Wolf Parade - Biography
Although the band was created out of spur-of-the-moment necessity for a one-off show, Wolf Parade seems poised for longevity. Two albums into their career, the Canadian five-piece has already survived the kind of monstrous hype that so often crushes young indie bands. A possible explanation for the band’s success is their balancing act of classicist pop songwriting and forward-thinking experimentalism. Much like Animal Collective, Wolf Parade doesn’t see a point to presenting edgy music if it doesn’t have any hooks.
Wolf Parade formed hastily in Montreal, Canada in 2003. Their very first show was an opening slot for none other than Arcade Fire, a band that was just a year away from international success. When Spencer Krug, a keyboardist and singer, received a call from Alex Megelas of Grenadine Records asking him if he had a band that could play an upcoming show, Krug naturally said yes. In a panic, Krug began contacting musicians he barely knew like Dan Boeckner, formerly a guitarist in Atlas Strategic of British Columbia. Once Boeckner signed on, they began coming up with tunes in Krug’s home. The drum machine provided them with scant accompaniment and the duo realized they would need more power than computer speakers could muster. Drummer Arlen Thompson was recruited just one day before the show, and the trio played an all-around successful gig with Arcade Fire.
Following the gig, Wolf Parade stayed together, playing more shows and writing new songs. The dynamic between the group’s two songwriters was immediately evident; Boeckner would pitch in the angst-ridden, Springsteen-informed rock and roll, while Krug would take a more indie-based, experimental approach. The band documented themselves with a four-song EP, Wolf Parade, which they released on their own in 2003. The following year they added keyboardist Hadji Bakara to their lineup and recorded a six-song EP also called Wolf Parade (2004 self-released). The group soon hooked up with Modest Mouse singer/guitarist/songwriter Isaac Brock. Aside from fronting one of the most influential indie bands around, Brock worked for Sub Pop Records as an A&R rep. He had been a fan of Atlas Strategic and was all the more impressed by Boeckner’s new project. Thanks to Brock, Wolf Parade landed a record contract with Sub Pop and traveled to Portland to record with their new mentor.
Recorded mostly by Brock, the four-song EP Wolf Parade was released on July 12, 2005 on Sub Pop. Leading up to that release, the band had become the subject of a fervid blog buzz. The Sub Pop EP and the full-length that followed it two months later proved that Wolf Parade was entirely deserving of the hype. On September 27, 2005, Sub Pop issued Apologies To The Queen Mary (2005 Sub Pop), which was also recorded mostly by Brock. While the album does feature two tracks straight from the preceding EP, it is otherwise a wholly original work that had critics scratching their heads. The album was often compared to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut, but since the two records appeared within months of each other the similarity is probably due to parallel thinking rather than one band influencing the other. The Modest Mouse comparison is an obvious one, but Wolf Parade’s music is much darker in tone than the work of Brock and company. Whatever Wolf Parade’s influence, critics were singing this new band’s praises. In time, this not-so-accessible album actually charted, reaching 158 on the Billboard 200.
The band entered its post-debut existence by adding yet another member to its lineup. Dante DeCaro had just tendered his resignation from Hot Hot Heat and moved to Montreal, where Wolf Parade drafted him as a second guitarist and percussionist. Apologies To The Queen Mary was, after all, an expansive and textured album, and DeCaro’s talents were needed to fill out the empty spaces in live performances. From there, the band toured with Modest Mouse, and then with Arcade Fire. In 2006, the group’s debut was nominated for the $20,000 Polaris Music Prize (Canada’s answer to the UK’s Mercury Music Prize), but lost to Final Fantasy’s He Poos Clouds (2006 Tomlab).
Soon enough, the band was back in a studio setting. They spent a week at the very same church that the Arcade Fire had renovated into a studio for the recording of Neon Bible. After an East Coast tour, they went back to re-record some bits and pieces of the album at Mixart in Montreal. From there, they mixed their new creation at Mount Zoomer, a studio owned by Arlen Thompson, and decided to name the album after it. Initially slated to be called Kissing the Beehive, the band decided to change the name to At Mount Zoomer (2008 Sub Pop) to avoid any legal trouble or confusion with the Jonathan Carroll fantasy novel of the same title.
Although the album was not received as enthusiastically as its predecessor, Wolf Parade successfully evaded the sophomore slump that some of their contemporaries had recently fallen prey to. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, for example, experienced a slight backlash with Some Loud Thunder. Wolf Parade had delivered another strong and unique set that didn’t have to ape their debut’s erratic nature to make the grade. Considering that the band reportedly warned its record label that the LP would contain “no singles,” it’s impressive that it broke the top 50 in the Billboard 200.
While things have quieted down some for Wolf Parade and its members have gone back to their side projects (Boeckner has Handsome Furs, Krug has Sunset Rubdown), a new album cannot be too far off. In 2010 the band issued their thrid record, Expo 86. In 2012 the band offically broke up.