Wolf Parade’s Arlen Thompson (left), Spencer Krug, Dante DeCaro and Dan Boeckner
WOLF PARADE at Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), Saturday (August 9), 8 pm. $22.50. 416-870-8000.
Every musician needs a side project now and then, but what if your extracurricular activities become more important than your day job? That's sort of what happened to Wolf Parade. "I don't know what we are," says drummer Arlen Thompson on the phone from his Montreal home. "I guess Wolf Parade is just another band - it's no favourite child or anything."
For those not up to speed with all the non-Wolf Parade activity the band members have engaged in since they released their huge indie hit Apologies To The Queen Mary (Sub Pop) three years ago, here's a quick primer. Singer/guitarist Dan Boeckner travelled the world as half of Handsome Furs, and singer/keyboardist Spencer Krug released records with Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes and Swan Lake.
Since the band's two main songwriters' albums were arguably better than Apologies, it wouldn't have been surprising if the foursome called it quits. In fact, after a couple of years with virtually no Wolf Parade news, most people thought the act had thrown in the towel, including Thompson himself.
"It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do and get the inspiration to make the record," he says. "There was a feeling of was there the will to do it."
To get back into the mood, the group jammed until things started making sense again. "We would just improvise," Thompson explains. "That was something we hadn't really done before. It wasn't like Apologies, where Dan and Spencer put in song ideas."
Thompson also points out that the band hadn't actually been apart for as long as most people think. Despite everyone's busy schedules, the four members would occasionally get together and play around. "It's not like we took a full year break of not playing music together," says Thompson. "It was more sporadic."
How much or how little they practised doesn't matter in the end, since their new disc, At Mount Zoomer (Sub Pop), is easily the band's best effort to date, and possibly tops what Boeckner and Krug were doing on their own. Most noticeably different is that the Isaac Brock-like warbly vocals are gone, replaced by more measured pipes. The tunes aren't as in-your-face either, though they're just as layered and intriguing as anything they've done before.
"We didn't want to make another Apologies," says Thompson, agreeing that the two albums are dissimilar. "We were waiting to see what came up, a direction that we really thought was interesting to us, and then we sat down and started working out stuff. This was a much more organic way of doing things."
Needless to say, it helped that Boeckner and Krug had a few more years of writing infectious indie pop songs behind them. Thompson admits that everyone's songwriting has matured since 2005, so it's only natural that At Mount Zoomer is an improvement.
"Apologies' songs are four years old now. That's quite a bit of evolution since that record," he says. "That's what you're hearing here, the evolution from when we first started working together."