Broken Social Scene’s Thunderous Hugs

Toronto indie rock ensemble Broken Social Scene released a fourth studio album Forgiveness Rock Record in 2010 before going on hiatus. The group members carried on with various solo projects, but the band wasn’t heard from again until a few years later with sporadic festival appearances.

But in 2016 the group, led by Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, started working on a new studio effort which became 2017’s Hug Of Thunder. It was something Canning said took time. “We’re not going to gun out a record in two months; we never have,” Canning said. “We’ve always taken at least 9 to 12 months before we say, ‘Okay the album’s done!'”

Getting a musical group so large—sometimes as many as 17 members—on the same page wasn’t as arduous. “We all missed a lot of the aspects that being in this band brings,” Canning said. “The personalities change or maybe we soften up a bit on this stance or on [that] stance, but generally it’s a band that’s hard to wrangle. I think it always will be.”

I spoke with the amicable Canning about the new album, reuniting, touring (there’s an April 7 stop at The Paramount in Huntington) and even instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani.

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What was the biggest challenge about making Hug Of Thunder, if there was one?
The biggest challenge was just getting it right and getting everyone on the same page. Like, “Okay we haven’t released a body of work in a while. Is this the body of work or is there something missing?” What we go through is probably pretty typical of a lot of bands where we’re just wanting to put out something that’s really to the quality that [we] feel it should be. I think we did that.

Was there a moment where you felt the album was coming together or heading in the right direction?
It just felt like it was going to be a long journey. Even the songs that didn’t make the record, we were still putting the effort on the tracks…We ended up with a lot of extra material that we’re going to chip away at.

Does it look likely that you will get those out in 2018?
I hate to make predictions so early on but we’re aiming to release some new music. But there’s nothing in stone.

How did the song “Halfway Home” come about?
Initially in the jam space, and then a lot of different ideas thrown at it. But the nuts and bolts of it definitely came from the rehearsal space. That’s only one step of the way. The rest is a lot of going over parts: “Okay we got 12 guitar parts, maybe we need 13.”

How has the touring gone so far?
We started in Europe (in 2017). Our first date was in Manchester and that fell on the heels of the bombing at the Ariana Grande show…We kind of took that as we’re thankful to be a band still and hopefully bring some sort of positive message in the midst of something so ugly.

What was the idea behind the video for “Vanity Pail Kids?”
(Laughs) The toilet video? More or less just the fact that the consumption of everything social media is just ridiculous. It’s all pretty disposable at the end of the day and the material that you take in on a daily basis is often just forgotten and shit out in a day. The information highway is just clogged essentially without being too toilet-esque about it.

I saw a tweet of yours in February about getting tickets to Joe Satriani. I was wondering if you went to the concert?
I mean no offense to Joe Satriani but I’m the last person you’re going to see at a Joe Satriani concert. I listened to a lot of hair metal in the 80s and went to a lot of crappy shows by the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, if you remember the Swedish guitar hero with the large collection of white Stratocasters.

jason macneil

jason macneil

Jason MacNeil is a Toronto-based freelance writer for various outlets over his career including the Toronto Sun,,, Huffington Post and All Music Guide among others. Originally from Atlantic Canada (Cape Breton to be exact), he enjoys trying to find the next great band first and nagging his friends about them. Follow him on Twitter @kingjmusicman