Most bands have a hard time keeping their lineup intact. When it comes to Toronto-based loose collective Broken Social Scene (BSS) however, they don't want the same members hitting the stage nightly. They change it up constantly.
While the concept sounds odd, a brief glimpse at the 11-year-old outfit's career proves its feasibility: four revered albums, universal praise, a consistent-yet-revolving door of talented contributors such as Stars, Leslie Feist, Metric's Emily Haines and Pavement's Spiral Stairs and a unique style steeped in rock yet embracing all aspects of music thanks to an influx of everything from guitars and violins to horns, epic structures and odd production values.
With such an ability to span categorical gaps faster than the Roadrunner can outrun Wile E. Coyote, BSS' popularity has found them relentlessly touring the globe since the May release of latest full-length, Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts). Finally seeing the end in sight with two hometown gigs at Toronto's Sound Academy, founder/bassist/singer Brendan Canning sighs with relief to wrap up a whirlwind jaunt.
“There's never anything bittersweet about seeing the end in sight. It's nothing but pleasing,” he quips. “We've been travelling so much, we've got Elite status with Air Canada now, which is helpful because you can carry more luggage like guitars...and when you've got members coming and going, you've got lots of instruments. That helps when we run into friends on tour, though. We can perform together, like when we saw Feist in Mexico...we pulled out the songs we wrote with her for the first time in a while. It keeps things fresh and interesting.”
No doubt. While the band's essence focuses on Canning, fellow founder Kevin Drew and musicians Justin Peroff, Andrew Whiteman and Charles Spearin providing the musical, technical and contextual foundation, with participant numbers constantly swelling and compressing between six and 19 members, there's a lot of gear on a BSS bus/stage at any given time.
To that extent, Canning alludes to the band's homecoming gigs as a hotbed of potential surprise. Taunting with some names yet refusing to divulge much, he feigns ignorance about details in an effort to arouse speculation.
“(Stars') Amy (Milan) and Evan (Cranley) are in. As more emails went around about who's in town those nights, more commit. It'll be a full stage. The second night, we're not having a support act so we'll have everyone come up for some tunes. Sometimes I don't know until a day before the show who's actually there, though...but it's looking like it might be a full cast of BSS characters. That's the rumour going around the email chain. I don't know how we keep it straight.”