Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene

Brendan Canning

Draper Street is arguably the most out-of-place, out-of-time roadway in Toronto. Located deep in the city’s downtown core, a stone’s throw—or more like a javelin toss—away from the shore of Lake Ontario, it’s a one-block street of preserved Victorian-era row-houses that’s managed to maintain its intimate, classy character despite the relentless assault of modernity surrounding it.

It’s the street that Brendan Canning has called home for 20 years, first as a couch-surfer, then as a long-time tenant, and now as a homeowner. In that time, circumstances have changed dramatically for both the street and its most visible resident. Where it was once tucked between grim industrial warehouses (that doubled as after-hours boozecans where Brendan regularly spun records), today Draper is encircled by countless condo towers, studio-loft office conversions, ad agencies, and the sort of hip restaurants packed with Instagramming diners taking snaps of their grilled-octopus entrees. And where Brendan first arrived on Draper as the bass player for ’90s post-grunge hopefuls hHead, his career has since blossomed dramatically— while he established himself as both a ringer for myriad Toronto alt-rock outfits and an in-demand soul/funk/house DJ, he became best known for co-founding Toronto all-star indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene in 2001.

If BSS was famously born in partner Kevin Drew’s basement, Draper Street is where the band, its friends, and family congregated after the work was done, with Brendan often setting up his decks in the living room to soundtrack after-hours kitchen parties that spilled out into the backyard and onto the street. (The front-cover sketch of Brendan’s 2008 solo album, Something For All of Us, commemorates the ’hood’s all-welcoming, community vibe; its producers—Ryan Kondrat and John la Manga—are actually his next door neighbours.) But as Broken Social Scene’s international touring commitments increased exponentially—and as the band’s notoriously unstable nature prompted all manner of break-up rumours and last-show-ever announcements—Draper Street came to represent less of an all-night party haunt (or a place for touring-musician peers to crash) and more of a quiet refuge for Brendan, a place of calm amid the ever-swirling BSS storm.

Friends who turn up at Draper Street will often find Brendan lazing on the sofa, most likely barefoot, picking out melodies on an acoustic guitar or letting his fingers guide him into free-form reveries on the piano. For his new solo album, Brendan puts you right there in the living room with him, inviting you to zone out on the floor in a blissful half-conscious state, and forget about the time of day and where you need to be. The album’s title doubles as a mission statement: You Gots 2 Chill. It’s a directive that’s easy to dismiss as hippie-jive hokum… that is, until you realize you’ve rushed off to work without eating breakfast again, you forgot to call mom on her birthday, and your most meaningful personal relationship is with your smartphone.

Now, of course, the thought of a barefoot, messy-haired, sometimes bearded musician strumming away on an acoustic guitar can conjure all sorts of images, most them involving incense and patchouli. But, rest assured, You Gots 2 Chill is not some hacky-sackin’ soundtrack. Despite its deliberately hushed tones, this music is, in its own unassuming way, just as psychedelic, richly textured, and far-reaching as Broken Social Scene’s most out-there epics. The opening instrumental fanfare, “Post Fahey,” is but the first indication of its exploratory intent, with a titular and stylistic nod to the improvised acoustic-guitar odysseys of freak-folk pioneer John Fahey. From there, You Gots 2 Chill forges a balance of softly whispered melodies and heady atmosphere that belongs to a storied lineage of understated experimentalism, from the foggy pastorales of Nick Drake (see: the river-wading drift of “Never Go to the Races”) and misty-mountain rusticity of Led Zeppelin III (as heard in the Page-turning string bends of “Plugged In”) to the modernist soft-rock of The Sea and Cake (check the bossa nova’ed beauty “However Long”) and the hallucinogenic folk phantasmagoria of Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs (conjured in the hypnotic pulse of “Makes You Motor”).

Though it’s technically the second release to bear Brendan’s name on the cover, You Gots 2 Chill feels more like a true solo effort than the stylistically varied, guest-list-stacked Something For All of Us. Not only was it recorded without the assistance of Broken Social Scene (or its umbrella organization, Arts & Crafts), You Gots 2 Chill bears Brendan’s literal fingerprints: he drew the cover art himself, and has launched his own independent label—named, natch, Draper Street Records—to release it (in partnership with L.A.-based music company SQE). And it doesn’t get much more DIY than recording tracks onto your voicemail: The comforting, dust-covered interludes “Long Live Land Lines” and “Once a Lighthouse” will make you glad he pressed 9 to save those messages—for one, the latter track serves as the foundation for the splendorous album standout “Lighthouse Returns.” However, Brendan’s autonomous approach here still allows some room for collaboration—heeding the album title’s advice, he takes a break from lead vocal duties on the mid-album reprieve “Bullied Days” and cedes the mic to guest Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink.

Even with Broken Social Scene on indefinite hiatus, it’s been an especially busy year for Brendan Canning: he recently revived his long-dormant, pre-BSS indie-pop project Cookie Duster; he composed the soundtrack to Paul Schrader’s upcoming Lindsay Lohan spectacle, The Canyons (written by Bret Easton Ellis); and he’s currently working on an ambitious interactive video-game/film project based on a premise that involves director David Cronenberg selling his intellectural property to a biotech lab. So, in light of all this activity, You Gots 2 Chill is as much of a soul-soothing siesta for Brendan as it is for you, providing the clearest, most personal portrait to date of an artist who’s spent much of his two-decade career making other people sound better. Back in the ’60s, some acoustic-guitar slinging boho from Minnesota extolled the virtues of bringing it all back home—with You Gots 2 Chill, Brendan Canning updates that maxim to 21st-century standards, by offering outsiders with a glimpse of the quiet life on Draper Street that you just can’t get from Google Street View.

Holly Miranda grew up singing in church. She began piano lessons at the age of 6 and taught herself guitar at 14. She wrote her first song shortly after.

When she was 16, she moved by herself from suburban Detroit to New York City. Her first gig was at the infamous Sidewalk Cafe on 6th street and Ave A in the East Village. There she cut her teeth along side Sidewalk alumni such as The Moldy Peaches, Nicole Atkins and Beck. She recorded two solo albums during this time and self-released one “High Above the City,” which she sold online and at shows. She began touring the east coast performing solo at cafes and coffeehouses.

In the early 2000′s, while recording her next record at Headgear studios in Brooklyn, she and the producer Alex Lipsen decided to release the record as a band effort. This was the beginning of the shoegazey indie-rock band The Jealous Girlfriends. The band released two albums and performed with such acts as Shudder to Think, Nada Surf, Metric, and Sea Wolf. Holly continued to perform and tour solo between TJG tours. During this time she began writing songs for her first worldwide released solo album “The Magicians Private Library” produced by TV on The Radio’s Dave Sitek. TMPL came out on XL recordings in 2010.

Holly has toured extensively and played with such acts as Tegan and Sara, The XX, My Morning Jacket, Florence and The Machine, TV on The Radio, Vampire Weekend, The Antlers, Oh Land and Lou Reed. She has performed at the Sydney Opera house as part of the Vivid Festival, Hyde Park with Sydney festival, Lattitude festival, Celebrate Brooklyn at Brooklyn Bandshell. She has had music placed on multiple TV shows such as Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI:Miami, and The L-word, and has contributed vocals and songwriting on records with Theophilus London, Nada Surf, Mmoths, Cicada, Steel Train and more.

Holly is producing a new solo album in Joshua Tree and Brooklyn.

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Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene with Holly Miranda, Hark

Thursday, December 5 · 8:00 PM at The Echo