HANDSOME FURS(midnight) with BLIND BOY LUCAS MCAPLINE (9 pm), HOT SPRINGS (10 pm), THE NYMPHETS(11 pm) and WOODHANDS (1 am) at the Comfort Zone (480 Spadina), Friday (June 8). $12. Rating: NNNNN
Wolf Parade fans must be getting awfully nervous. Spencer Krug's got a plethora of non-lupine projects on the go (he was behind the increasingly popular Sunset Rubdown, one-third of supergeekgroup Swan Lake and a sometime keyboardist in Frog Eyes at last count), while guitarist Dante DeCaro's been keeping busy with his Johnny and the Moon crew.
Now Dan Boeckner's launched the debut of his synth 'n' roll love affair Handsome Furs to huge acclaim. Considering that it's been nearly two years since anyone's heard new Wolf Parade material, it would be easy to assume the Wolves are in permanent hibernation.
Apparently not. According to reports, the follow-up to Wolf Parade's Apologies To The Queen Mary (Sub Pop) debut is slowly but surely being captured on tape in terribly egalitarian fashion. And rest assured the latest offshoot of the extended Parade family has more to do with a devoted boyfriend's strategic starry-eyed manoeuvres than with anything resembling creative frustration.
"Alexei and I had never actually jammed together," explains Boeckner of the origins behind his Handsome collaboration with fiancée Alexei Perry. "But one day she came home from work she was working at this bar and I asked her to play a D-minor chord on the organ for the song I was working on, which became Dumb Animals. We didn't even have a drum machine at the time, just three crappy Casio keyboards, but I really wanted to take her to Finland. I figured we could book a tour to Scandinavia we just needed to put together a band and some songs to do it."
"It was completely nerve-racking," Perry offers, taking the phone from Boeckner. "I hadn't been in a studio or a jam space or anything to hear what the songs actually sounded like except on the little stereo speakers in our crappy bachelor apartment. All of a sudden we were headed to Oslo and I was like, "What the fuck am I doing here? I'm not a musician!' I almost threw up."
For a brainstorm that began as a stab at a free pseudo-honeymoon, Handsome Furs are an excellent band. Boeckner describes their songs, which wrap his frayed-wire guitar riffs and ragged yelp around stark, repetitive, programmed beats and buzzy keyboards, as "stripping everything down and making it really, really loud."
Compared to Wolf Parade, the Furs' songs are more mantra-like, with fewer, simpler chords and more repetitive structures. Initially, says Boeckner, he was aiming for a "post-punk sound not dance rock! Electronic music meeting rock is generally a bad idea."
The open-ended narratives you hear in the tunes on their Plague Park (Sub Pop) debut are a full and complete collaboration between Boeckner and Perry, and they surge with clean, sparkling declarations of symbolic love and restless musings about urban anomie and escape.
Perry's a novelist/short story writer whose work tends toward more complex structures.
"Everything I write is very much for the printed page, meant to be read, so this has changed my approach," admits Perry. "I'll bring these long, convoluted sentences to Dan and get him to help me edit them down to pack the maximum meaning into the fewest possible words. Since we started Handsome Furs, I've been working on a series of what I call short-shorts little bits of dialogue that are really rhythmic and to the point."
Perry's also had near-instantaneous exposure to the weirdness of indie rock media manipulation. In an early news brief on the duo, Pitchfork somehow unearthed the fact that a poem of hers was included in Chicken Soup For The Teenage Soul without noting that a) she wrote it when she was 12; and b) it was her teacher who submitted it to the touchy-feely anthology.
That's the least of her worries, though.
"I do get scared of being seen as the Yoko dragging Dan away from what he's doing. People have already started up with that; someone actually said I had Dan's balls in a jar and wanted to keep him all to myself!"
She laughs. "Whatever. I know I don't have his balls in a jar and I know I'm not a lame girl poet. I feel like a baby cuz I'm so new to it all, but people will say whatever the fuck they want to say. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it's great."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Dan talks about the major differences between Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade songs
The sad tale of how Handsome Furs got their drum machine (containing all their material) swiped recentlys
Music from Handsome Furs
What We Had