Canadian Musician - May / June 2018 - Page 43

hubs; no disrespect to Winnipeg’s treasured arts scene, but while that city also has cheap rent, the New York Times isn’t sending writers to do fawning profiles of The Weakerthans. Looking back, an astounding number of the bands that burst out of the city were transplants. Arcade Fire’s Will and Win Butler are Texans, small-town Ontarians would come to form bands like Hollerado, and a cohort from the western provinces including the likes of Mac DeMarco came east to capitalize on that creative je-ne-sais-quoi. Dan Boeckner is a British Columbia na- tive. Sick of that province’s high rent, he came to Montreal and founded art-rock band Wolf Parade shortly after landing. He’s since gone on to form and perform with Atlas Strategic, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and Operators. “In the late ‘90s, it became almost impos- sible to live as a working musician in Victoria and Vancouver,” he says. “It was just completely unaffordable. There were some pretty insane labour practices enacted around then. There was this thing called the training wage where you get paid less than minimum wage to work a regular job for a probationary period. For a lot of people trying to get bands off the ground, it was just punishing.” That nomadism was among the biggest boons to the creative boom that was coming. With so many players coming from different places, there was a vast array of influences stewing throughout the city. Wolf Parade had their roots in west coast hardcore, though they had grown weary of the strict restrictions inherent to punk. Folk, world, rock, pop – all were given equal weight and respect. Talking to those who were there, it seems the only constant was near-universal awe towards Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the experimental Montreal collective that developed an international cult fanbase in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. The Dears “There will always be someone who crystallizes the moment they’re in and turns it into songs that resonate with a whole lot of people outside their group of friends they started playing music for.” -Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Operators) Hollerado “One of the unique qualities of [Montreal bands] was they weren’t a bunch of kids who grew up in the same city,” says Pop Montreal founder Dan Seligman, who also managed bands like The Unicorns. “They came from dif- ferent parts of the world and all had different influences.” These new arrivals came to find a city with little music industry infrastructure. Montreal natives like The Dears leader Murray Lightburn remembers eking out demos in the few places that had a 16-track tape recorder and a few decent