Those fortunate enough to witness Broken Social Scene's previous St. Louis performances can testify to the transcendent, exultant nature of the experience. The Toronto mega-group's sets drip with the same romance, drama and gorgeous tension that made tracks such as "Stars and Sons" and "7/4 (Shoreline)" some of last decade's best and qualifies its late spring release, Forgiveness Rock Record, as a contender for best album of 2010. Preparing to headline the first day of LouFest, Broken Social Scenester Justin Peroff spoke about the band's newest record, tour and recent forays into multimedia.
Ryan Wasoba: Broken Social Scene has played two shows in St. Louis before, both at the Gargoyle. The difference between performing at that venue — which is basically a cafeteria with a stage — and headlining LouFest is pretty dramatic.
Justin Peroff: We just came off an international tour where that scene was very common. We played Fuji Rock in Japan in front of thousands, and suddenly in New Zealand we're playing a pub crammed with five hundred people. Intimate clubs like that are cool because it kind of turns into a sweaty punk-rock show where the audience is immediately there. When you play those big outdoor stages, you're communicating with thousands of people. It can be just as much fun, but it's not as intimate as a place like the Gargoyle.
Do you prefer one setting over the other?
For this band, what really makes or breaks the show is audience communication. It can be difficult to communicate with any crowd who isn't exclusively there to see you. You get walkers-by casually watching and hardcore fans who have been waiting all day by the fence. If you can captivate even half the crowd, it's very satisfying. But if you have 8,000 people that don't give a shit, that's a problem.
Excluding the Broken Social Scene Presents... series, Forgiveness Rock Record was the first BSS record not produced by David Newfeld. Was it a completely different dynamic recording in Chicago with John McEntire from Tortoise?
Our headspace was totally different. We were there to work and weren't distracted by our lives in Toronto. Like, "I have to go to my uncle's barbecue so I'll be at the studio at five instead of twelve." We woke up and recorded.
You guys are so familiar with David, so did John's style take some getting used to?
Producers are all geniuses. They're all crazy, mystical people, magicians even. I mean, they are manipulating sound. They're bending and molding something that isn't tangible. It takes a different kind of person to do that. David is absolutely hands-on — to the point of interrupting a take. He's such an emotionally instinctual guy, if he has an idea, he doesn't let it escape. He grabs it in mid-air and throws it at you. John is more of a flypaper on the wall, methodical guy. We had to take him aside and ask, "Do you like us? Are we doing this wrong?" He's mysterious, but that's just how he works. He captured ideas in mid-air, usually by himself. He'd send us a mix, and we'd just be blown away. I'm a humongous fan of John as a producer and drummer. If you told me fifteen years ago that we'd make a record together, I would have glove-slapped you.
Is there going to be a Broken Social Scene Presents... Justin Peroff record?
No, unfortunately there's not. We've put a nail in that series.
Those records hinted that Broken Social Scene was something bigger than just a rock band. Now there's This Book Is Broken and This Movie Is Broken, both about the group. Was it a plan from the beginning for the group to venture into these multimedia formats?
It was definitely not an intention, but part of the collective or community with this group of people includes filmmakers and writers. Stuart Berman, who wrote the book, has been a long-time supporter, and Kevin [Drew, BSS member]'s brother is involved in publishing. When the idea of this book came around we thought, "Who better to represent the band than a brother and a good friend?" Berman is a great writer and very talented man who's seen the band evolved into what it is now. This Book Is Broken spoke about our band and the music community of Toronto over the decade. It's just an interesting story to read. This Movie Is Broken was made by Bruce McDonald, also a long-time friend and supporter, and we're big fans of his films. Broken Social Scene is more about the people than the format, it's all friends making art through friends' art.
So in your mind, are Berman and McDonald just as much a part of Broken Social Scene as any of the band members?
If you look at Stuart's picture on the book sleeve, it's him in a press shot with Broken Social Scene. He's been in press photos of the band; it doesn't get much closer than that.