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Wolf Parade

Wolf Parade have stopped sweating the small stuff and, on Expo 86 write the album they’ve always wanted to, in the way they’ve always want to.

“Nah we were joking. It was a total joke,” cracks Dan Boeckner down the line after our third interview time finally eventuates into conversation. He’s referring to the press release for the band’s latest album, featured on Sub Pop’s website. It describes Expo 86 as a fete that occurred in 1986, the members of Wolf Parade attending, meeting, and forming a pact (at ten years old!) to start learning instruments so they could eventually “play guitar and keyboard solos real good.”

The hilarity of Boeckner’s reaction is a telling sign of Wolf Parade right now. It lay somewhere in-between a chortle, a giggle and a snigger and represented that sort of naïve mischeviousness of a boy who recognizes a prank well played, a boy, more importantly, who has seldom-a-care in the world, apart from impressing a few mates and pashing a few girls, and it would seem the band enjoyed this exact simplicity while writing Expo 86. “There’s a lot of nostalgia on the record. It’s a rock band playing and writing rock songs and I think it’s a really good snapshot of Wolf Parade Winter 2009 and Spring 2010. It’s the most honest document of our band that we could have made,” Boeckner replies when prompted regarding the album’s conceptual depth.

And while the preceeding explanation isn’t suggest a particularly exploratory sonic outlook, it is the simplicity for which they have strived for since the beginning, but never quite been able to reach, that is so impressive here. Apologies to the Queen Mary, their debut, was unquestionably one of the intellectual indie records to define Montreal, Canada’s earnest, learned young musicians. Writing songs with guitars and keyboards sure, but simultaneously tying Baudelaire and Bukowski into the lyrics. Attempts at such multi-levelled sonic meaning created a myriad of bands without an emotional epicentre - too tongue-tied and awkwardly appraising to write a universal lyric. While Wolf Parade’s first or second albums never felt like that at the time, it’s their latest whose lyrics engage (cannot get ‘It Always Had To Go This Way’ out of my head) and hooks stick.

Boeckner explains the new lease on life: “Our keyboard player Hadji Bakara was becoming really unhappy being in the band, and it was weighing on the band and we didn’t really realize it because he’s a really close friend, but he had become distraught.. His other work was academia - he was doing a PHD - and we kept interrupting his studies to go on tour. And when you go on tour you get shitfaced every other night - it’s part of touring, at least for this band - and that is not conducive to writing a paper on Walter Benjamin or whatever. So Hadji was living this double life of academia and party-rock-music thing and that was making him miserable and his life was schizophrenic. It built up to this thing where he just had to leave the band and once he left and decided he was going to finish school it eased a lot of tension out of the band.”

And thus Wolf Parade took a watershed moment in the bands ten year history coupled with their ability to write rock n roll records, and created a piece de resistance in Expo 86, underpinned by that heady nostalgia and unbrandished enthusiasm they had in the beginning (you know, as ten year olds, at a carnival. Jokes). “I think when we started we had this idea of what we wanted to be with Wolf Parade sonically, that sonic musical idea. But we weren’t really good enough at our instruments to play that so every record since we started the band has been us trying to get good enough to play this music that we collectively hear in our head. I think that’s about it, I don’t know if it’s the same in other bands but that’s the case for us,” explains Boeckner.

The album itself is indeed a gutsy ode-to-date. Let’s not forget Boeckner and his wife form Handsome Furs, a sexualized, synthesized ‘80’s effigy, while guitarist and vocalist Spencer Krug brings up the intellectual backend in his outings under moniker Sunset Rubdown. Lyrically Expo 86 has lilting pop choruses (the aforementioned ‘What did my lover say?’), tongue in cheek parodies (‘My meals are served on wheels’) and awkwardly stumbling (one imagines this is the point) lyrical landscapes (‘I was asleep in a hammock / I was dreaming I was a web. I was a dream catcher hanging in the window of a minivan / parked along the waters edge’). Krug and Boeckner’s vocals interweave perfectly, one sexually, one metaphorically, among debris of high hats and cymbals, exponential guitar solos and a beat that just won’t quit. On every track.

Wolf Parade is inherently collaborative then, but how does one switch the mindset from a self-indulgent side-project to the centre-point band scenario? “It was hard in the beginning but it became easy pretty quickly”…pause for contemplative breath…”I’m kind of a workaholic – luckily the other people I work with are the same. I mean for instance I’m doing this interview now and then I’m going to finish demos for new Handsome Furs record. Before I played music I was in a job, like a regular-ass job and I feel like when I had those jobs and I was playing music I was like ‘fuck I wish I had all day to play music’ and now if I tour enough every year I have the ability to do that. I may as well be making music instead of sitting on my ass and watching video games.” As simple as that.

Courtney Sanders

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