could very well be President Giuliani. No!
He’s the current front-runner for the Republican nomination. Well, yeah, you know what? Let’s just be honest. You can’t fucking – how many marriages has that guy had?
I’m not sure, I think it depends what day of the week you ask him. Don’t fucking… Oh, God. Don’t nominate somebody who has more than three marriages or three divorces and a girlfriend and kids in fucking Hawaii. What are the Republicans doing, I thought they were about “family values”?
Yeah, it’s been interesting because some Republicans didn’t think he was viable at first but he’s been able to ride the coattails of 9/11. Yeah but… Jesus Christ. You can’t ride the coattails of 9/11.
Really? It’s 2008, man! That’s so 2001! He did a fantastic job at being present, making quick decisions, going to funerals. We’re talking about an entire world, here. It’s not going to happen. I’m sorry, it’s not going to happen. You know what went wrong? And I’ve said this many times. What’s up with assassins? Why can’t good people be assassins? We have to watch the world get put down into utter shit by the bad assassins, and there’s no good ones and no superheroes. I thought for sure somebody from New Orleans would have just said, “You know what? I’m going to take the last thing I own, which is this shotgun, and go up to Washington – I’ll see you guys later.”
The problem is that there are a lot of people to take out and, ultimately, it’s the ideology itself that has to be eliminated. Oh, I know. I thought that during the last three years America really came around to realizing, “Okay, wait a second, we’ve been fucking duped here!” And I thought that was a really good thing. The last year I’ve been leading a really selfish life, unfortunately, so I haven’t really been keeping my head at all in what’s going on. But if you’re talking about President Giuliani, that’s going to take Big Brother to a whole new level. He might have cleaned up New York but for Christ’s sake how many people had to go to jail for coughing the wrong way in Central Park?
Speaking of that, didn’t you have a run-in with the law in New York, though not during Giuliani time? Yep. Our producer David Newfeld was beaten by the police while standing next to someone who bought marijuana. He didn’t sign off on it and he got humiliated in the press because I opened my mouth and said some wrong information. And he tried to get it right so we went to Pitchfork the next day and they took photos. And it was all like, “Busted for buying marijuana!” But he did not do that at all; we got him a good lawyer who works in human rights law and three or four years later the police settled. He got a settlement and got some good money and fucking justice was served. They would not admit they did anything wrong but they knew this case was not going to be one in court so they went for a settlement. So it had a very, very happy ending.
And you know what? We did not send out a press release after the settlement. He stayed true to his guns, he said he was innocent from the beginning and he was not going to sign off on any guilty plea. We were very worried he wouldn’t be able to get back into the country if he did that. I was never more proud of him than in that moment when I got the call that, basically in our eyes, he won. He got paid off for getting the shit kicked out of him.