Canadian Musician - September/October 2017 - Page 37

joke, you get this 30 minutes of useful creativity. He was always there and always willing to go the extra mile. We’re a band where you need someone like that. We needed two producers. We needed someone who was willing to be the Grammy Award-winning guy and just say, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ and then you also need the guy who doesn’t have a bunch of Grammys but has a really talented ear and is willing to stay up with you.” The other factor that contributed to Hug of Thunder feeling like the band’s most cohesive record since You Forgot It in People is personal contentedness. “I think we’re just in a better place. Me personally, I was definitely in a much better place, like mentally and emotionally, making this record and sort of got back to the idea of when we were making You Forgot It in People,” Canning reveals. “As you get older and you get wise to everyone’s eccentricities, you start to really focus on what is most important that you bring to the group. I can only speak for myself and I know that I just wanted to be the best possible version of myself to make this record.” It appears Drew also found a new peace while making the record. In speaking to Pitchfork, he re- vealed he had given up drinking for five-and-a-half months during the recording of Hug of Thunder. “There was a time when the bottle was becoming my way of feeling good – then it suddenly wasn’t. It became a problem,” Drew told the website. “I lost the plot, and I found myself quite depressed about it. So getting sober was the one move I had on the table that I knew I could make to be a better person for the band. I needed to be fo- cused for these guys and I couldn’t just walk into the studio and say, ‘It’s too hot, I’ve got to go home.’” “He came to that conclusion himself because he felt he needed to be re-focused and, to be honest, yeah, if he didn’t come to that conclusion, I don’t know what kind of record we would’ve made,” Canning ponders to Canadian Musician. “I have to give him props for realizing that he needed to do what he needed to do. Whether your thing is drinking or whether it’s smoking weed or whether your thing is just kind of not having a firm grip on things, when you’re showing up to this event you’ve got to…” He pauses. “I mean, it paid for my house, so it’s making music that lots of people loved and it’s also how you make a living, too. So you’ve got to think about it in terms of being responsible to your audience and being responsible to yourself and you have responsibility that you just can’t take lightly.” Not just with the two ringleaders, Drew and Canning, but across the board, it appears it’s a happy time in the world of BSS. It could just be age, everyone mellowing out, but in many interviews as the band fanned out to do press for the record, there has been a lot of talk of family – often figuratively, but also literally. For in- stance, for Hug of Thunder, longtime BSS member Andrew Whiteman brought his wife and musical partner, Ariel Engle, into the fold and she had an immediate impact. “She is just a great fit intellectually, emotionally, live, et cetera. She is just a power house, so it kind of goes without saying that she would earn her place in this band,” says Canning. “Dynamics over the years, they change, and people in this band have dated each other and all that kind of thing, so you have all those intricacies of personalities and you just have to move on. We’re all still together and we’re all still making music. So I think that is the bonus in all this, that no matter how much we’ve had some real mo- ments where we really couldn’t stand the sight of one another, depending on what day it was, you’re all still to- gether and you’re all still able to get on a plane or bus and get on stage and pose for photos. Yeah, the more years, it just becomes more of a family situation because you throw some kids into the mix and parents and brothers and sisters and cousins, old friends, et cetera… It just feels good. You’ve got this good family that is definitely not without its fucked up moments, but you’re a band. You know, no matter what your business is, people are people.” Even though 2005’s self-titled LP and 2010’s For- giveness Rock Record were successes in terms of sales and critical reception, with the latter being shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, Canning is more satisfied with Hug of Thunder. Maybe it’s how often he refers to their classic record throughout the conversation, but one gets the sense that he is acutely aware of the expectations they’ve carried ever since You Forgot It in People. With the new re- cord, they’ve lived up to them. “I can’t speak and say, ‘Oh, it’s better than For- giveness Rock Record or the self-titled record,’ but it’s definitely an even-sounding record, like sonically, and I think we have some strong tunes. I can stand behind every song and I don’t know if I could hon- estly do that with [the previous two],” says Canning. “You Forgot It in People, I think, is a really great record and I think there are moments on the self-titled and Forgiveness Rock where I would go back and say, ‘Hmm, it would be great if we could write a chorus instead of not having a c horus on that song,’ or, ‘That song is too jokey,’ or that sort of thing.” Even after a decade-and-a-half, Canning still views BSS as a Toronto band. Some members may be in Montreal or Los Angeles or wherever life has taken them, but it’s still the folks around the corner that Canning aims to impress. “You walk into Squirly’s on a Saturday night and they’re playing it and it’s just like, ‘Yeah, it’s part of Toronto!’ So I just want to hear this in the places we like to go and hang out,” he muses. “I just think it would be so disappointing for us as a band, and the praise that’s been thrown upon us, if we came back with something where, if I was walking my dog, I don’t get a random stranger saying, ‘Hey man, the new record sounds great.’ I mean, that’s kind of what I’m looking for. I’m looking for people in the city, the in-Toronto recognition. I still like to think that we’re a band that is representing Toronto. It just feels like you’ve got a responsibility. So yeah, I mean, I’m glad it’s getting the reception it’s getting. I’ll say that.” Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Musician. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 37