Broken Social Scene - Biography
Variously known as the Scene, BSS, and Broken Social, the founding members of the Broken Social Scene usually refer to themselves as “the Collective.” At the Collective’s core are Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew. Aiding them in their creative vision is a revolving cast of musical contributors mostly drawn from Toronto’s indie elite. In their incorporation of various elements from up to 19 members (including their own in-house producer) the Scene don’t write songs; rather they meticulously construct towering monuments of grandeur which sound like comets colliding, suns imploding, atoms splitting, waves combining, tectonic plates converging, dogs living with cats, and overall mass hysteria. Even in the midst of chaos, there is ecstatic beauty throughout.
The duo became a collective mostly out of necessity. Essentially the band was formed in 1999 when Toronto, Canada natives Drew (formerly of K.C. Accidental) and Canning (formerly of By Divine Right) decided to record together. They began writing and recording intricate, mostly instrumental pieces, which utilized various instruments and arrangements. The result was 2001’s Feel Good Lost (Noise Factory) a melancholy, ambient album. When it came time to tour the duo discovered there was no good way for them to translate the material for a live setting with just two people. They invited fellow musicians from other local bands to participate in their live shows. The songs would take a different track depending on who partook in a given performance. Pleased with the results, Canning and Drew decided to further explore the idea in the studio.
For their next project the band involved Evan Cranley (Stars), Charles Spearin (Do Make Say Think), Leslie Feist (Feist), Andrew Whiteman (Apostle of Hustle), James Shaw and Emily Haines (both of Metric) amongst others. In order to accurately capture the cacophony the band contacted producer David Newfeld whose unique production skills proved to be the secret weapon in the seemingly limitless BSS arsenal. Their 2002 sophomore release, You Forgot It In People (Paper Bag), was an attack of swirling guitars, blaring horns, and layers of gender-twisted vocals. Critical and commercial acclaim soon followed. Seemingly overnight they went from a Toronto cult band to a band with a large international following. You Forgot It In People won the 2003 Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year and the band embarked on a series of North American and European tours. Since most members were usually busy with their own bands, BSS had a core touring band comprised of four to five people. Of course, if another member happened to be available, there’s a good chance that they’d join them. One never knows how many people will appear on stage at any given Broken Social Scene concert.
The band released a collection of B-Sides in 2004 titled Bee Hives (Arts & Crafts). During the sessions for their third proper release, the band made producer Newfeld a full-time member and invited a number of musicians to contribute as “guest artists.” Originally titled Wind Surfing Nation, the band decided at the last minute to go the eponymous route. 2005’s Broken Social Scene (Arts & Crafts) was another critical and commercial success and showcased the collective as more of an unconventional orchestra than a rock band. Not only did BSS perform at the 2006 Juno Awards, they also won Alternative Album of the Year again. After an exhausting European tour the band was tapped to replace Massive Attack as the headline act of the 2006 Virgin Festival in Toronto Island Park. It would be the last time, to date, the entire collective would share the same stage.
After the Virgin Festival show BSS took a small hiatus. Several members played on Mexican band Chikita Violenta’s album The Stars and Suns Sessions (also produced by David Newfeld). In early 2007, the band announced they would be issuing a series solo albums from various members of the collective. Each album would be titled, “Broken Social Scene presents…” and would begin with an offering from founding member Kevin Drew. Drew’s Spirit If album was released in September of 2007 and featured several BSS members. Fellow founding member Brendan Canning's release, Something for All of Us... (Arts & Crafts) was released in the summer of 2008.
In part due to the phenomenal success of Broken Social Scene, many members have now become bona fide stars in their own right. Feist released her third album The Reminder to rave reviews. Metric and Stars have also released critically lauded albums and toured successfully. The collective released their fourth true album, Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts) in May 2010.