“We’ve always approached everything as a mixtape—or as you’d say in today’s day and age, a playlist,” Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew tells Apple Music. “We’ve never been into having one sound for one record; we always like to be as adventurous as we can.” Twenty years after the group's principal songwriters Drew and Brendan Canning first connected, the Toronto indie-rockestra enters 2019 sounding as eclectic and enigmatic as ever. Spiritually speaking, the first volume of the band’s Let’s Try the After EP series marks a return to the project’s origins as a casual, anything-goes basement hang.
While it begins with the sort of ambient flourishes and gliding motorik instrumentals that have become BSS signatures, their first new music since 2017’s Hug of Thunder—salvaged from the band’s bottomless well of experiments—is ultimately less a showcase of the full ensemble’s majestic might than the individual concerns of its core members: Kevin Drew’s openhearted affirmations (“Boyfriends”), Ariel Engle’s dream-soul reveries (“1972”), Andrew Whiteman’s cosmic exotica (“All I Want”). But despite these songs’ disparate styles and methodologies, Let’s Try the After Vol. 1 flows more like a mini-album suite than a randomized collage. Here, Drew talks us through the impetus for each track.
The Sweet Sea “We love working with [producer] Nyles Spencer. I’ve been with him for six years now. So we said to him, 'Can you take some of the stuff that we’ve done and make some instrumental ditties?’ The explorer Champlain called Lake Ontario ‘the sweet sea.’ Gord Downie taught me that when we were making [Downie’s 2016 solo album] Secret Path in a studio right across from the lake.”
Remember Me Young “We’re just trying to keep going. We have more to give, we want to keep playing. And that’s what this track is saying: ‘We’re not disappearing for five years.’ And we want to be a partner to the individual who’s out there trying—a soundtrack to keep you going.”
Boyfriends “This was written in 2014, and I did a recording at the same session I did ‘Skyline’ [from Hug of Thunder]. The band liked both those songs, and [producer] Joe Chiccarelli loved ‘Boyfriends’ and he was heartbroken that we never really made it work for Hug of Thunder. So when we went to put together these EPs, it was clear we had to get ‘Boyfriends’ back up again.”
1972 "We went to Osheaga [festival in Montreal], and [ex-Arcade Fire drummer/producer] Howard Bilerman told us he was doing this project there where he was recording on a bus, and the songs had to be about the ’70s. So before we played our set, we went to this bus. I just came up with this bass loop, and everyone played on top. Then we got Ariel to re-sing her tune, and we all fell in love with that sloppy lo-fi aspect of it.”
All I Want “This was something Andrew had done with a couple of guys from Suuns out in Montreal, and with Charlie [Spearin] and Ariel. And then he took it to Nyles. And it seemed like it was going to be shelved, because Ariel was about to do [her solo project] La Force. So the song was sitting there, and I just adored it so sent it to the band, Joe, and Nyles, and everyone was on board: ‘Let’s get this song back alive, let’s get it out there!’”